When the season began, the Nets had three rookies on their roster -- and now there are two, as the most highly-touted of the trio, No. 3 pick Derrick Favors, was parlayed into the Nets' blockbuster trade for Deron Williams.
So while Damion James, who was the 24th pick out of Texas, drafted by Atlanta and acquired in a trade, and undrafted Ben Uzoh out of Tulsa, were not as highly regarded as Favors, they still have made impressions. Favorable ones at that.
"They've grown up a lot," insisted coach Avery Johnson. "Damion, he obviously missed some games through injury but he's grown. It got to a point where he was our starting small forward and his defense, his energy was infectious.
And Uzoh has come a long way. He's still learning the point guard position in the NBA is not the easiest position. He's driving the ball to the basket, he's solid on defense. I thought he had a nice stint in the D-League," Johnson added.
James became a favorite of Johnson because of that energizer defense. But he has been beset with injuries -- he broke his foot in his very first start, Dec. 9. He sat over two months, returned and suffered a concussion Mar. 4. He returned from that and experienced renewed pain with his foot. He hopes to practice Monday before the Nets play Minnesota Tuesday.
"I haven't felt any pain in like a week and a half but they want to make sure it's healed," James said.
Uzoh spent some time with the Nets' Springfield (MA) D-League affiliate and said the time was invaluable.
"I think the D-League was a good experience. Showcasing myself and showing them I've gotten better," said Uzoh. "They wanted to see what I could do playing 38 minutes a night. The opportunities I've gotten, I think I've done a good job."
HEAT 108, NETS 94: Again, the Nets started terribly and again they paid the price. With LeBron James directing operations, the Heat led by as many as 16 points in the first quarter. The Nets then repeatedly tried to rally but always were held off by the powerful Heat who dealt them a sixth straight loss. Travis Outlaw led the Nets with 17 points off the bench and Brook Lopez scored 16. James led the Heat with 31 points.
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