The Nets conclude two-a-days with tonight’s open practice at their new, temporary home, The Prudential Center, but that doesn’t necessarily mean training camp is over.
“We have a note in their playbook that camp doesn’t officially end until Oct. 20 at 11:59,” coach Avery Johnson said today.
That day and time coincides with the end of the Nets’ preseason schedule. The finale of their eight-game exhibition schedule, which includes two games in China, is Oct. 20 at Boston.
Johnson saying camp doesn’t end until then means he’s going to keep teaching and pushing this young team, but that’s going to continue throughout the season and for as long as they play for Johnson and he works for the Nets’ organization. That’s Johnson’s style.
He may have done it a little less in Dallas, but he had different players, a different team and the expectations were much different. They were a perennial NBA playoff team that went to the Finals after his first full season as coach.
Johnson still pushed them but circumstances were different.
Expectations for the Nets are low, which would change if they acquire Carmelo Anthony. Still, Johnson has to approach this camp differently than Dallas because it’s different personnel and players in different stages of their career.
Brook Lopez has been a good player, but Johnson wants him to become a dominant big man.
Devin Harris has been an All-Star, but Johnson wants him to defend more and return to thinking about wreaking havoc by getting in the paint.
Travis Outlaw is going to be a regular starter for the first time in his career and he’s playing small forward more than ever before. He’s always seen most of his time at power forward.
Derrick Favors is a rookie, just learning the NBA, how strong everyone is and the business side of things since he’s been in trade rumors since the day he was drafted.
Third-year shooting guard Anthony Morrow is a lights-out marksman vying for a full-time starting job with Terrence Williams, who probably shouldn’t be called a versatile swingman anymore. Instead, he should be a versatile combo guard because that’s how Johnson plans to play him.
All of that said, the Nets have worked more on defense than anything in this camp, which was wise as well as expected.
Johnson is a defensive-minded coach who got the scoring-happy Mavericks to recognize they have to work on the other end of the court. Anyone who has watched the Nets the last few years knows they took many nights off defensively.
It’s a different team, but Johnson is trying to instill a defensive mindset with this team. It gives them their best chance to win games.
“The guys are very attentive and coachable,” Johnson said. “We have a chance to be a decent, decent defensive team. We have a chance. We still don’t take enough charges. We don’t block enough shots, but we’ll get there. We have a chance.”
“Everyone has their certain talents on the offensive end: we’ve got shooters, slashers and guys who can score in the paint,” Lopez said. “We all know our roles offensively. It’s really defensively where we needed to pick up.
We’ve spending most of the time in training camp on the defensive end, learning rotations, learning our help-side and stuff like that. That’s where the roles aren’t as well-defined.”
Johnson’s camp isn’t over yet. The Nets still have plenty to learn.
“I know in the first preseason game you can’t hope that it all is perfect, but I would hope some of the concepts we work on defensively we can see some benefit from all of the hard work we’ve put in from training camp. Hopefully we won’t have too much confusion. Guys know the system and know where to be at in certain situations. And I would like to see us play inside-out offensively. Get the ball inside with our passes and get the ball inside with our penetration.”
- Avery Johnson on what he hopes for in Sunday’s preseason opener against Maccabi Haifa at Prudential Center.
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Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)