Nets, still a work in progress, taking slow start in stride

By on November 28, 2014

Nets leader Kevin Garnett preaches the need to 'build a foundation on something.'Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images Nets leader Kevin Garnett preaches the need to ‘build a foundation on something.’

PHILADELPHIA — There are different ways to assess Brooklyn’s start to the season, most of them discouraging. But there’s also more of a relaxed atmosphere surrounding the Nets compared to last year, as the grand expectations under Jason Kidd have been replaced by a calm confidence.

To be clear, nobody is happy with a 6-8 start from the most expensive roster in the NBA. Brooklyn’s record is actually worse than it looks considering the following details: the Nets have yet to beat a team with anything close to a winning record. The five teams they’ve defeated (including the Thunder twice) are a combined 17-61.

But for those who endured last season’s abysmal start and eventual turnaround, there isn’t the panic and confusion that was exacerbated by Kidd’s soda-spilling maneuver, the demotion of Lawrence Frank and the Nets’ 11 losses by Thanksgiving.

At least not yet. Next week’s schedule presents three of four games against teams currently with winning records.

“I think we’re already off to a better start (than last season),” said Deron Williams. “We’re not where we want to be, of course, but we’re off to a better start than last year, and there’s just a different feeling.”

There was a surprising amount of positivity emerging from the Nets’ locker room Wednesday after they barely survived against the winless Sixers. Lionel Hollins, often a harsh critic, lauded his team’s resilience after it blew a 20-point lead before recovering in a 99-91 win in Philadelphia.

Kevin Garnett then appeared from a back door to the locker room and launched into a lecture on patience.

He may be a shell of his former self on the court, but the 38-year-old is still the most aggressive personality and best motivational speaker on the roster.

“You are worried about (the start of the season). It’s not so nonchalant. But the mentality is to not get bored with the process,” Garnett said. “It’s chemistry. It’s the process of which you are trying to build a foundation on something. It’s not going to work the first two weeks; there’s nothing to say in a book or a magazine or something that you guys write or a pamphlet that’s going to give you the answers to this.

Deron Williams and the Nets almost become the first season to lose to the 76ers this season.Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images Deron Williams and the Nets almost become the first season to lose to the 76ers this season.

Trying to perfect something takes practice and repetition and continuously going over it and over it… That’s what it is and we have to continue to understand that. So I’m just trying to get through to everybody in here and be a positive role (model) through the whole transition of all this coming together, and continuing to be positive and continue to work on what we are trying to be.”

Hollins has an ideal identity for the Nets, but the coach admitted recently that his players’ “personality” doesn’t fit into his perfect model. It was an early and important concession for a coach who won in Memphis with a tough and defensive-minded squad.

“I can’t play the way I would totally like to play because that’s not the personality of this team,” Hollins said.

“But I’ve also learned a lot about the individuals, I’ve learned a lot about the team as a group. And, so, I’ve had to kind of change what I started out with this group, system-wise, because it seemed like we needed something different.”

So the system is evolving. The players are inconsistent. The lumps are forming. And the Nets aren’t panicking.

“We’re pretty far off as a whole from where we want to be,” Williams said. “I think we show flashes of what we want to do and where we want to be, but we still haven’t sustained that for a full game to where you have guys hitting on all cylinders.

“We’re still trying to figure it out where we get everybody going and have one of those nights where everybody is clicking for the entire game.” 

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