(October 30, 2013)
CLEVELAND—Upon their arrival in Brooklyn, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry were as subtle as Joan Rivers.
They came to win the NBA title.
The quest begins here Wednesday night (7:00pm, YES) and nothing that has transpired in this last month of preparation has any player on this team doubting a championship ring is attainable.
“There’s been no doubt in my mind,” center Brook Lopez said at Wednesday morning’s shootaround. “Seeing all the differences from the last five years here to this year, this is the first year I can truly say we’re contending for a championship.”
The changes have been well documented. In addition to the blockbuster trade that landed KG, Pierce and Terry, the Nets convinced Andrei Kirilenko to take less money than he could have gotten elsewhere to sign here.
The re-signing of Andray Blatche gives the Nets a highly skilled backup center. And a healthy Deron Williams played like an elite point guard in the second half of last season.
All those moves, of course, guarantee nothing.
The Nets, with rookie head coach Jason Kidd, have yet to be tested by a losing streak or a key injury.
And the Eastern Conference boasts the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat as well as the physical Indiana Pacers and the talented Chicago Bulls, featuring a healthy Derrick Rose.
The Nets have not been drawn into much conversation about opponents.
Even questions from the Cleveland media this morning about the Cavs were met with responses of, “We’re focused on the Nets.”
That focus has been easy to sustain because of the presence of Garnett. His relentless approach to, in his words, “perfecting his craft,” has been infectious.
“We got guys who are very hungry and we got guys with championship pedigree that want to win another ring,” said Joe Johnson. “For us guys that haven’t been to the Finals or won a championship, we’re going with those guys.”
Those guys have made millions playing the game they love. They have their rings. Their place in history is secure.
But they have approached this last month of training camp and preseason games with a passion and professionalism that allows players such as Lopez and Johnson to believe in a championship season.
“Its easy for me to be convinced when I see, number one, not only the talent we have, but the commitment to our system,” said Terry. “The hard work and dedication that these guys have put in on a consistent basis.’
“It’s easy to get to the gym early and stay late in October and November. But can we do it February and March? That will be the telltale sign of where this team is going to go in the end.
“Early indications I’ve seen is everything I expected. And my prediction of this team going all the way hasn’t changed.”