Nets assistant coach Kevin Ollie is shown during the first...

Nets assistant coach Kevin Ollie is shown during the first half of an NBA game on Dec. 14, 2023, in Denver. Credit: AP/David Zalubowski

After starting the week with change, the Nets got back to something more familiar Wednesday - practice and game prep as the season resumes.

Kevin Ollie’s second practice as interim coach had less outside visitors compared to his introduction Tuesday. But the intensity remained high as the players quickly tried to get used to Ollie’s coaching style before Thursday’s game in Toronto against the Raptors.

“I think that his journey to where he is now, you know that he's ready for it,” Nic Claxton said. “He's up for the challenge. It's obviously gonna be a challenge with 28 games left. With the goal being to make the playoffs, we all have to be on the same page and have the same mindset and have trust in him and the coaching staff.”

Ollie starts with a luxury his predecessor, Jacque Vaughn, didn’t have most of the season. The Nets are at their healthiest since the season opener and Ollie said everyone was a full participant at practice.

As for what to expect in Toronto Thursday? Ollie offered few hints and stayed mostly general on what he’s implementing.

“We got a couple things on defense that we're changing on our pick-and-rolls and a couple of things on offense, some things that we're doing to add a little bit more spacing,” Ollie said. “But the biggest thing is playing for each other and making the right plays. Not being selfish, getting the ball to the guys that we need to get the ball to in their right spots where they can very successful.”

Being unselfish came easy to the Nets with Ben Simmons, as they’ve had at least 30 assists in seven of the 12 games he’s played. Doing that without him and being more aware of how to help on defense is what’ll determine if this team has improved.

It’s just another thing thrown at a group that’s dealt with constant changes. Claxton noted Ollie is his fourth head coach in five seasons.

Yet the players are on board with their new coach. In December, some praised him for a pregame speech that inspired a 28-point win over the Magic after a loss to the Hornets two nights earlier.

Cam Thomas grew up watching Ollie’s teams at UConn, where he spent six seasons as head coach from 2012-18 and won a national title before being fired for alleged NCAA violations. Ollie later filed a lawsuit after the school refused to pay the rest of his salary and reached a $3.9 million settlement in Sept. 2022.

“Just to be able to play under him is kinda cool in a way because, at some point, I wanted to go to UConn because they were producing great guards and stuff,” Thomas said. “So it’s pretty cool. It’s a full circle moment in a way"

On Tuesday, Ollie was critical of the Nets’ struggling to recover loose balls and drawing just six charges this season, fewest in the NBA. He introduced 17 energy-generating behaviors, or EGBs, to help outline what the Nets need to show, both in practices and games.

Thomas and Claxton both said it offered more incentive to play hard and start games faster after the team lacked effort in losing five of their last six.

“Just selfless acts. It has nothing to do with scoring or offense or how many points we putting up,” Claxton said. “Just dapping up your teammates, deflections, offensive rebounds, just things that have nothing to do with skill and just being a hard nosed basketball player.”

The Nets will find out soon how Ollie’s impact affects this four-game road trip. They’ll need more than just effort, but it’s a start to try and reclaim this season.

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