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As team "gets better," players taking stock

Brooklyn Nets

Paul Pierce said after Thursday's practice that the Nets had "gotten better" while the coach said his charges had passed another test of endurance. He has been pushing them hard, gleefully turning what players thought would be down time in a pool into laps.

As the time at Duke winds down --it ends Saturday-- and the time to the first preseason game shrinks --its now four days away-- the Nets are starting to look at what they've got, and are feeling pretty good about it.  A number of them took note of the Andrei Kirilenko signing which Kevin Garnett has repeatedly called "huge."

Joe Johnson said of AK-47, "I've played against him all these years and he's a guy who can really do everything.''

Paul Pierce said: "He's a special player.''

Added Deron Williams: "He just brings a different element to this team.''

Or as Rod Boone quoted Kirilenko, "I can play a significant role and that's what I'm looking for. I don't want to just be a sit-in guy. I want to be a contributor to the team and I think there's a perfect opportunity for me here.''

The Nets also like the idea of liberating Joe Johnson for purely an iso role. "It's a great feeling honestly because you don't come in with everything on your back," said Johnson, who will be reunited with Pierce. The two played together in Boston when Johnson was a rookie.

Shaun Livingston, who will likely start in D-Will's place next Tuesday, is looking forward to returning to the playoffs and helping people forget his horrific injury in 2007, the last time he tasted the post-season. And in an interview with, Billy King suggested that while Mason Plumlee can learn from KG and Brook Lopez, he's likely to spend a lot of time in Springfield.