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Kyrie Irving: Nets need to get tougher, change their image

It’s two games into preseason and the Nets are 0-2, but the concern is not so much the record as it is toughness. The Nets, according to Kyrie Irving, are getting out-hustled.

“The low-hanging fruit that we could honestly all agree on is sometimes in possessions we’re not playing hard enough. You saw it against Miami the other night. They were really physical and we don’t want that to be our stigma or M.O. in the league,” said Irving. “Everybody knows each other, but the most physical teams usually win ball games, especially down the stretch.”

With all the concern about culture entering the season, that’s decidedly not what anyone wants to hear ... although it is good that Irving — and no doubt a lot of people around the team — have noticed the need to improve,

There are not a lot of stats to quantify toughness, discipline, hustle but the Nets had a lot of turnovers for the second game in a row Thursday: 26 to the Heat’s 11 after 27 to the 76ers’ 16 on Monday.

“Everybody has the space to speak,” Irving said. “Everybody’s equal here. So anybody, in the film room, wants to ask something, they can and that’s the way we approach it. There was a lot of talking going on in film. We know we can play better. It’s just preseason but we don’t want that [excuse] to be something that makes us passive.

“Guys are going to be coming at us, and we want to erase everything that was said about our team the last few years in terms of our weaknesses,” Kyrie Irving said after a longer than usual practice session that even included referees. “We want to turn those into our strengths — and it starts with developing good habits. And going out in the game and not just talking about it but actually doing it.”

Irving also mentioned the effect on defense.

“So we’ve got to be tougher. We’ve got to be more communicative on our defensive principles out there. We’ve got to be comfortable with being uncomfortable at times. You know, we’re going to mess up things but we don’t want it to carry over to the next possession. And that’s what our carry-over has been in practice . . . just onto the next play.

“Regardless of what the refs are doing, regardless what our opponent is doing we want to focus on us and make sure we put the best brand of basketball we can out there.”

Indeed, team defense, denominated in the most accessible data, has been poor, an average of 118 points over two games. Of course, it is only preseason and the Nets have two games this week in Milwaukee and Minnesota to prove themselves before opening vs. the Pelicans in 11 days.

Irving’s comments follow comments by a number of Nets on Media Day that discussed the need for Brooklyn to be tough.

Meanwhile, in the two games vs. the Bucks on Wednesday and the Timberwolves Friday, the Nets could very well be short-handed on the wing. Steve Nash expects that Joe Harris will join the trip despite missing Thursday’s game and Saturday’s practice with foot soreness. As for Seth Curry, who the Nets had hoped would play vs. the Timberwolves, Nash was less confident he would fly to the two Upper Midwest cities.

“We’re still just monitoring him,” said Nash when asked about Harris. “Yeah. It’s really just precaution at this point.”

Harris had two ankle surgeries last season, one in November, one in March. Curry had his ankle surgery in May.

Irving also disclosed that his new child is a boy but is putting off providing reporters with his name. “Eventually I will. It gets weird on the Internet.” Irving has a daughter, Azure Elizabeth, as well.