Deron Williams sounded the warning cry on Monday. In reflecting on last season's Game 7 home playoff loss to the depleted Chicago Bulls, Williams said the Brooklyn Nets were - brace yourselves - SOFT!
We asked coach Jason Kidd after Day 2 of training camp if there is any worse label that can be slapped on a team.
“I don't think so,” said Kidd. “I think that might rank up there with 1A and 1B. I guess that goes with no identity, probably right up there with being soft. If you don't have an identity, that's probably the top 1A and 1B.”
The Nets believed they addressed both of those heinous shortcomings with the acquisitions of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. Certainly KG comes with an identity. You'd be nuts to accuse him of being soft.
Until yesterday, Garnett had been asked countless times about his leadership. Yesterday we asked about his toughness.
“I just play hard, man,'' said Garnett, addressing the media after today’s practice. “I don't take any s--t. Anybody wants to say something to you guys, including the women here, you guys will fire back. I'm no different than that.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve. I care about the game. I never disrespect the game or myself or my family. If want to call that tough, I guess that's tough.”
The Nets were not tough and that's the worst secret since whether or not Hillary Clinton will run for president. They were one of the league's worst teams in transition and fourth quarter defense.
When the going got tough, the Nets...
“You saw it,” said GM Billy King. “There were certain games where things just happened that you can't allow to happen. At some point, you've got to knock a guy on his [butt] if they're doing things. You've got to take a hard foul and let them know you just can’t do that. And we didn't do it.”
“In certain games of the playoffs, in certain games of the regular season, it's just basketball, but if a guy has got a layup, you've got to put him on his [butt] so they
don't do it.”
These words are music to the ears of any resident of Brooklyn, the toughest of all the boroughs, and any Nets fans that saw their team play like soft-serve yogurt at times.
This team is built to play in June and no team gets that far without an edge.
“You don't want to be on that list because the tendency is if you are under that label things tend to go against you,'' said Kidd. “I don't know if I've ever been on a soft team, maybe finesse.”
Finesse? Finesse this.
The Nets are talking the talk, and in less than a month, when the season opens at Cleveland on Oct. 30, they sound like a team ready to walk the walk, or more accurately, swing the elbow or take the hard foul.
“There was a lot of easy layups,” said Williams. “I think we were first in transition points allowed last year. A lot of that is just letting guys get easy baskets and that just can't happen.”
“So hopefully as a group we can have that mentality where we're not going to allow easy buckets. We don't want to hurt anybody, but we don't just want to give a guy a free layup.”