When the Nets gave their first interviews last year before heading to training camp, there was talk of championship dreams with the additions of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Quickly, the word “championship” was dropped and replaced by “it’s a process” as the Nets lost 21 of their first 31 games.
Brooklyn eventually came together enough to advance to the second round of the playoffs, before falling well short against the Heat.
But instead of entering year two with Pierce and head coach Jason Kidd, the Nets have a lower payroll — after allowing Pierce to sign with Washington — and a new coach — Lionel Hollins — after allowing Kidd to go to Milwaukee following a failed power play for general manager Billy King’s job in June.
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“We feel like we have a chance to win,” point guard Deron Williams said. “As long as we believe that, that’s all that matters. Whatever the predictions are, whatever you guys are saying in the papers, all that doesn’t matter as long as we believe we can compete with anybody.”
The results will likely depend on the health of Williams and center Brook Lopez.
Lopez is just 26 years old, but is coming off a fourth foot surgery while Williams is no longer in the conversation about top-5 point guards and had surgeries on both ankles. Already, Lopez is doubtful for the opener due to a foot injury.
The news is better for Williams, who missed 18 games last season and averaged a career-low 14.3 points per game. The feeling this year is in stark contrast to last camp when he showed up in a walking boot.
“He looks pretty good,” said newcomer Jarrett Jack, Williams’ backup. “Not pretty good, he looks damn good. It doesn’t seem to be bothering him at all. I don’t know how many dunks we’ll see from him this season but other than that, he’s done a good job.”
A healthy Lopez and Williams would allow Kevin Garnett to fill the complementary role he is best suited for entering his 20th season in the league.
The power forward is ready to leave behind a disappointing first season in Brooklyn after plenty of offseason retirement speculation.
“I have a little bit of an edge to me this year,” Garnett said. “I’ll say that. I didn’t like how I ended last year, or how I even started last year.” Garnett is just the fourth player in NBA history to play 20 seasons, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.