When last season ended, the Nets were still sorting out what they were after two months. They were a Frankenstein hodgepodge of three teams — old Nets mixed with new trade deadline arrivals from the Mavericks and Suns.
Coach Jacque Vaughn, who took over after seven games, said training camp this year would help a long way with building an identity. So when camp started Tuesday, it meant a chance to add more building blocks instead of figuring things out on the fly.
“I think you get to build some chemistry early on. Things that you want to stress throughout the course of the year,” Vaughn said after practice. “I think this is the time to really do it if you’re going to do it.”
Besides Vaughn leading his first Nets training camp, nine of the 18 players are new to the team, including the team’s three rookies. Only five players remain from the team’s opening night roster last season.
It also means some of the younger players are amused that they have seniority by tenure.
“I think I’m like the second or third-longest tenured guy and I’m only in year three here so that’s crazy,” guard Cam Thomas said. “I got used to the change, getting to meet different people, new players, so it’s normal at this point.”
It also means chemistry is just as important this month as Vaughn defining roles or how Ben Simmons fits as a healthy point guard.
In September, players started showing up for workouts at the team’s facility.
Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson joined in after playing with Team USA in the World Cup but quickly caught up to speed. It helped Tuesday feel easier as Vaughn led them mostly through defensive drills and a review of defensive principles. “The guys were in here learning about it even earlier than usual,” Bridges said. “I think that helps them come in and be ready to be focused and be good off the jump.”
Vaughn added the Nets plan to do less switching on defense and implement more strategies, including drop coverage which helps limit drives to the rim. Switching, he said, was a result of keeping things simple with so many new players.
With training camp, there’s time to incorporate more coverage and schemes that benefit their strengths, including Nic Claxton as a rim protector. It’s a small tweak but one designed to help the Nets establish themselves as a more defensive-minded team.
It’s also another reason the Nets are appreciating training camp more after feeling disjointed after the way they came together last season.
“I think for us, we’re going to maximize who we are. I'm not sure what that looks like and I talked about just being extremely detailed and playing hard,” Vaughn said. “So right now, we’ll think about those two things. I think that’ll carry us and the competitive piece every single night.”
Notes & quotes: Vaughn said Cam Johnson’s hamstring injury was nothing serious but the Nets will exercise caution in bringing him back to play. Johnson spent most of practice near Dariq Whitehead offering advice from the sideline.