Dr. J expects Nets to be 'serious' title contenders

11/08/2013 10:33 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

It has been nearly 40 years since Dr. J led the then-New York Nets to a pair of ABA Titles.(AP)
It’s been a busy week for basketball Hall of Famer Julius Erving, who spent the first full week of November traversing around the New York area to promote his new book, “Dr. J: The Autobiography,” which was released worldwide on Tuesday.

Erving, who was born on Long Island, graduated from Roosevelt High School, and played from 1973-76 with the then-New York Nets of the ABA, was back in his old stomping grounds on Monday night, signing a few advance copies of his book at the Book Revue in Huntington, N.Y.; then, on Wednesday morning, he was back in Manhattan, sitting down with Michael Kay to tape an episode of CenterStage that will premiere later this winter.

It was just after that taping that the team cornered the living legend for a quick quiz on the current landscape of the NBA – and not surprisingly, he picked his former team to make some serious noise this season.

“I expect playoffs, and I expect (the Brooklyn Nets) to be serious title contenders,” Erving said. “I think it’s sort of like the Yankees 20 years ago, where they went out and got some veterans they needed to try to push them over the top. These guys are committed to winning at the highest level, willing to make changes, and take chances, and it’s one of those experiments where they can’t lose; either they win it all, or at least they tried and the experiment didn’t work – but ‘at least they tried’ goes a long way in the NBA.”

Erving was one of the most ferocious dunkers in his heyday, winning the ABA’s first-ever Slam Dunk Contest in 1976 with a free-throw line jam that has been oft-imitated, but instead of counting any of his Nets counterparts among the best of the new era, he actually cited someone who was long-rumored to maybe be coming to Brooklyn over the last couple years.

“Blake Griffin is probably the top dunker these days, but Dwight Howard always has to be near the top,” Erving said. “They will probably have the most dunks, too.”

As for who might win this year’s Sprite Slam Dunk, an event that both Griffin (2011) and Howard (2008) have won before, Dr. J cited the importance of bringing something new.

“It’s all about who is most creative; some of the guards in the league are good, but if they enter, those two guys (Griffin and Howard) are probably the top two,” he said.

And, while “Dr. J” may be one of the coolest nicknames in league lore, Erving himself wouldn’t brag about it – and in fact, wouldn’t even include himself in an impromptu Top 5 of NBA nicknames.

“You have to recognize ‘The King’ (LeBron James), because it’s good to be the king. And Darryl Dawkins, one of my old teammates, he had about 50 different nicknames, from ‘Chocolate Thunder’ to ‘Double D,’ so you have to include him,” Erving said. “No one calls Doc Rivers by his given name (Glenn) so that’s always gotta be near the top, and I think Kobe Bryant (‘The Black Mamba’) and Gary Payton (‘The Glove’) are both greatly descriptive. Glove’s retired like me though, so more props to him!”

And for more props from Dr. J, stay tuned to this winter for more info on the premiere of CenterStage with Julius Erving.

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