EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- At long last, Avery Johnson will finally get the chance to see his Brooklyn Nets in action against someone else.
The Nets bused to Atlantic City following Friday's practice at the PNY Center, motoring down the shore to play their first preseason game. They're the only team that hasn't played a game yet and that has them champing at the bit to hit the court against the 76ers at Boardwalk Hall.
With so many new faces, they're ready to get down to work.
"We’ve got to get ourselves together," Johnson said. "That’s why some teams, if they had six, eight preseason games, maybe they could play their starters in three or four of their games. We’ve got to get some time with our guys on the floor. We haven’t played together. Gerald [Wallace] hasn’t played with Joe [Johnson]. Joe hasn’t played with Deron [Williams]. Even though Gerald was here last year, Brook [Lopez] didn’t spend time with Gerald.
"So for us, we’ve got to try to get a group together with six preseason games and try to get them on the same page. That shows that we are behind a lot of teams. Where we are going to be in the first week of the season is not going to be a finished [product]. We understand Miami and Indiana and all those teams that have been together, they are ahead of us and we’ve got a lot of catching up to do."
Johnson had to get creative in practice over these last two weeks, finding ways to simulate game action as much as possible. Friday, he even gave them a test on the team's defensive principles, hoping it will help accelerate the teaching process.
"We’ve had two blown-out scrimmages," Johnson said, "where basically we play a whole game. But I think it’s different things. Like even the test today. Even though the guys had a lot of fun with it and I’m talking about how they responded, it’s about all of us getting on the same page mentally. If we want to play a pick-and-roll situation one way and another guy says, 'Well, I thought we were supposed to play it this way,' well there should be no gray area because in our system, there are no great unknowns. Everybody should be on the same page.
"So that’s part of that exercise, watching video, having a test, scrimmaging, drill work, strength and conditioning work. That’s what this whole training camp has been about."
Saturday's matchup with the 76ers begins a stretch where the Nets will play five games in seven nights, and that's perfectly fine with Johnson.
"I think it’s good. We want it," he said. "Three games in four nights off the bat? That’s good. It’s like a simulated schedule and that’s what we want. That’s what’s going to happen a lot in the regular season, so that’s how we’ll respond. We have some guys that we have to take a look at at how they play in back-to-back games, like Lopez."