EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - In his quest to establish a new identity, mentality and attitude within the Nets, new coach Lionel Hollins has a grand vision of feeding those ideas to his players until it becomes a part of their genetic makeup.
It all revolves around constant repetition, similar to the daily eating habits of the Nets coach.
"Anything you do in life, it's all about doing it every day until it becomes who you are," Hollins said Saturday following the Nets' first training camp practice. "I don't eat healthy, so I know that's not who I am."
Hollins wants to see the Nets develop a tougher psyche and become more aggressive. Developing that mindset is one of the Nets' main goals as they navigate their way through camp, and there's no telling how long it will take before tangible results are produced.
But Hollins was already a little encouraged by the time the first of their two-a-day sessions was in the books, pleased with the early progress as he works to entrench traits built on his principles.
"You create a mentality, you create a culture of being aggressive and being tough," Hollins said. "I thought they surprised me defensively. They were really energetic and after it, so that was a plus. Now can we come and back it up tonight? Can we come and back it up, and make it be who we are?"
Part of the Nets' thinking in trading for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett was to instill more toughness after their Game 7 playoff debacle against the Bulls in 2013, when they were thoroughly outplayed and outclassed by a wounded Chicago team.
The addition of those two, plus having a coach like Jason Kidd who didn't back down as a player, was supposed to give the Nets much-needed grit and alleviate concerns about their lack of toughness. However, it never consistently materialized. The Nets had lots of trouble closing out games and that was one of their biggest problems in the 2014 playoffs, when they were outscored in nine of 12 fourth quarters.
Just think about how differently things would've been if Pierce didn't come up with that game-sealing block of Kyle Lowry's layup in Game 7 against the Raptors after the Nets blew a double-digit fourth-quarter lead, nearly choking away their shot to advance to the second round?
That's why Joe Johnson knows blowing hot air isn't going to cut it. Lip service won't be good enough.
"I don't think we can just really sit here, honestly, and kind of talk about it," Johnson said. "I think it's more of show and prove. We talked about being a tougher team last year when J-Kidd was here and we showed signs of it, but we weren't consistent. But we've got to get some consistency out of every guy on this team. Then we'll see what happens.
"Until then, we can say we want to be a tougher team, but we have to go out there and show it."
In other words, take on a bit of Hollins' personality and heed the old school approach he employs. Hollins' message has been delivered and the Nets are readying to execute his wishes -- mentally and physically.
"We've got to be a defensive-minded team first," Deron Williams said. "We want to push the ball, we want to be a tough team. We've got to just play with a lot of energy, a lot of passion for the game. We've got to believe we can win every time we step on the floor."