Nets Season Preview: Potential For Improvement Behind Bolstered Roster

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — When the Los Angeles Lakers wanted to unload D’Angelo Russell to make way for Lonzo Ball, the Brooklyn Nets pounced.

When Portland and Toronto faced summer salary-cap decisions, the Nets were happy to help.

And by taking on players teams were eager to move, the Nets think they can improve after posting the NBA’s worst record last season.

With Russell now in its backcourt and Allen Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll on the wings, there is more talent in Brooklyn than the squad that went 20-62.

“You feel the difference already,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I do feel we have a stronger 1 through 15.”

D'Angelo Russell

The Nets’ D’Angelo Russell handles the ball against the Knicks during a preseason game Oct. 8, 2017, at Barclays Center. Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The biggest move was the acquisition of Russell, the No. 2 pick in the draft just three seasons ago. He had some turbulent times in Los Angeles but his talent is undeniable, and he should benefit from the continuity the Nets are trying to develop under Atkinson and general manager Sean Marks after he played for two coaches in his first two seasons.

“It’s just establishing yourself every time,” Russell said. “Hopefully I won’t go through that (again), but that’s the league. It’s a business. You’ve seen coaches and stuff like that. Control what you can control. I try to bring what I can bring to whatever team I’m on.”

MORE: Lichtenstein: Hey, At Least Atkinson Has Some Options This Season

He will play alongside Jeremy Lin in the backcourt, or they will spell each other. The Nets acquired Crabbe a year after they tried to sign him before the Trail Blazers matched their offer sheet, and were able to get Carroll along with a couple of picks when Toronto was looking to slash salary.

They traded leading scorer Brook Lopez in the Russell deal, but hope they’ve brought in more than they lost.

“I think it’s just lots of options, lots of variety, and I think for us as long as we lock in on defense and play unselfishly on offense, I think we’ll be fine,” Lin said.

Some things to watch with the Nets:

FEWER LIN-JURIES: Lin was limited to just 36 games last season because of injuries, and even with Russell the Nets know they need to see more of Lin in his second season in Brooklyn.

TIMO-THREE: Lopez became a 3-point shooter from the center spot last season under Atkinson. Timofey Mozgov, acquired with Russell in the Lopez trade, will have the same opportunity. The 7-foot-1, 275-yard Russian hit from behind the arc in consecutive preseason games.

DEMARRE’S DEFENSE: Carroll was a starter for the Atlanta team that won 60 games with Atkinson as an assistant, and they are reunited in Brooklyn. Atkinson said Carroll’s leadership and familiarity with his system can make an impact on a young team.

“He’s a glue guy,” Atkinson said. “He’s solid as a rock. You can trust him, especially defensively. I think he sets a tone.”

SEEKING STOPS: Atkinson said he hopes the Nets can hold the fort on defense, because he believes the offense will do its part. The Nets yielded 112.5 points per game last season, second-worst in the league.

SELLER’S MARKET? Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov has looked for someone to buy a minority share of the team for some time but found no deal. If that doesn’t change, he may end up selling to a new majority owner, likely for a nice profit after the Nets’ move from New Jersey to Brooklyn under his ownership.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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