EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (PIX11)– New-look Brooklyn Nets won’t let distractions or injuries sway them from their ambitious aspirations this year.
And it all starts with new head coach, Lionel Hollins, who is bringing a culture change to the team that finished 44-38 and trailed only the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic Division crown.
“Practice, practice, practice,” Hollins said at Nets Media Day on Friday. “We’re going to push them and just try to go beyond what you would normally do in games. Can everybody be tougher? I think they can be.”
Unlike Hollins, last year’s coach Jason Kidd, who unceremoniously split from the Nets over an unsuccessful power duel, conditioned practices to be more of an afterthought.
“I mean we practiced, but no…not really,” Nets guard Joe Johnson said smiling.
Aside from the Kidd fiasco, the Nets have remained relatively quiet during the off-season, making under the radar player acquisitions such as veteran Jared Jack and 3-point marksmen Sergey Karasev and Bojan Bogdanovic.
More importantly, former All-Stars Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are progressing from their health issues.
Lopez, who had been rehabbing from ankle and foot surgery, has already started practicing.
“I feel great right now,” Lopez said. “Looking forward to get back to work.”
Williams also chimed in about his ankles problems, saying he’s not “100 percent, but I’m getting pretty close.”
“I’m about 20 percent better than I was all of last season,” Williams said.
It was 19-year NBA veteran Kevin Garnett, who pondered retirement following the Nets’ playoff exit against the Miami Heat, that summed up what Nets should be about this year.
“I don’t think anyone is souped up to come in second,” Garnett said. “I don’t think guys are coming in here to come in anything less than [first]. The reality part of that is probably something else, but the mindset has to be championship or nothing.”