EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The NBA schedule can be relentless, and many veterans loathe those late-night flights and pre-dawn arrivals.
Jason Terry considered himself a card-carrying member of that club until this last week or so, all thanks to the apparent yuckfest and chat sessions when the Nets take to the friendly skies, as they did Monday night.
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"It's a great vibe, it's a brotherhood," Terry said after practice at the PNY Center Monday before the Nets hopped on their chartered flight to Washington. "It's what you envision when you come into a new group of guys with the veteran leadership that we have. The best part of it is the plane rides. I can't wait to get on the plane ride right now.
"Usually, during the season, you're like, 'Damn, another plane trip?' Now it's like, 'Yeah, let's get on the plane, man, let's fellowship.' And that's what it's been about this first week."
But Tuesday night, it'll be about something else: seeing how the Nets' shiny new pieces look in the preseason opener. Although they'll be without All-Star point guard Deron Williams, who will sit this one out along with Terry, the game against the Wizards at the Verizon Center will serve as their first true look at a starting lineup that includes Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.
This also will be coach Jason Kidd's first real opportunity to test his floor combinations and work on his in-game strategy.
"It's going to be great to get on the court and see what we've learned over this week or so," Johnson said, "and see what we can implement in a game setting and how good we can mesh together in the first game."
Lopez is curious to see how the Nets fare without Williams.
"Absolutely, absolutely," he said. "I think it'll be interesting to play without D-Will. He's definitely our leader out there, our point guard. But it'll be special if we can go out there and play well without him because I think that's just how much more we'll improve when he comes back."
Andrei Kirilenko isn't anticipating a completely smooth ride, given that this is their first act together. It's all about exercising patience. "We are not rushing," he said. "It's going to be stupid to expect that we are going to be running and flying. We are going to do our best. We are going to be hustling and we are going to be trying to adjust. Kind of read the units you're with. Like reading defensively where you have to help, as opposed to where it's like a rope and you hold it and you are just pulling your guy in with the helper."
Kirilenko said it's those types of little things the Nets need to fine-tune as they strive to improve on that familiarity factor. Understanding when to set the screen at precisely the correct moment. Making sure everyone is well aware of the team's schematic philosophies, knowing what to do in case of a double-team.
As for the Nets becoming accustomed to each other's offensive comfort zones, Kirilenko suggested that shouldn't be all that difficult. In fact, it might be the easiest part of their floor game.
"We have such a skillful team, I don't think we're trying to find the hot spots on the floor," he said. "I think every spot will be hot if you're open."
Sounds like a bunch of guys who are ready to have a little fun crisscrossing the country, swapping tales as they chase a championship.
"For ours, regardless of your past history with your teammates," Johnson said, "once ya'll join the same team, ya'll are all in. And that's how we are here. We are all in and we've all got each other's backs."
Notes & quotes: Terry (knee) participated in contact drills for the first time . . . Kidd still had no timetable on when Williams (ankle) will begin contact . . . The Nets will hold an open practice at Barclays Center at 2 p.m. on Oct. 20.