DURHAM, N.C. -- Dahntay Jones was the last one on the court inside the Michael W. Krzyzewski Center following the Nets' first practice of the season Tuesday, working up a lather as he hoisted three-pointers.
Jones, a training camp invitee who's trying to latch on with the Nets, was back in a familiar environment and one of the few veterans who didn't jokingly feel like they were in Atlantic Coast Conference enemy territory. Unlike Jarrett Jack and Thaddeus Young, who both played at Georgia Tech, and University of North Carolina product Wayne Ellington, Jones suited up for Duke from 2001-03 and was a team captain.
So settling in here until Saturday afternoon suits him just fine.
"It's kind of surreal," Jones, 34, said. "I didn't get a chance to come back this summer and I usually get an opportunity to come back every summer. And this opportunity came. So it's a good opportunity for me to come and be around the guys a little bit, practice here, get used to being here, and get a little bit of the home cooking that they've got, see coach [Mike Krzyzewski], people on the staff and just have fun."
The Nets are holding training camp at Duke for the second time in three years, in part because general manager Billy King and coach Lionel Hollins felt getting away from the comforts of home would expedite the jelling process. With the players living in different parts of the New York metro area and scattered on both sides of the Hudson River -- something that may change soon once the team's new $50-million practice facility in Brooklyn fully opens in February -- it's not as conducive logistically.
Grinding out a few days at Duke, which is also King's alma mater, gives Hollins and his staff more of an opportunity to work closer with the players and better iron out those early kinks.
"Once we break [camp] and start moving and going, then the distractions come in," Hollins said. "Some us come in and they are not fully engaged with what we are doing. Some guys come in and they are tired, and once you go back home and start doing your own thing, nobody knows what anybody is doing at night. There are guys that once practice is over, they never think about basketball again.
"But here, we go back, we've got film sessions and things going on and coach's counseling. So, it's a little different."
There's really no escaping the camp environment for these next few days and that's just what Hollins wants. Of the 19 players participating, only seven are returnees, and it's necessary to quickly foster some camaraderie on a team that plays 11 of its first 16 games on the road. Training away in North Carolina immediately spurs the process.
"We are all we've got pretty much here," Joe Johnson said. "So we get a chance to interact, not just on the court, but off the court as well. Whether it's in the hotel, sitting down and eating together -- whatever the case may be -- we are around each other 24/7 and I think that's a great thing."
Jack couldn't agree more. Even if he's one of the collection of Nets in ACC enemy territory, joking how he couldn't get photographed with any Duke logos in the background.
"It forces you to bond," Jack said. "It forces you to come together. But all in all it puts that team chemistry around you. It's nobody else out here but us. You can't go home to your families or go back to that normal restaurant you go to. All of this area is foreign to all of us. So, we are just going to have to hold each other down this good week that we are here, and understand that this is what's going to help get that train rolling as far as what we want to do this season coming up."