Avery Johnson wants Nets to put up fight on defense

Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson gives an Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson gives an interview after an open practice at the Barclays Center. (Oct. 21, 2012) Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

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The Nets' herringbone court was back down on the Barclays Center arena floor Sunday, replacing the boxing ring that had been there less than 24 hours earlier.

Avery Johnson probably wouldn't have minded seeing the boxing ring on the center court, perhaps hoping some of the attitude of pugilists who graced the ring Saturday night could rub off on some of the Nets. Johnson wants them to get down and dirty on defense, something that hasn't been the case so far.

"We haven't had the type of defensive intensity, physicality, that I'm looking for," he said after practice at the Barclays Center. "This team does not have the personality that I thought it would have at this point. That's been somewhat of a disappointment. Are they trying? Yes. Is anybody panicking? No. But we should have a little bit more of a physicality."

Johnson said they "don't have a hit-first mentality, and if you don't have a hit-first mentality, you are going to get hit."

In their past two games -- both of which were at home against division opponents in regular-season dress rehearsals of sorts -- the Nets were shredded on the interior in alarming fashion, giving up 100 points in the paint.

"A lot of it is attitude," said center Brook Lopez, who's essentially the last line of defense. "Avery has repeated these past couple of days that he either wants a hard foul, a blocked shot or a charge when it comes to people attacking the paint. So that's got to become a mentality for myself and the team."

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Said Joe Johnson: "Our defense is going to have to make our offense go. We can't rely on offense and then defense. It has to be defense first, and I think that's first and foremost what he's trying to put in our heads. Everybody has to accept their role and move forward."

But it's going to take time -- and more drive.

"A lot of it is effort, and we have to get in better conditioning as a team," Deron Williams said. "I think the way we want to play, if we are going to run more on offense, you still have to have the conditioning to defend for 24 seconds. It's a different pace than a lot of people are used to playing. I think that's a big part of it, and part of it is just commitment and execution defensively, talking when there's not a lot of communication, which leads to a lot of breakdowns."

That's why Avery Johnson couldn't wait to reinforce some of those defensive principles Sunday. "Today's practice was probably our hardest that we've had," he said. "It was very physical to the point where we had probably two or three borderline continuations of last night's boxing match that was here at the Barclays Center, which was good, in my opinion."

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