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Brooklyn Nets ready to roll in Boston

Nets To Kick Off Hollins Era Against Celtics Wednesday Night

October 28, 2014 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
With two healthy ankles, Deron Williams hopes to lead the Nets past the Celtics in Wednesday night’s season opener in Boston.
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Two years ago, the Nets arrived in Downtown Brooklyn touting what they claimed was the best backcourt in the NBA – Deron Williams and Joe Johnson — and a desire to take over the city from the East River rival Knicks. 

Prior to last season, Brooklyn announced that it was title-ready, having acquired the likes of future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from Boston in an attempt to grab the franchise’s first-ever NBA championship.

Entering their third season in our fair borough, which begins Wednesday night in Boston, the Nets have remained noticeably mum on the matter of how far they can go, perhaps letting their play on the hardwood speak for them.

At least that’s the way new head coach Lionel Hollins seems to prefer it: Less talk and more action, especially on the defensive end.

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“We still have a ways to go and it’s not going to just happen when we play Boston [in the season opener],” Hollins, the Nets’ fourth coach in three seasons since their relocation from New Jersey, noted.

“It’s a process we go through and hopefully by January, February, we’re the team we want to be.”

Placing a greater emphasis on toughness and defense, two things the Nets have sorely lacked at critical junctures during their time here, Hollins is hoping for a longer tenure in Brooklyn than his three predecessors – Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo and Jason Kidd. 

His message, which he accentuates daily during practice with a commanding voice, is being heard loud and clear by the players that will carry a majority of the load this coming campaign.

“I think we were a little disappointed in our defense,” Williams admitted following some film study after the Nets’ 4-2 run through the preseason, which began with a two-game trip to China. “I think we’re a little lazy. We’re standing up. Definitely a lot of things we can improve on on the defensive end.

“I’m not even looking at offense really,” added the $98 million point guard, whom the Nets are hoping will return to All-Star form following offseason surgery on both of his ankles. “What we need is defense.”

Having 7-foot center Brook Lopez in the middle for Wednesday night’s opener in Boston would doubtlessly help in that pursuit after the oft-injured big man blocked 2.1 shots per game during his brief 17-game stint last year before going down for the count with the second break in his right foot in three seasons.

Though Hollins and general manager Billy King have remained optimistic regarding Lopez’s availability against the Celtics, they might decide to err on the side of caution and let the Stanford alum work his way back to the lineup slowly after he suffered a mild mid-foot sprain during the preseason.

Williams and Johnson, who are still hoping to fulfill their two-year-old proclamation outside Borough Hall, should be ready to be more forceful on the offensive end this season following the departures of Paul Pierce to Washington, Shaun Livingston to Golden State and Andray Blatche to China. 

But King helped fill some of those holes by bringing in new arrivals like

backup point guard Jarrett Jack, small forwards Bojan Bogdanovich and Sergey Karasev, and the forward-center tandem of Cory Jefferson and Jerome Jordan.

With Bogdanovich more than likely to get the first look at Pierce’s starting small forward spot and Garnett, entering his 20th NBA season, back at his customary starting power forward’s slot, barring a prolonged absence by Lopez, the Nets appear poised to challenge for their first Atlantic Division crown since 2006. 

Brooklyn’s 2014-15 “Bench Mob” will be anchored by returning veterans Alan Anderson, Andrei Kirilenko and Mirza Teletovic, while second-year backup center Mason Plumlee, fresh of a successful run with Team USA at the World Championships in Spain, is expected to continue progressing after earning an NBA All-Rookie First Team selection.

But to Hollins, a fearless ball defender during his playing days and a vocal proponent of the importance of protecting your own basket as a coach, the Nets won’t achieve any of their goals without getting back to getting back on D.

“It’s about being tough, aggressive and it’s about doing it every time,” he insisted. “Defense is consistency in your work ethic and five guys on the same page doing it together.

“We’ve had moments when we looked really good and we’ve had moments when we had two or three guys doing well and then a couple of guys resting. You’ve got to be all five guys, every defensive possession.’’ 

So it’ll be less flash and more grit from this year’s Nets if Hollins has his way, beginning Wednesday night in Boston and all the way through the 82-game grind of an NBA regular season.

“Everyone can do the big things,” Holllins said. “Champions are champions because they succeed at the little things.’’

 

Nothing But Net: F Garnett, who sat out the final few preseason games following the Nets’ return from China due to illness, is expected to be suited up and ready to go for Wednesday’s opener against his former team after returning to full practice this week. … Hollins and King were both enthused by Lopez’s movement during agility drills, but the Nets’ projected starting center still hasn’t participated in a full-contact practice since suffering his latest foot injury. We likely won’t know until just before game time whether Lopez is a go for the opener. …  The Nets will be in Detroit on Saturday before returning to Brooklyn for their home opener next Monday against Oklahoma City.

 


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