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Confident about their chances -- and (mostly) avoiding big issues -- Nets open training camp

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Brooklyn Nets

All 20 Nets gathered at their New Jersey practice facility Monday for Media Day and no amount of bashing or baiting, no description of their roster as "putrid" or "pocket lint" could deter them from their confidence that this is a playoff team, plain and simple.

From Joe Johnson to Dahntay Jones and at all points in between, the players sang the praises of their teammates for their character, their willingness to volunteer for informal practices etc.

"We have a nice mix," said Jarrett Jack, describing the roster. "we have some veteran guys who have experience and are very talented.  Now we have a good mix of youth with athleticism. So, it definitely changed the pace. There's a lot of different lineups we can put in. We can do small ball right if we need. We can go big if the coach feels we need  Brook and Andrea alongside each other, maybe sliding Thad to the three and Joe to the two.

"I think we have the availability to match up with anybody."

Thaddeus Young, fresh from his move to Brooklyn, said much the same, "I think we're going to be able to compete and play well," Young said. His frontcourt mate, Brook Lopez said he thinks the team "definitely have the opportunity to surprise people.

Joe Johnson said the Nets have one big advantage, low expectations.

"I definitely don't think there's any pressure on us this year.  We should just come out and play loose, have fun, most importantly and play hard day in and day out," said the 15-year veteran, who added his role will be to "be more vocal, to lead these guys."

Added the team's oldest player, Jones, "I do feel this is a playoff team.  I do think this is a playoff team. Last season, there were distractions that were there for various reasons."

Their coach remains optimistic as well.

"I have a vision about this team," Lionel Hollins said. "The question is, can we do it? I think we've added depth, some players who have played in the NBA. Last year, we had a bench to start the year who didn't play at all."

The two former Knicks didn't take the bait offered over the summer by Phil Jackson, who called Andrea Bargnani a "tease" and "malingerer" and offered that Shane Larkin had "tiny hands," too small to ever be effective at small ball.

Bargnani said in the days after the comments were published that he looked forward to responding but Team Italy's fortunes were primary.  Monday, he again deferred, diplomatically, saying he is all about the Nets now, having arrived only two days ago. "I don't want this to be a distraction. I want to focus on what's next for me."

"It’s a free world. I definitely don’t want to focus [on] criticism. Why would I? I’ll look forward, and look at what’s next."

When pressed, Bargnani refused to refer to Jackson, saying his poor play was the result of legitimate injuries.  Instead he said he wanted to talk about himself, his values. "Me as a player as a player, basketball is my passion, is my life. what my work ethic is, that's it."  He told La Gazzetta dello Sport that he has a bit of a personal goal.

"Everyone knows the level that I can play, I do not have to prove to anyone to be a good player but maybe if someone forgot ..."

Larkin came away with the best line of the day, saying of the Knicks' GM, "I never met a man so concerned with another man’s hands, but it’s all good."

Later, with most of the media gone, Larkin walked around the gym, palming a basketball.

It was that kind of day.  Take no prisoners despite what the pundits say. Is it an accurate portrayal of what's coming up?  See you in a few weeks, four to be exact.