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How long will it take for everyone to stop referring to them as the New Jersey Nets? Well, it should help that the team will have an entirely different identity, one that goes beyond its new black-and-white duds. Last year point guard Deron Williams shouldered an enormous burden; he took 17.5 shots per game, 4.2 more than his career average entering the season. This year he has help: Guard Joe Johnson, acquired from Atlanta, and center Brook Lopez, who missed all but five games last season with right-foot injuries, give the Nets an overpowering triangle, which should generate open shots.
Only six players return from last year's lame-duck team, which was just 9--24 in Jersey (as opposed to 13--20 on the road). Johnson was the off-season's marquee pickup, but the key could be 27-year-old rookie Mirza Teletovic, a 6'9" Bosnian who went undrafted in 2007 and spent the past six seasons in Spain steadily improving his game. He will provide the frontcourt depth that the Nets need to challenge the Knicks for ownership of New York City.
COACH: Avery Johnson (3rd season with Nets)
2011--12 RECORD: 22--44 (5th in Atlantic)
OFFENSE: 93.1 ppg (24th)
DEFENSE: 99.1 ppg (24th)
PICK-AND-ROLL OFFENSE: 18.4 ppg (27th)
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
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