EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Billy King was chatting it up with rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at practice Tuesday, explaining how things change when the curtain rises on the regular season.
Eager to get things started in the franchise's fourth year in Brooklyn, beginning with a matchup against the Bulls at the Barclays Center on Wednesday night, the Nets' general manager wanted to make sure their first-round pick is ready.
"I think we've revamped, got some youth, and now I want to see how we play, see how some of the pieces we acquired fit, how they go," King said. "Preseason is fun, but now I was telling Rondae, I said, 'Dress rehearsal is over.'
"I said you may have thought Orlando [summer league] was a lot different from college, and then Vegas [summer league] was more different than preseason. I said, 'Now, it's the real deal.' The referees are different. The players are different. The coaches are different. And the intensity. And so that's the fun part now. Preseason I didn't yell at refs. Now I will."
Judging by their rigorous early schedule, King might be reaching for some throat lozenges sooner than later. After hosting Chicago, 11 of the Nets' 15 games are on the road, and many are against teams that made the playoffs a season ago.
Besides matching up with the NBA champion Warriors and runner-up Cavaliers, the Nets also have road contests versus the Spurs, Grizzlies, Hawks, Bucks, Rockets and Thunder. Sprinkle in home dates with the Hawks and Bucks, and there is little doubt a roster featuring many new, young faces is going to get tested straight out of the gate.
"Last year, I think I looked at the end of the season and I said, 'Oh my God, we've got to keep our heads above water because we have it tough down the stretch,' " King said. "And we didn't keep our heads above water and then down the stretch we played our best basketball. I think you can look at the schedule and say, 'That game is going to be a tough game, that game can be a tough game.' But you never know."
Notes & quotes:Jarrett Jack (sore left hamstring) has been ruled out for the opener against the Bulls after missing his fourth straight day of practice . . . King said Brook Lopez won't have any minutes restrictions . . . The Nets are $1.4 million under the $63-million salary cap, according to King.