DURHAM, N.C. -- With the Nets' final training camp practice at Duke winding down, Jason Kidd huddled his players and went over instructions for one last grueling defensive drill.
"You do this right," he told them, "and we're out of here."
Guess the players were ready to hightail it home, because they easily ran the drill to Kidd's satisfaction, putting a wrap on a five-day training camp excursion.
So after escaping metropolitan New York for the tranquillity of this tree-filled, sleepy North Carolina city and spending a few days as an assembled group, the Nets headed back home Saturday feeling a sense of accomplishment. They had put their hard hats on, punched the time clock and turned in a good effort at the office each day, doing their best to build chemistry with all their shiny new parts.
"As a player, I probably never went through five days, but as a coach, it was good," Kidd said. "We threw a lot at them early, concept-wise, and then the last couple of days, we've been able to get up and down and play a little bit, [see] how guys were going to respond.
"But the guys fought through the fatigue for five days straight. You've got to compliment those guys for coming to work."
Paul Pierce feels as if the Nets improved each day on both sides of the ball, particularly the latter three days of camp, when practice was intense and spirited.
"It went well. I think we got better," Pierce said. "I think guys are competing, guys are pushing each other, and that's what we are going to need because we can't wait to the season to turn it on. We've got to start now in the preseason. So every day, really, [it's] just turning it on and being a championship team."
Offense has taken a back seat in camp so far, and that's by design. Kidd and top assistant Lawrence Frank mostly worked on installing the defense. They've gone over things such as backdoor rotations and screens, making sure everyone understands responsibilities. "When you look at the top-tier teams in the league," Pierce said, "they were always top-of-the-line defensive teams. When you talk about NBA champions, getting to the Finals, you have to have a top-tier defense. And that's going to be the focus for us not only in camp but all year long."
Being away from their families forced the players to spend time with each other and bond, which was one of the reasons Nets general manager Billy King decided to hold camp at his alma mater. The players broke bread together, played cards, went to a prescreening of the movie "Captain Phillips" and even had a memorable moment when some of the veterans got tricked and swam laps in the pool.
Perhaps, though, nothing beat story-swapping, especially when Kevin Garnett got chatty, according to Deron Williams.
"It's been great," Reggie Evans said. "We'll be talking about a lot of stuff that's been going on in the NBA in the past. Like, 'Oh, you remember when we played ya'll?' One of those types of deals. 'Hey, man, what happened in this incident? I want to know what happened with this incident.' Kind of like that, but all that helps. All that is good camaraderie. It's a start. It's a good start so far."
Even if Durham doesn't quite mirror the Bahamas, where the two-time defending champion Heat held its camp. "Maybe we can be like Miami," Williams said, "and go somewhere a little more exotic next time."