With so many rumors swirling around the New Jersey Nets as they open up training camp for the shortened 2011-12 season, there is only one thing that is certain: it's their final year in the Garden State. Beyond that the franchise is very much in flux with a roster that can change at any minute and a rumor mill circus is already in full swing.
While a push to make the playoffs is at the top of head coach Avery Johnson's list for this season, more importantly will be keeping free-agent-to-be Deron Williams happy and willing to sign a long term extension this summer. Obviously a trip to the playoffs will help, but the point guard will want to know he'll have a roster going forward that can consistently keep him in the postseason.
Brook Lopez is an emerging star at center, but his name is in the middle of the circus that has become the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. He could be shipped out in a week or stay all season and there's no way to know what that will do to his game. Lopez has shown in the past that he can be hurt by something getting in his head and constant rumors about being shipped off to Orlando will be the ultimate test.
There's also the business of filling out a roster beyond a certain center residing in Orlando. No matter if a trade goes down or not, the Nets have holes they need to fill and can't sit on their hands.
Travis Outlaw could be sent out of town via the new amnesty rule that allows teams to remove one player from their roster (and more importantly salary cap) but even if he stays on the team there's no way he will be relied on on the wing. Williams saw that train wreck up close and personal last season and that will not fly in 2012.
The perfect fit would be a return for Richard Jefferson after the San Antonio Spurs use the amnesty rule on him, but there's a good chance he never gets through waivers. After Caron Butler got an incredible $24 million over three years from the Los Angeles Clippers after missing the end of last season with a knee injury, there's no telling how many teams could put in a waiver/auction claim on Jefferson. The two are the same age and the former Net played in 81 games in 2010-11.
When doors open on New Jersey Nets training camp on Friday afternoon, the bets advice I can give you is to grab some popcorn. Because no matter what, it's going to be an entertaining trip to Brooklyn.