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Low-key Nets simply hoping to be improved

Nets general manager Billy King appears during a

Nets general manager Billy King appears during a news conference at the PNY Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Thursday, May 15, 2014. Credit: Brian Branch Price

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There weren't any highly-trumpeted news conferences in Brooklyn over the summer, not one single event with the level of pomp and circumstance the Nets boasted in their initial three seasons in Brooklyn.

No schmoozing at Borough Hall with the mayor touting their backcourt tandem. No gatherings to introduce future Hall of Famers acquired via trade. Another rarity: not trotting out a new coach in July, as had been the case in the previous two years.

Things were a bit different for the Nets this offseason, a departure from the norm for a franchise that enjoyed making more than its share of noise leading into each of its initial three campaigns since setting up shop on the east side of the Hudson River. The Nets' philosophy has truly changed, reflected in the buying out of Deron Williams' massive contract two months ago, and so has their short-term outlook.

Title aspirations have been replaced with hopeful optimism and salary cap relief, and the team's main goal under coach Lionel Hollins is simply trying to improve each and every night.

"We didn't win the championship and the goal was to try to do that," Nets general manager Billy King said Tuesday, "and so now you've got to revamp and retool it. And we put ourselves in position to have flexibility next season. We knew all along when we traded for Joe [Johnson], traded for Paul [Pierce] and KG [Kevin Garnett] that there was probably a two- to three-year window. And that window closed."

With the Celtics possessing the Nets' first-round pick next summer, and looking ahead to the team and league's financial landscape leading into next season, King figured it would be prudent to shift gears and start filling the roster with younger, more athletic pieces surrounding front-line cornerstones Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. Only seven of the 20 players participating in training camp when it begins Tuesday at Duke University are returnees.

King is also betting on a couple of players who didn't fare all that well in their previous stop, like former Knicks Shane Larkin and Andrea Bargnani, and he believes they can benefit greatly from a fresh start.

"Some guys will use it as motivation, but we don't want to use a chip on our shoulder," King said. "I look at it as the motivation is just to win basketball games. I don't think we need a chip or we're out to prove anything. We don't want our guys out to prove something to someone else. Just play what you're able to do and prove to yourself. Don't worry about the outside. We have a lot of guys that have so-called been knocked around by local management in other organizations, but they don't have to prove it to them.

"They just have to go out and play basketball and not worry about that."

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