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It’s intensity, high competition ... and KD ... on Day 1 of full squad training camp

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Sights and sounds from Nets training camp... 

Team workouts were permitted for the first time Sunday. Ten bodies bumping on a court 94 feet by 10 feet. No more workouts. Still, it was anything but normal. Due to COVID-19 guidelines, no more than 50 team personnel were allowed in the HSS Training Center.

One thing that hasn’t changed. Nets players and head coach Steve Nash say they are all locked in with great intensity, spirit, and are ready to build something special.

“It was a great first day first of all,” Nash said about Day 1 of full squad training camp. “Guys played really hard, we’re intent, buying in, and working hard. As things as coaches, we ask for great energy and spirit.”

Nash described the flow of the first full training camp as a “standard” NBA practice. The team got down to work and are beginning to work on fine details to implement into a long progression of success. As Nash put it, ‘it was a great first day.’

Although the media had to be satisfied with a Zoom call, the team later released short videos ... including the first video of Kevin Wayne Durant working out officially in Brooklyn Nets gear at the Brooklyn training facility, the HSS Training Center. Take a moment to watch, appreciate...

“As far as the flow of practice, it was a pretty standard NBA practice. You have your template, you have your assistant coaches that take their responsibilities for segments of practice, and I guess it was pretty standard. I do not know who I can dress it up any better for you. We got down to business on some details, we also played, started to implement those details, work to get in shape, find a rhythm, and connectivity. It was a great first day.”

While Nash described the first full team practice as standard, Joe Harris had a different outlook on it.

“This is definitely the highest level of intrasquad scrimmaging I’ve ever been a part of,” Harris said. “Just the depth that we have. We have a lot of talented players. When we go five-on-five, we didn’t break it up into starters versus reserves. We kind of evenly spread but the games are ultra competitive and that is because we just have so much depth down the line.”

The intensity, said Nash, is about his veteran players coming in and looking very good and in good shape. But there are issues he and they have to face.

“I would have to say the large amount of veterans of this group have come in very good shape, rhythm, and they look very good. I think conditioning is more to finalize their condition, and transferring and adapting to the demands of the game at the highest level. I think practice is a step towards that and then on to exhibition games and then the real thing so they still got to adapt to the demands the game presents.

“They’re almost impossible to replicate in pick-up environments. We are trying to go through that process as well but I would say the guys just came in great shape. I was incredibly impressed with so many of them.”

And that conditioning and preparation showed on the court the first day.

“All the guys have worked hard. The vets are leading the way. Sharp, showing what it takes to be a pro in this league, and come in prepared. As a coach, that is beautiful so I’m proud of the guys. We had a great first day but you look back at the length of that offseason. Whether it was a bubble or no bubble or long term injury, everyone has come in and taken care of their responsibilities.”

Then there is the Net who had the biggest layoff out of any player: Kevin Durant. Nash, who has a strong relationship with the superstar dating back before both joined the Nets organization, credits Durant for showing that hunger and desire for the game of basketball on Day 1.

“Feel very excited and happy for Kevin , who has had the longest layoff and the biggest challenge to overcome a career threatening injury,” Nash said. “He’s done everything that could have been asked. He shows that hunger and desire to how much he loves the sport and wants to compete. That’s been fantastic…”

As for Kyrie Irving, Nash said simply that he’s blown away by his “off the charts ability,” the beauty of his game.

“Kyrie has just been unbelievable with his ability.” Nash said about Irving. “His ability is off the charts. To see him sharp and executing today the way we all know he is capable of but is still sometimes a shock to see how beautiful the game is when the ball is in his hands.

A key element to any beginning of a season filled with championship aspirations is setting the tone early. Nash appreciated the early effort and great start of Day 1. He broke down how setting the tone is not going to come from one person or one department. It will take a full group effort.

“There are some similarities but it’s different,” Nash said about setting the tone in training camp as star player and as a head coach.

“I mean as a player, you are over there in the locker room with the guys. As a leader, you are trying to make sure everyone is excited for the opportunity at hand, excited to connect, and to get off to a good start through your effort and energy. Buying in and making this thing move forward in the right directions. You can do that through a players perspective as a leader of the locker room and on the floor.

“From a coaching perspective, you are thinking of a lot of different things. You are thinking about the micro, the macro, anything about individuals, thinking about the group, thinking about schedule, how to prepare this team - not only on the small details but the bigger ones. That becomes a totally bigger task so it’s an exciting time for everyone. We got a lot of vets who were ready to go, which I thought makes our job a little bit easier.”

Then, he spoke about his staff.

“As a coaching staff, we want to create an environment where they are all striving, working, and pushing each other to be the best they can be - individually and collectively. Once you have an environment like that, you continually sprinkle in the details. Work on those details and give them an opportunity to incorporate and adapt to those teachings and continually evolve and build on a day-to-day basis.”

Like Nash, who is entering the first year of his Nets tenure, so is Landry Shamet, who was acquired via trade in November.

Shamet discussed his first day of full training camp with the Nets and some of the approaches of his teammates ... along with himself. The 23-year-old spoke about how he is someone who basically keeps to himself while other guys like DeAndre Jordan like to crack jokes and are very vocal. Overall, everyone clearly has a different approach, especially for day one.

“Everybody has their own different approach,” Shamet said about what he saw.“DJ does like to crack jokes and he likes to talk to guys. That is what I picked up on already. Then, there are some guys that are a little more quiet. Me, I’m kind of just like my business. I’m quiet. Don’t really talk a ton unless we are in the game. Talking to my teammates about what we are doing and talk on the floor but we have a great energy and good spirit where guys are focused and locked in. Everybody kind of goes about that in a different way. Like DJ - it is not like he isn’t locked in but he’s joking and that is how some guys get going. That is what some guys do. They can do that. Other guys not so much.

Shamet, who is only in year three of his NBA career, credited his teammates and coaches for being very locked in: a narrative Nash and the Nets covet.

“Across the board, coaches, players, and staff are very locked in. Very excited, there is definitely a buzz you feel, and excitement to be in the gym with everybody.”

Looking ahead, Shamet acknowledges the need for adaptation, despite the limited time window from now till when the games count. So far, Shamet says the Nets are doing a great job so far and the leadership early on his going in the right direction.

“There does have to be an adaptation there,” Shamet said about expectations and limited preparation time. “Everybody has to adjust and have a different approach to this shortened camp and everything so we are doing what we think is best, how we want to approach it, and we are focused on us and what we can come together and start gelling collectively as soon as possible.

“From a film perspective, in the locker room, on the floor, how we play, and all of those things. It is definitely different and again, I am only year three so I haven’t seen it as many offseason and training camps but I think we are doing a really good job and have great leadership leading us in the right direction.”

Like Shamet, Harris agrees that there will be adaptation and it will be tough, especially with a team who has their goals set on a championship. For Harris, he sees each step, from practices to preseason games as a step to “iron out some of the kinks.”

“This was the first time we were all able to be together,” Harris said. “An unusual offseason and various rules we have for these early practices. This was the first time everyone was able to get together, compete with one and other, and have a truly full practice.

“I think it’s tough. You can’t practice hours on end and the lead up. The schedule is going to be pretty tough with how condensed it is so you can’t beat guys up in this early period. Still trying to get the teaching stuff in, everybody establishing their rhythm, play, and without breaking guys down. It is a difficult task because it is such a quick turnaround but I think that is what these early games are for. Our game Dec. 13, 18th, and those preseason games, we are looking at them as organized practices as well where you can iron out some of the kinks in those exhibitions as well.”

As for Harris’ biggest takeaway from Day 1, he is glad everyone is healthy (with the exception of Nic Claxton who is dealing with right knee tendonitis). Harris spoke about how the team ran plays but overall it was just fun to be on the court as a collective unit.

“I think first and foremost, it is good to have everyone healthy,” Harris said. “So much of last season, guys were banged up and knock on wood, it is good that everyone is healthy, able to be out there competing, and be out there with teammates. It was a great first day in my mind. A lot of teaching stuff but a majority of the day was plays so it was fun to get up and down with your teammates and again, everyone healthy and being able to compete.”

Harris, who is playing off a deserving four-year, $72 million contract, joked about how the joking Jordan liked to remind him of his new money.

“Yeah DJ likes to remind me,” Harris said about teammate ribbing over his new contract. “I had an opportunity to get a dunk today and he mentioned something about my money weighing me down,”

As for Nash as a head coach, Shamet and Harris raved about what they saw. Shamet described Nash as a “laid back” more cerebral than fiery coach. When he speaks, it comes from the right place. He points out how early on how he provided the framework and now his players need to paint that framework.

“In regards to Steve, he’s kind of laid back,” Shamet said about Nash’s coaching style. “He’s not fiery and going crazy like you might paint the picture of some coaches. He’s intense and pointed with the things he does say. He’s not quiet, timid, or shy. He doesn’t say a ton but he says what he has to say, we listen, and it’s coming from the right place. He’s just trying to coach us, lead us, and guide us in the right direction.

“He made it a point early on that they are going to give us the framework and we have to paint inside of that framework. A lot of freedom, a lot of him and us figuring out the work with this unit and this group. He’s learning us like we are learning him and each other.”

Harris, Nash said he couldn’t ask for a better coach at the helm of this Nets team but also credited the whole coaching staff. He is fortunate to have that group and is happy they delegate to Nash.

“Steve is great,” Harris said about his new head coach. “I think just because he has familiarity with the league, familiarity with a lot of guys on our team, and he did play 20 years. In this idle time where he’s been removed from the game thinking about coaching has allowed him a lot of time to think about how he would want to coach with the guys that are in the NBA right now. I think the way he handles everybody in this room - you couldn’t ask for a better guy. Unbelievable job he has delegated.

“We have a great staff and just go down on the list of guys. Jacque Vaughn, Ime Udoka, Adam Harrington, Jordan Ott, Mike D’Antoni, Thiago Splitter, Amar’e Stoudemire - we have one of the best staffs in the league. We are fortunate in that regard but Steve is great because he delegates to those guys as well.”

About the expectations molded from training camp and offseason moves;, and ultimately delivering a championship, Harris said it feels official now. He knows the team has the talent and is glad to be a part of this special group.

“I think it is awesome,” Harris said about being championship contenders. “It’s something you hope to build in this league. A couple years ago when we were looking at ourselves and being realistic about expectations, this is where you hope to get. You hope to get to a place where you can say ‘hey, we have the talent across the board. The right pieces in place in terms of organizationally where we should be expecting to compete for a championship,’ and that is where every team in this league is trying to get to.

“My perspective on it is that it is pretty awesome to be here. It is my seventh year in the NBA and it is special to be a part of something like that.”

Same goes with Shamet, who is coming off playing with the Los Angeles Clippers, who also had championship expectations but fell short. He feels the chemistry building and is ready to contribute in any way he can. To him, it will come down to ‘collective responsibility.

“I think, with this team, everyone coming in is on the same page,” Shamet said about expectations. “It has been made very clear what our goal is. Just after the first day of us all being together, you just feel it. Chemistry and that vibe is all a feel. It feels really good here. I am happy to be here, happy to contribute in any way I can. In terms of divine and chemistry, I think I am a good teammate. I know my teammates respect me, what I bring in my energy. It is a collective responsibility to not just Kevin and Kyrie.”

Shamet knows a bit about playing with superstars. KD and Kyrie are only the latest on his list of big name NBA teammates. He’s played with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler in Philly, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in L.A.

Although everything is rolling smoothly so far at the HSS Training Facility, as mentioned before, there is also a global pandemic occurring across the world, especially in New York.

As Nash looks at the big picture, he understands everything going on but notes basketball as a contact sport and how everyone has to take a leap of faith when it comes to testing protocols. He notes how proper training is key but he will rely heavy on the medical staff to put them in the best position to succeed.

“I think at some point, you have to take a leap of faith in our testing protocols because basketball is a contact sport,” Nash said. “You are going to have ten guys just draped all over each other up and down so point in your practice for however long it may be. 30-45 minutes of practice so to play the sport and to be prepared to play the sport at this level, let alone any level, you got to play. You got to bump up against each other and it is a leap of faith that we are going to rely on our protocols.

“Our medical staff are day-to-day structured to obviously protect ourselves the best we possibly can but at the same time, there is an evergreen risk with this virus. Not just in contracting it but all the unknowns. There are so many unknowns about it so we’ll do the best we can but at some point, we have to play the game. You can’t not train the way you play and that is a contact sport with a group of players on the court many times. Five, six, seven, eight guys in the paint so that is just a hazard of playing professional sports or any sport in this pandemic so we are just trying to do the best we can and rely on our medical staff to put us in a position to succeed the best way available. I have faith in our staff.”

For him, the bottom line is trust. :They do a great job, and the league is doing a great job so we’ll continue forward.”