By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Avery Johnson had no problem drilling his jump shot at the Barclays Center's spanking new herringbone-designed court this past Sunday.
The Nets' coach, anxious to see his team take the floor next Monday evening against the Washington Wizards in what will go down as the "unofficial" first NBA game at the state-of-the-art arena, drained shot after shot despite the almost non-stop noise filling the empty 18,300 seat facility as crew members prepared for that night's Jay-Z concert.
Johnson can only hope that the All-Star backcourt tandem of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams enjoys similar success tickling the twine on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
“It’s very important for us to get used to our home," the coach noted after the Nets completed their first-ever practice at Barlcays. "[We have to get used to the] locker rooms, showers, training room. Coaches get used to their offices, the sight lines here in the building. We want our shooters to feel comfortable shooting in our home building. It was a good little exercise. We want to feel comfortable here on Opening Night."
Though their much-anticipated season opener isn't until Nov. 1, the Nets will host the Wizards on Monday night, hoping to get a better feel for what "home games" will feel like during the 82-game grind of a regular season.
“It’s just about repitition, getting up a lot of shots, getting used to the backgrounds," said Joe Johnson, the six-time All-Star shooting guard the Nets acquired from Atlanta this summer to complement Williams in what Nets general manager Billy King is fond of referring to as "the best backcourt in the NBA".
"I’m just trying to figure things out at this point," he added.
So, it appears, is Avery Johnson, who urged his team to pick up the tempo and increase its defensive intensity during the workout. The Nets, who still list East Rutherford, N.J., as their practice site until they locate a spot closer to their new arena, are eager to continue becoming acclimated with the friendly environs in Downtown Brooklyn.
“It felt good," said newly re-signed power forward Kris Humphries. "I think when you walk in, you kind of take it all in. But once you get going, once we get some fans in there, score or make a play. It will be good. I've never seen anything really like it. It’s nicer than what we’re used to. But it comes down to fans at the game, us getting down to winning some games.”
The Nets went a dismal 22-44 during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened campaign, including an unacceptable 9-24 at their former home, Newark's Prudential Center.
Avery Johnson, a member of the San Antonio Spurs' 1999 NBA championship squad and coach of the 2006 NBA finalist Dallas Mavericks, knows full well that winning starts at home for most teams hoping to reach the league's promised land in June.
"I think more than anything it's just being super-excited to get in this arena and get some shots up," he said. "[Mine were] falling pretty good today and I can't wait for at least the first preseason game to come so we can get in here and really get the fans in here and get them involved. You could see it in guys' eyes. Everyone was excited."
Williams, whom the Nets re-upped for $100 million during their extraordinary summer spending spree, was also blown away by the place he hopes to call home for the remainder of his career.
"I don't think there's an arena like it," he gushed. "They spared no expense, they thought about everything. I've been around everywhere. Usually with arenas, I don't go around and look at everything else. This is the one that I've had the chance to go tour and see everything it has to offer. This is great."
Williams also emphasized the importance of using Monday's exhibition contest to prepare for much bigger home games down the road.
“It’s good to go against other defenses and different offenses," he said. "Teams go 8-0 in preseason and lose 70 games. So you just try to get a rhythm and get ready to go when the first game starts.
Hoop du Jour: The Nets returned to East Rutherford for practice Monday, and Williams had some interesting things to say about the coming season as well as his well-chronicled free agency during the summer. When asked how many wins he projects for the new-look Nets during their first season in Brooklyn, Williams wasn't shy about shooting high. "Over 50, definitely," he said. The All-Star playmaker was also asked if Dallas owner Mark Cuban's absence from a meeting with Mavericks brass prior to his signing with the Nets swayed his ultimate decision. Williams was more than frank: "Of course. I think [Cuban] would have been able to answer a lot of questions I had a little better.” ... Rookie G Tyshawn Taylor missed Monday's practice with a strained right quad and veteran reserve Keith Bogans was also out with muscle soreness. ... F Humphries missed practice Monday for personal reasons due to the passing of his grandmother. ... Those seeking tickets to Monday's historic preseason opener can get them at the Nets' box office or by logging on to www.ticketmaster.com.