King indicates that Williams' backup could be found in NBA Draft
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Deron Williams celebrated his 28th birthday on Wednesday.
As a belated gift, the Brooklyn Nets would like to provide their $98 million point guard with a little backup help at his position during Thursday night's NBA Draft at the Barclays Center.
"I'd like to have a good backup point guard," Nets general manager Billy King told the media following Monday's pre-draft workout at the team's practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J. "I think [last year's first-round pick] Tyshawn [Taylor] has a chance, but we're going to add a new one so there will be competition."
With future Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd newly installed as Brooklyn's head coach, King, Player Personnel Director Gregg Polinsky and the rest of the Nets' braintrust will likely have more than a few young playmakers to choose from come the 22nd pick of the opening round.
Over the past week, the Nets have interviewed and/or worked out Erick Green of Virginia Tech, Iona's Lamont "Momo" Jones and Murray State's Isaiah Caanan.
Taylor averaged 2.2 points and 0.6 assists while playing limited minutes in 38 games during his rookie campaign, mostly riding the bench when he wasn't seeing action with Brooklyn's NBDL affilaite in Springfield, Mass. The University of Kansas product got a great deal of mentoring from Williams and backup C.J. Watson, who is likely headed elsewhere this offseason via free agency.
That will leave it up to Kidd and company to find someone to push Taylor or back up Williams come November.
King believes that this year's draft, which is lacking in franchise-type star power at the top, could prove beneficial to Brooklyn.
"I think for where we are it's better," King noted. "I think you're going to get guys that are more polished [lower in the first round]. They might not be a franchise guy but they might be a good piece. The guys are very close in talent."
Kidd, who will cut his teeth on the bench coaching the Nets' summer league team in Orlando, Fla., next month, watched all the point guard workouts very carefully and was also involved in the interviewing process.
"You want Jason to eye-ball the guys we might draft," revealed Polinsky, who will give King his final 1-through-60 ranking of players in advance of Thursday's two-round draft. "Obviously, the player [Kidd] was, the things that he recognizes in guys, it helps us to evaluate the players. We have a nice core roster. Billy makes the decisions after we line up all the information, but [Kidd] is the one who is going to decide how the players are going to be used."
Jones, a Bronx native, was enthusiastic about his workout, and admitted he could learn a great deal from one of the best point men in the history of the game.
"I think it went pretty well," he said. "It's just a great experience. You come out here and just play as hard as you can. I think my first workout was a lot of nerves. I realized then that you can't go into it thinking like that. I've gotten pretty good feedback on all my workouts. You just continue to do the things you do well.
"They told me that I'm really doing the pick-and-roll well, which is something I really wanted to work on coming out of college. This process has helped me get better at it, doing it every day. It becomes second nature."
Caanan, who projects as a scoring point guard, didn't get the chance to strut his stuff on the court during his visit to East Rutherford due to injury, but was able to go through the interviewing process.
"The word we got is [Canaan] hurt his ankle in his last workout," Polinsky said. "We know these things come up. It's still a possibility that we get him back (for a workout). We still had him in to interview so Jason and Billy can meet him."
Green, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, certainly projects as a player that will be available when the Nets are on the clock Thursday night. Point guards Jio Fontan of USC and Durand Scott were also scheduled to get a look-see during the team's final pre-draft workout Wednesday.
"You try to find the best talent that you can find," King said. "You're always looking at long-term in the draft. There are a lot of teams trying to get out of the draft [this year], because a lot of teams are trying to create cap space. We need to get a little bit more athletic."
While steering clear of rumors that the Nets may trade backup shooting guard MarShon Brooks to Minnesota on Thursday night, King did address All-Star center Brook Lopez's condition following surgery to repair a screw that had bent in his right foot.
"After the season, in the X-rays that they took, they noticed that it was bent," King said. "It was pain-free so he didn't even notice it was bent until they went in and fixed it. I think it was proactive so it didn't cause a problem going forward. It wouldn't have prevented him from playnig. They just took it out and put another one in."
Lopez, who enjoyed a breakthrough campaign after missing all but five games in 2011-12 with a collection of foot and ankle injuries, should be back in action as soon as August.
King fought off the notion that the Nets would be looking for a new starting pivotman in the draft, though they did bring in Louisville center Gorgui Dieng of the defending national champion Cardinals on Wednesday.
Prior to his injury-plagued campaign, Lopez played in all 82 games in each of his first three NBA seasons after being drafted out of Stanford.
Last year, he averaged a team-high 19.4 points to go with 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game, earning his first career All-Star selection.
In his NBA postseason debut, Lopez actually improved on those numbers with 22.3 points, 7.4 boards and 3.0 blocks.
"There's nobody as good as Brook Lopez in the draft. Brook's going to be our starter," King insisted. "Everything is healing right."