EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Roy Rogers had to do his best Mills Lane impression, stepping between two guys ready to throw a few swings.
Things had gotten a bit too physical between Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic at the tail end of practice Sunday, forcing the Nets assistant coach to play the role of peacemaker until their flaring tempers cooled off and they no longer were trying to charge at each other.
"Guys are bumping, banging down there,'' said Deron Williams, who saw it unfold from courtside. "You're liable to have a couple of those.''
It was easily the most fight the Nets have showed defensively this preseason.
The Nets' interior hasn't protected the rim at all, allowing dunks at a breakneck pace. Statistics won't mean much until the lights come on for real in two weeks, but the Nets will be the first ones to admit they were more than a bit disappointed in their showing in Saturday's 99-88 loss to the Pistons.
The number being tossed around most Sunday was 65. That's the number of points Detroit produced in the paint against the Nets, whose defense is supposed to be vastly improved with the addition of Kevin Garnett.
The Nets also were carved up inside in their preseason opener against the Wizards, so it's a trend they're aware they have to correct quickly. Their next chance comes in Monday night's preseason game against the 76ers.
"That's kind of what we've been working on all camp, man, is really defense,'' Joe Johnson said. "[Saturday] night was definitely a letdown. They scored 65 points in the paint. That's not us. It was just the second game of the preseason, but obviously we've still got a lot more room to improve, especially defensively.
"Offense is going to come because offensively we've got too many scorers and too many intelligent basketball players. We won't have to worry about offense.
"Defensively is where we've got to have each other's back and we've got to rebound the ball. They got a lot of tip dunks on us. It was very discouraging, but this is what preseason is about.''
From the moment they assembled at Duke for training camp two weeks ago, the Nets have been preaching that exact mantra.
Kidd's top assistant, Lawrence Frank, who was back with the team Sunday after attending to a personal family matter most of last week, has been installing defensive principles that they've yet to fully master.
But Brook Lopez is confident that they'll plug their leaks after their refresher, believing they won't be recording too many more tutorials on what not to do defensively.
"What happened [Saturday] night was good because that's the reason for preseason games,'' Lopez said. "We want to learn from our mistakes, so we really worked on our pick-and-roll rotation, where the help side needed to be, where I needed to be specifically in regards to the person penetrating and where my man was, the other big needs to be.
"We worked hard, we really went at each other to give ourselves a live offense to go against, and I think we learned a lot.''
There's little doubt that Frank made sure of it, reinforcing his teachings in his own way. Kidd, who pushed hard to get him on his bench given Frank's coaching experience, surely was glad to have him around.
"We always would love to have Lawrence here, but with his situation, family comes first,'' Kidd said. "But I think it was great for the guys to see him and also for the staff. We love to have him around and we respect what's going on at home, but the big thing is we got our work done. And any time he's on that floor, he's going to get his point across.''
Notes & quotes: Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) and Tyshawn Taylor (ankle), who was in a walking boot after Saturday's game, didn't practice. Kidd called both "day-to-day.'' Asked if there is any concern about Kirilenko's injury and his availability, Kidd said: "No, no. As you see, we had a pretty spirited practice. That's the way we're built.''