As for the Brooklyn Nets? Well, they’re just fine with it.
“It’s good. I think that’s good,” Deron Williams said Monday when asked if lower expectations are motivating him and his teammates.
“We’re flying under the radar. We’ve got a lot of work to do. When you get between the lines, anything can happen. So it’s our job to get better, gel as a team over training camp an the first month and be ready to go in November.”
Brooklyn’s summer was not supposed to be very hectic. A few tweaks here and there. That was supposed to be it.
But then Jason Kidd left for Milwaukee, and all of sudden, the Nets needed a new head coach. Quickly, they got one in Lionel Hollins.
Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston, two key cogs in the team’s turnaround, also departed via free agency.
Nets GM Billy King traded for Jarrett Jack and brought Bojan Bogdanovic over from Europe as part of a roster re-tool.
The Nets, who were in win-now mode last season, have gotten younger, but their core remains intact.
How far they will go in 2014-15 largely depends on how Williams' surgically-repaired ankles and Brook Lopez's surgically-repaired foot hold up.
“We’ve got to step up, myself included, especially leadership-wise,” Williams said. “I think having myself healthy and having Brook healthy, that makes up for a lot. I think that’s what people don’t really understand. Let’s talk about Brook. Missing Brook, that’s 20 points a night and a big man who can score on anybody in this league. Right there changes the landscape of things, just putting him back in the lineup.”
That lineup also will include Kevin Garnett, who is returning for his 20th, and perhaps final, season in the NBA. Hollins said Garnett will start at power forward and receive more than 15 minutes of playing time a night -- assuming he’s healthy.
“Health is the No. 1 issue for this team going in with Brook, KG and Deron,” Hollins said. “If they are healthy and we can create continuity and a foundation of a group playing together, then I think things will fall into place.”
Training camp begins Sept. 27 in East Rutherford, N.J.
“I think [not having the attention] is very good,” Andrei Kirilenko said. “I think last year we had too much pressure from the outside. I think this year we have the chance to step back before the season and then make that jump.”
Ndiaye went to Rutgers. The 27-year-old has 33 games of NBA experience, most recently 14 games last season with the Sacramento Kings.
The Nets now have 17 players signed for training camp -- 13 with fully guaranteed contracts.
Cory Jefferson, Jorge Gutierrez, Jerome Jordan and Ndiaye do not have guarantees.
Training camp begins Sept. 27. Ndiaye, like Jordan, will have an opportunity to impress there.
Today’s question: Who has the most to prove in training camp?
There are probably a bunch of different ways I could go here, so feel free to disagree.
The 25-year-old import looked really good at the FIBA World Cup, averaging 21.2 points for Croatia during the tournament.
Bogdanovic should eventually be able to thrive offensively and get plenty of open looks from deep playing alongside guys like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.
But it’s on the defensive end where he needs to make significant improvements so he can gain the trust and respect of his head coach Lionel Hollins. Everyone knows about how well Hollins’ teams played defense in Memphis. The Grizzlies finished in the top-10 in defensive efficiency in each of the coach’s final three seasons there.
Bogdanovic gambled on D a lot in Spain -- and the results weren’t pretty. In this respect, patience is going to be necessary -- especially since the 6-7 sharpshooter will be getting acclimated to the NBA game.
Hollins was very complementary when asked about Bogdanovic’s game. The Nets think very highly of the prospect, and they’re probably very eager to see what he can do on the court.
But he’s probably going to have to earn his minutes. Alan Anderson and Andrei Kirilenko, a pair of hard-nosed, defensive-minded players, also can play small forward. Anderson and Kirilenko have track records. They are veterans who have garnered respect.
Bogdanovic has to earn his. He’s about to get a lot thrown at him. If he’s going to become a solid rotation player -- or more -- in the years to come, he’s going to have to be able to handle it.
Mirza Teletovic, who went through the same type of transition just a couple years ago, should be a big help.
But Bogdanovic must gain the trust and respect of both his coach and his fellow teammates. He’s got a lot to prove.
If Hollins decides to go the traditional route, Andrei Kirilenko would be a candidate to start. Mirza Teletovic, Alan Anderson or Jarrett Jack are other options Hollins could pick from to join the starting five.
Kirilenko, who completed his 12th year in the NBA last season, has started 546 games during his career. But when he came to the Nets in 2013-14, Kirilenko didn’t care if he started or came off the bench. He just wanted to get consistent minutes.
And that stance hasn’t changed heading into the 2014-15 campaign. “If the coach wants me in the starting lineup, he’s going to put me in the starting lineup. If he wants me to come of the bench, I will come off the bench. I’ve never had a problem to be the guy who’s worried about the position. I’m more worried about the game time,” Kirilenko told reporters at D-Will’s Celebrity Dodge Barrage charity event in Manhattan.
“If you’re playing 25-30 minutes a game, it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from: the bench or the the starting lineup, that’s the only concern I have.”
Kirilenko’s minutes fluctuated frequently under former coach Jason Kidd. In the playoffs, they looked like this: 0, 20, 17, 15, 4, 14, 3, 13, 0, 19, 15, 26.
When asked if he believes he’ll have a better, more solid understanding of his role under Hollins, Kirilenko responded, “I’m 100 percent sure it’s gonna be different.”
Most professional athletes like consistency. They like to know their role. It makes perfect sense.
Kirilenko was supposed to have a huge impact last season. He did sporadically. But persistent back injuries caused him to miss 37 games.
Asked how he feels, Kirilenko responded, “pretty good,” adding that he has been working out with his teammates and coaches at the team’s practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J.
Kirilenko likes that Hollins’ teams in Memphis always played “structured basketball,” and believes the coach will bring that structure to Brooklyn.
Throughout his career, Kirilenko has been known for his versatility and unique ability to guard multiple positions. He plays with energy and enthusiasm.
Hollins, a defensive-minded coach, will probably enjoy having Kirilenko on his roster -- assuming the 33-year-old can stay healthy, of course.
Instead, Williams and Kidd’s partnership in Brooklyn lasted just one season, after Kidd departed for Milwaukee in late June.
Williams said the two haven’t spoken since Kidd left.
A year ago, Williams and Kidd were about to begin their first season together as player and coach. Kidd was supposed to get Williams back to playing like an elite point guard.
Williams, though, was not healthy and had issues with his ankle going into training camp. He would need surgery on both of his ankles after the season.
Williams said he is looking forward to being healthy and ready to go for the start of camp Sept. 27.
“Last year was tough," Williams said. "I missed pretty much all of training camp, most of the preseason. I practiced one time, played nine minutes in a preseason game and was thrown into the fire. I was probably about 60 to 70 percent. It is definitely different this year. I think it’s great that I will be able to participate in training camp and I am practicing with the guys right now.”
"[Returning to All-Star form is] definitely the plan," he continued. "Anytime you can’t walk, you can’t run, you can’t jump, it’s hard to play basketball, especially in this league. The only thing I wish is that I would’ve gotten surgery earlier. But what can you do? ... I’m ready to go now, and I’m excited about the season."
Williams is looking forward to forging a “great relationship” with new coach Lionel Hollins. But he also wishes Kidd the best.
“I don’t even know enough about the situation,” Williams said when asked whether he was disappointed to see Kidd leave. “I have heard a lot of different things, as you guys probably have. I don’t know what exactly happened, but we are excited about Lionel Hollins being our next coach. We wish J-Kidd the best of luck in Milwaukee, but we are excited about Lionel.”
Dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge -- Williams held his annual Dodgeball charity event, and several of his teammates joined him. Andrei Kirilenko, Mason Plumlee, Jarrett Jack, Markel Brown, Cory Jefferson, Sergey Karasev and coach Hollins were among those who attended the event.
"There is nobody in the gym that I would put in his place," Hollins said at Deron Williams' Celebrity Dodge Barrage event at Basketball City. "He has earned the right to have that opportunity to be the starter from Day One. Somebody has to knock him out, it's got to be like a heavyweight fight. I don't really see that happening."
Hollins said he got to sit down with Garnett after the forward decided to return for a 20th season with the Nets. This is his final season under contract with Brooklyn worth $12 million.
Garnett spent the early part of the offseason laying low in California. It was a busy and dramatic offseason for the Nets with the departure of Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce. Garnett waived his no-trade clause last summer to accept a deal to the Nets from Boston to join Kidd in Brooklyn and continue playing alongside Pierce.
Garnett recently has been working out with Nets teammates in New Jersey.
Yeah, that’s something we didn’t think we’d write when this offseason began.
One minute, Plumlee was playing in the Summer League with the Brooklyn Nets in Orlando.
The next, he was playing in the Gold Medal game with Team USA in Spain.
Team USA ended up easily defeating Serbia, 129-92, on Sunday.
Plumlee had one point and four rebounds in the game. He averaged 2.2 points and 2.0 rebounds during the nine-game tournament.
Remember when some were complaining that Plumlee was selected to the team?
Yeah, that proved to be a big waste of time.
Plumlee performed just fine in his role as an end-of-the-bench big man. And he has a gold medal to show for his efforts.
Now, the 24-year-old should be pretty confident once he begins training camp with the Nets in two weeks.
Today’s question: Who is the Nets’ most important bench player?
In his first season as a Net, Jarrett Jack will be the most important sub for Lionel Hollins.
The Nets are hoping Jack can be the super-sub that he was for the Golden State Warriors. Jack averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists while hitting 45.2 percent of his shots just two seasons ago, and he hit big shots in the postseason for Golden State.
With the Nets, Jack could be Hollins’ sixth man. He can spell Deron Williams at point guard and run the second unit. He also could potentially play alongside Williams.
In many ways, Jack will have to replace Shaun Livingston, who signed with Golden State in July; he could play multiple positions and often played alongside Williams.
The Nets have plenty of key contributors coming off the bench this season. Mason Plumlee is looking to continue his rise after helping Team USA win gold at the World Cup. With Brook Lopez coming off surgery and Kevin Garnett likely playing on minutes restriction this season, Plumlee will be a key big for the Nets and should see more minutes than his rookie season.
Andrei Kirilenko will be needed to provide energy, defense and his unique hustle plays. Mirza Teletovic will be looking to show that last season’s breakout year was no fluke and that he will continue to provide dead-eye shooting. And Alan Anderson should play a key role as Hollins’ best defender off the bench.
The Nets also hope to develop youngsters like Bojan Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev and Markel Brown.
But Jack will be needed to provide a bit of everything. He has to give the team a boost off the bench, be able to heat up and hit some big shots, spell Williams, be ready to play both guard positions, and give the team an edge and provide some leadership with the second unit.
With Williams coming off surgeries on his ankles, Jack could see a bigger role early in the season and provide the Nets with a potential starter if Williams needs a night to rest his ankles. If Jack plays the way he did two seasons ago for the Warriors, the Nets will be thrilled with their offseason acquisition.
Question: Who do you think is the Nets' most important bench player?
“I have known him since we were 15 years old,” King said Thursday. “He is like a brother to me and he is the furthest thing from a racist.”
Audio obtained by ESPN and other media outlets confirmed that Ferry used racial comments during a conference call with ownership in the offseason regarding free agent Luol Deng.
" Andrei Kirilenko’s home in Utah was burglarized this past weekend, according to the Desert News.
Today’s question: Who has the most pressure on him?
Without a doubt, Williams has a lot to deal with besides just regaining his old All-Star form. But if the Nets are going to make any noise this season, Williams has to be the one to lead them on the court.
With Paul Pierce gone, the Nets become Williams’ team again. Last season, Pierce and Kevin Garnett constantly tried to build Williams’ confidence up and let him know that it was his team. But Williams’ achy ankles and wavering confidence never allowed him to be the point guard he used to be.
Also, Williams understandably deferred to Pierce at times last season as the Nets tried to meet enormous expectations following the Pierce and Garnett trade. In the playoffs, Williams was up and down with his low coming on an 0-for-9, zero-point outing in Game 2 against Miami.
Now with Pierce gone, Williams is the man who has to take over the reins.
Like Williams, Brook Lopez is returning from surgery and the Nets will incorporate their big man back into the mix.
But it’s Williams who has to make the Nets his team again. A confident and dominant Williams is what can take the Nets from a team contending for a playoff spot to a team that could get past the first round. When Williams kicks it into another gear, the Nets do the same.
Jason Kidd tried to let Williams concentrate on scoring by putting the ball in Shaun Livingston’s hands more and playing the two point guards together. With Kidd and Livingston both gone, new coach Lionel Hollins is ready to hand the ball to Williams.
Like Kidd last offseason, Hollins is reiterating that this is Williams’ team.
“He’s a point guard," Hollins told the New York Post of Williams. “He’s our point guard. Will we play Jarrett Jack and Deron together? I’m sure we will. But that doesn’t mean Deron has to be off the ball. When you have two guys who can handle the ball, it doesn’t matter who handles it, but he’s going to be the primary ballhandler."
First, Deron has to regain confidence in his ankles. That might take some time. So the Nets will have to be patient.
But this is Williams’ team. The Nets will go as far as a healthy Williams can take them.
Question: Which Net has the most pressure on him?
Jordan, 27, appeared in 21 games for the Knicks in 2011-12, averaging two points in 5.1 minutes. The 7-footer spent last season in the Italian League.
Jordan could have a chance to compete for a spot at the end of the roster during training camp.
The Nets have 13 fully guaranteed contracts -- Cory Jefferson and Jorge Gutierrez not among them.
“It’s just a different lifestyle here,” Williams told FOX’s “GoodDay New York” morning show on Wednesday. “That’s all I was pointing out. I enjoy my time in the summers away, but I definitely love it in New York. You know, I signed here for five years.”
Williams had told Resident Magazine: “I grew up in an apartment in Texas where you could send your kids outside like, ‘Yeah, go play in the sun.’ Here it’s more challenging. The process of getting them into school (in New York) is a nightmare. Even private schools where you pay are an ordeal. In Utah, you just send your kids to the first public school in the area because they’re all great. Truth is, we enjoy getting away from the hustle and bustle and going back to Utah every summer. It’s a relief to take that timeout. No traffic. No crowds. My daughters still have their friends there. There’s a big backyard. They go to the pool; the playground and they jump on the trampoline. Kids running wild and free here…? I don’t think so.”
Feeling better: Williams underwent surgery on both of his ankles in the offseason.
“I’m feeling good. The ankles are doing a lot better,” Williams aid. “We’ve got about 20 days until training camp starts (Sept. 27), and hopefully I’ll be ready for it.”
Coach speak: Williams said he recently had a meeting with his new coach, Lionel Hollins.
“He’s a point guard," Hollins told the New York Post at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night. “He’s our point guard. Will we play Jarrett Jack and Deron together? I’m sure we will. But that doesn’t mean Deron has to be off the ball. When you have two guys who can handle the ball, it doesn’t matter who handles it, but he’s going to be the primary ballhandler."
"I like successful teams because everyone thinks losing is easy, but I always say that losing is easy, but winning is hard," Hollins said. "Winning takes a lot more. You go back to the old Celtics, the old UCLA teams, the Yankees, those teams, they have just do something that not everybody else does. It is not just talent. You go back to the Green Bay Packers in the '60. You just watch those teams, their professionalism, their togetherness. Their work ethic has been amazing. Of course, I love Joe Torre. I have been following the Yankees since Reggie Jackson was here. Reggie went to ASU. I went to ASU. We had the same agent. There are a lot of connections. I was a baseball player growing up. I was glad I didn't play baseball -- 162 games nearly every day."
Hollins was a first baseman.
Today’s question: What type of player should Deron Williams be?
Deron Williams had the most efficient season of his career in 2007-08, shooting a career-high 50.7 percent from in the field and 39.5 percent from 3-point range. He attempted 1,117 field goals: 425 came at the rim (38 percent) and 210 came from downtown (18.8 percent). He dunked 15 times.
During his last two seasons with the Nets, Williams, plagued by ankle injuries, shot 44.4 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from 3-point range. Over that span, Williams attempted 1,840 field goals: 318 came at the rim (17.3 percent) and 715 came from downtown (38.9 percent). He dunked 10 times.
Clearly, Williams, who turned 30 on June 26, was no longer attacking the way he used to. Injuries likely had something to do with that. In 2013-14, he got to the free-throw line just 3.8 times per 36 minutes -- his lowest average since 2006-07, his second season in the NBA. He also dished out just 6.9 assists per 36 minutes -- his lowest average since his rookie year.
“If you’re injured, you can’t be who you are,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said recently. “You can’t make the same moves or be as explosive as you are, and it’s difficult to go out there and go 100 percent. You’re always worried about what’s going to happen if you push off, stop, change direction, all of those things.”
As Hollins said, it’s on him to put Williams in the best position to be successful. Does that mean playing the point guard off the ball more, something he did really well in Utah? Does it mean more pick-and-rolls than he’s run in the past? We’ll have to wait and see. But, as we’ve said a million times, if Williams is going to turn it around, it all starts with his health.
“I’m feeling good. The ankles are a lot better. We’ve got about 20 days until training camp starts [on Sept. 27],” Williams told FOX5 Wednesday. “Hopefully I’ll be ready for it.”
• The Nets will hold Media Day on Sept. 26, then participate in training camp from Sept. 27 to Oct. 6 at their practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J.