DURHAM, N.C. -- In surveying his team's makeup during its yo-yo-like inaugural season in Brooklyn, Billy King came to the same conclusion as many other observers.

The Nets were so soft that even the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man would've pointed at them and laughed hysterically.

"You saw it. There were certain games where things just happened that you can't allow to happen," the Nets general manager said Thursday on the team's second day of training camp at Duke University. "At some point, you've got to knock a guy on his ---- if they're doing things. You've got to take a hard foul and let them know you just can't do that.

"And we didn't do it, in certain games of the playoffs, in certain games of the regular season. It's just basketball, but if a guy has got a layup, you've got to put him on his ---- so they don't do it."

That's where Kevin Garnett's fiery nature and menacing scowls comes into play. Even at age 37, the veteran power forward remains an intimidating presence, someone who makes opposing players think twice as they drive toward the basket.

"I just play hard, man," Garnett said. "I don't take any ---- . . . I play with my heart on my sleeve."

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The Nets hope Garnett's arrival will trigger significant improvement in their porous transition defensive showing a season ago, when they were among the worst in the league. But beyond that, they're heavily counting on Garnett's leadership, a trait that's been on display often since they've assembled.

In only two days with his new teammates, Garnett already has morphed into one of the Nets' chief voices on and off the court, making sure everyone holds himself accountable and buys into the team concept.

"Leadership is something I think that you go into through mistakes and countless interactions with teammates and plays and stuff," Garnett said. "I always have a saying to my daughter, 'If you learn how to ride a bike, to learn to ride, you got to fall.' All those things come into leadership, and all those things you figure it out as you're younger.

"So I am out here trying to get Brook [Lopez], Reggie [Evans] is a great talker, so we are trying to let it be repetitive throughout everybody here."

Now that he's on their side, Garnett's new mates can better appreciate -- or tolerate -- his booming voice and sometimes non-stop chatter.

"He's very loud and it's very important when you have those kind of leaders on the floor," Andrei Kirilenko said. "I've seen in my career the two types of leaders: kind of silent, who's just showing by example, and vocal like K.G. Since the beginning of my career, he reminds me of Karl Malone a little bit because he was kind of loud, he was kind of bringing everybody together.

"John Stockton was the opposite way. He was silent, leading by example. Being around [Garnett], it's a great process. I played with a lot of great players and he's definitely one of those guys who's up top."

Believe it or not, Garnett has a softer side, and apparently he can play the role of the hilarious old uncle at the family picnic.

"I got a chance to hang out with him for a while now," Deron Williams said. "If you don't know him, you get the perception that he's always that intense, always in your face. And that's the farthest thing from the truth. When he's on the court, he's still intense. But when you're in the locker room, he's a funny guy. Stories for days. He's interesting."

Perhaps, but Garnett reiterated he's interested in just one thing at the moment: adding another championship to his legacy.

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"That's the only reason I came back, man," Garnett said. "I like the bones of this team and what I thought I could bring to this team could help. I didn't watch all of the Chicago [playoff] series, but I thought with the additions to what I did see, I felt the additions to what we did this year could help that.

"But it would mean the world. That's the only reason I came back, was to try to win another ring."

Which is why there's a slight tug-of-war between Garnett and coach Jason Kidd regarding Kidd's desire to sit Garnett on the second end of back-to-backs. King said he has spoken with Kidd and they came up with a concept, although they'll still chat with Garnett about it. So basically, nothing is etched in stone.

"K.G., he's in great shape," Kidd said. "He's a competitor and when you have a guy like that on your team, it just spreads throughout the rest of the guys -- players and coaches -- because he wants to win. He's won. He's one of the best that have done this.

"It's just take it day by day. He's been great. And for me and him, he respects me and I respect him. I just sat on that seat, so for me, to get him to the finish line is my goal."

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Garnett playfully scoffed at Kidd's protective plan, pointing to all the minutes that Kidd logged with the Knicks in 2012-13 despite the staff supposedly wanting to keep his number low so he could stay fresh, too.

"I think Jason forgot last year," Garnett said. "He got amnesia."