Brooklyn determined to hang championship banner at Barclays
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brook Lopez, the biggest and longest-tenured Net, put it best when asked about his team's attitude just before embarking on a week-long visit to Duke University for the official opening of training camp.
"One mind for one goal," the 7-foot All-Star center intimated during Nets media day at the Barclays Center earlier this week. "We all have very high expectations."
Armed with the biggest payroll in the sport, a re-loaded roster that includes three NBA champions, a first-year coach who was arguably the greatest player in franchise history and a cache of returnees eager to erase the bitter taste of last season's playoff disappointment, the 2013-14 Nets are on the clock to deliver Brooklyn's first major pro sports title since the Dodgers edged the Yankees in the 1955 World Series.
And to a man, the new-look Nets aren't shying away from the pursuit of that lofty goal.
“We expect those expectations," said point guard Deron Williams, who will have Lopez, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett joining him in one of the most decorated starting five lineups in the league. "Our goal is to win a championship."
“Obviously, we would love to come in and win it all," added Johnson. "We definitely have the pieces to put us over the top. We’re all at a point in our careers when stats are behind us. We’re not stat-chasing. We’ll do whatever it takes to win.”
Johnson, Lopez and Williams still have a lot to learn about "whatever it takes".
That point was driven home back in June when Nets general manager Billy King orchestrated a draft-day deal to bring in proven winners like Garnett, Pierce and sixth-man extraordinaire Jason Terry from Boston.
All three have been part of championship teams.
Garnett and Pierce grabbed the Larry O'Brien Trophy with the Celtics in 2008 and Terry teamed with first-year coach Jason Kidd to win it all with Dallas in 2011.
Acquiring that championship pedigree, along with the likes of Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson to complement an already formidable reserve corps, is something that was sorely needed after the Nets crumbled at the sight of a shorthanded Chicago Bulls team in Game 7 of last year's first-round playoff series here in Brooklyn.
"It definitely left a sour taste," Williams admitted of the season-sending defeat to Chicago at Barclays Center this past spring. "We lost Game 7 in our building to a team that was missing three key guys. We kind of were soft. I don’t see that being a problem this year. I don’t think anyone can label us a soft team.”
Not if Garnett has anything to say about it.
The 6-foot-11 power forward is renowned as one of the NBA's greatest competitors and agitators. Now entering his 19th season in the league, KG is all about Lopez's unintentional team mantra: One mind for one goal.
“We’re here to get another ring," Garnett emphasized. "That’s the only reason we came to Brooklyn. The only reason!"
“All the ingredients are in that locker room that we need for a championship team," added Pierce, who was named 2008 NBA Finals MVP after delivering Boston's first crown since the Larry Bird-led teams of the 1980s.
"It’s all how we come together and sacrifice,” he added. “Every championship team has its own ingredients. It’s up to us to come up with something to bond us together toward our goal.”
The man responsible for mixing those ingredients is Kidd, who will have his No. 5 jersey retired at Barclays on Oct. 17, the night Brooklyn gets to test its mettle against the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat.
"We want to win and we want to win now," Kidd stated, re-iterating the ongoing sentiments of billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who will spend upwards of $180 million (luxury tax penalties included) in fielding this season's team.
"I’ve been on great Boston teams," added Garnett, who is already in discussions with Kidd regarding his playing time in back-to-back contests during the 82-game grind of the NBA campaign. "We’re creating the same atmosphere here. Our own goals and expectations are going to exceed everyone else’s. Destiny is in our own hands.”
Sharing the destiny might be a tad easier than sharing the ball for a team that is loaded with historically prolific scorers, both in the starting five and coming off the bench.
“I think having vets on this team is going to expedite that process," noted Livingston, who will most likely back up Williams in front of second-year point man Tyshawn Taylor. "We have guys who have won rings. They’ll get guys to buy into the system.”
But leave it to Lopez, a Stanford alum and normally one of the more soft-spoken Nets, to again sum up what it will take for this year's team to catch the confetti come June.
"We have to go in and put in work on the court," he noted. “The challenge is to make [all our talent] translate on the court.”
Hoop du Jour: The Nets officially opened camp at Duke on Tuesday, citing a need to get away from the crush of media in New York to further the bonding experience for their players as they become familiar with one another. “[Building trust and chemistry] takes time," said Williams. "The more time we spend together, get that time away at Duke, the better." ... Though most of the players were unwilling to stoke the Knicks-Nets rivalry during the media day session, new addition Terry was only too glad to jump into the East River feud. “It’s a beautiful day in New York when you have two teams competing for the same thing," said Terry. "There’s gonna be a rivalry. At the end of the day, there’s only going to be one team to come out of it. I’m saying it’s going to be us.” ... Williams, who spent several years playing alongside Kirilenko in Utah, is glad to have the 6-foot-9 Russian in Brooklyn this season. “I think that was a huge signing for us," Williams said. "He can fill up a stat sheet on both ends of the floor." ... Mason Plumlee, the Nets' first-round draft pick out of Duke, is looking forward to returning to campus this week for training camp. The high-flying 6-foot-10 center has had an eventful summer to say the least. After interning for Barclays Wealth Management last year, Plumlee learned he'd be playing for the Nets at the Barclays Center on draft night and found out in the fall that he'd be spending the first week of NBA training camp back at Duke. “I it's like getting all the prizes in the Cracker Jacks," Plumlee said. "I haven't been [back at Duke] since I graduated. I'll get to see my little brother [Blue Devils center Marshall Plumlee]."