NEW YORK (WFAN) — OK, so the Nets couldn’t pry Dwight Howard from Orlando. But there’s still plenty to celebrate in Brooklyn.
The franchise will boast one of the best guard combinations in the NBA — dubbed “Brooklyn’s Backcourt” — for its inaugural season at the Barclays Center. Point guard Deron Williams is back, and next to him in the starting lineup will be Joe Johnson, acquired this month from the Atlanta Hawks.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg Reports
The Nets kicked off their party with the public Friday afternoon at Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza. New Jersey holdovers and new fans alike cheered as Williams and Johnson took in the view from the top step.
General manager Billy King and head coach Avery Johnson were also on hand for the bash, hosted by the Nets and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.
Before the fun, Williams, Joe Johnson, Avery Johnson and King sat side-by-side at a noon press conference. Avery Johnson admitted he endured “a lot of sleepless nights” while Williams was mulling his future.
“It will be a joy for me to coach the best backcourt I’ve ever coached, and I’m excited about all of the different ways that we can utilize their skill set,” he said.
The Nets only won 22 games during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, the franchise’s final campaign in New Jersey. Williams isn’t just looking forward to the change in scenery. He’s ready for a change in play, too.
“It’s kind of a fresh start for us all,” Williams said. “I think Joe was in Atlanta for the last five, six years, so this is kind of a revitalizing start for him. For me, the last year and a half was kind of painful, you know, losing a lot of games. But I think that’s gonna change.”
The 28-year-old point guard, who told WFAN in December he was “90 percent” certain he’d stay with the Nets, ultimately chose Brooklyn over his hometown Dallas Mavericks. He called it a “basketball decision” and said it “came down to really the roster.”
“You can just feel the energy that these fans have, that the organization has for this move,” said Williams. “It’s kind of like a fresh start, a new start. I’m excited to see where this team can go. I think we can be one of the best teams in the East if we come together under coach’s guidance, which I think we’re all willing to do.”
After the celebration, Williams called WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts to talk about his decision. He acknowledged that Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, fulfilling an obligation to the television show “Shark Tank,” was absent from the sit-down with Dallas brass.
“It wasn’t a big concern to me,” Williams told Benigno and Roberts. “I definitely thought about it, but in the end it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.”
Williams will get to share the court with a bona fide veteran scorer in Johnson, a six-time All-Star who averaged 18.8 points for Atlanta last season.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” Johnson said of the trade. “But I’m happy that the move was here to Brooklyn.”
Johnson will get a taste of another borough on Friday night, when he throws out the first pitch for Yankees-Angels in the Bronx.
“No, I’ve never been to Yankee Stadium,” he said. “And yes, I am a little nervous.”
How many wins do you predict for Brooklyn next season? Be heard in the comments below…