The guy the Nets have missed immensely the previous eight days was finally back on the court Monday, working his way back from a sprained left ankle.
Just the thought of getting Gerald Wallace back relatively soon had the Nets perking up, even if the swingman is doubtful for Tuesday's matchup against the Cavaliers (2-5). Without Wallace's versatility the past four games, which helps mask some of the team's defensive deficiencies, the Nets (3-2) have been exposed.
In particular, they've been pounded in the paint and on more than a few occasions have allowed the opposition to get to the rim uncontested.
"The main thing is you've got to want to," veteran forward Reggie Evans said, emphasizing 'want'. "Want to know it, want to learn it, instead of doing it when practice presents itself. You've got to want to do it, you've got to want to learn it because that's the main thing, [so] when you go out there, you don't want to mess up. You want to be on point.
"You want to get it right away," he said, snapping his fingers. "So that's just the main thing, just willing and want to learn it. Ask questions and watch film, and learn from your mistakes."
Evans, a noted defender and rebounder, knows that an offensive-minded team such as the Nets will not easily or quickly prioritize defense, though that mindset is needed if the team is to succeed.
"We are asking a lot from guys, a lot as far as just communicating and being there," Evans said. "So all of it, this is an adjustment for a lot of players on the team. Some are not used to doing that in the past, so now they've got to do it.
"Everybody just has to focus more, focus on film sessions and learn other players' tendencies. All that comes in due time. It's still early, but I don't want to use that as an excuse like, 'Oh, it's early.' But it is early. So everything comes all in due time. We just have to have an aggressive mentality on the defensive end. Not [be] so concerned about getting a foul and whatnot."
In other words, the Nets would be better served if they emulated the defensive prowess of Wallace, who may play Thursday against the Celtics.
"We've learned a little bit more on how to play without him," coach Avery Johnson said, "but it's scary to embark on such a task because he means so much to our team."