EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - For the new-look Brooklyn Nets to turn around their quickly sinking season, first they need to figure out what type of team they are.
Finding their identity was an issue players discussed among themselves during a closed-door meeting following Monday night's 108-98 loss to Portland at Barclays Center.
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The mood in the room was "dismal," Kevin Garnett said yesterday, but he left the meeting encouraged by the passion his teammates showed while discussing their problems.
And there are problems. The Nets came into this season embracing their championship aspirations but have not looked the part on the court, struggling to a 3-7 start.
"No one is happy about how we're playing," Garnett said. "No one likes the current state."
Added Paul Pierce: "In here, we're very angry. Nobody likes to lose."
Losers of five of their last six games, the Nets hope to start turning their season around Wednesday night in Charlotte, beginning a stretch in which they'll play five of their next seven games on the road.
They should get point guard Deron Williams back Wednesday. He practiced Tuesday for the first time since he hurt his ankle in Phoenix on Friday and said he felt "great."
But center Brook Lopez doesn't seem ready to return from his sprained ankle and Pierce revealed that he's dealing with a sore groin that he suffered in the loss to Portland.
Regarding his status for Wednesday's game, Pierce said, "I should be able to go."
Finding an identity, tough enough with so many new players, has been complicated by all the injuries.
Andrei Kirilenko, who was supposed to provide energy at both ends off the bench, has been limited to four games because of back spasms and said he hopes to be cleared for practice soon. Beyond that, he didn't want to make any guesses, based on how this season has gone.
"We still haven't been whole," Garnett said. "We're still dealing with some ailments. The minute we get all our guys back, we go through something else. There's always something at this point."
On the heels of the loss to Portland, the Nets held an extended practice session Tuesday, which players said was designed to clean up their mistakes and also simplify what they're trying to do on the court.
The goal is to speed up the getting-to-know-you stage that's taking longer than anyone expected. The longer their surprising struggles last, the crazier those title dreams seem.
"We've dug ourselves a little bit of a hole and so now it's time to fight out of it," Williams said. "We've played good in stretches but we haven't put together 48 minutes of great basketball consistently."