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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Brooklyn Nets have been searching for an identity ever since they lost to the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs last season.
But according to newcomer Kevin Garnett, the team has yet to find one.
I don't think we have an identity. I don't know what we are." -- Kevin Garnett
"I don't think we have an identity," Garnett said Tuesday at practice. "I don't know what we are. Like I said, man, there's been a lot of moving parts this year. So all of us can sort of look at it and use it as an excuse, and I'd like to know that I'm not an excuse kind of guy and I'll figure it out, but I don't think we have an identity."
Nets point guard Deron Williams referred to the team as "soft" following its Game 7 loss to the Bulls. Rookie coach Jason Kidd referred to the 2012-13 Nets as "vanilla."
But the additions of veterans Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry were supposed to change that. The Nets were supposed to transform into a hard-nosed, defensive-minded team. So much for that.
The $190 million Nets (9-18), who have lost three straight games, rank 27th in defensive efficiency, allowing a staggering 106.2 points per 100 possessions. In part due to a difference in philosophies -- specifically in areas like pick-and-roll coverage -- Kidd decided to reassign defensive coordinator/lead assistant Lawrence Frank to doing "daily reports." And the Nets just lost rim protector Brook Lopez to a season-ending foot injury.
They have been decimated by injuries and struggled on both sides of the ball, but following Monday night's 103-86 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Kidd was critical of his team, saying it has become "comfortable losing."
Asked about what his team's identity should be, Kidd said, "being the Brooklyn Nets, playing hard, playing for one another and having fun doing that. That's something that hopefully we can get to."
Shooting guard Joe Johnson agreed with Garnett that the Nets lack an identity.
"He's probably right," Johnson said. "I don't think we kind of know or understand what kind of team we are, offensively or defensively, so it's hurt us in a lot of games. We've lost a lot of close games. It's definitely hurt us. I don't know when we're going to figure it out, or how we're going to figure it out, but we have to."
Garnett disagreed with Kidd that the Nets have become complacent as the losses continue to mount.
"I'm not built like that, nor do I think my teammates are built like that," Garnett said. "Obviously we're going through a tough time and that's his assessment, but I don't think that's true."
Still, Garnett said the Nets need to respond with a "valid effort" Christmas Day against the Bulls.
"Obviously you want to respond in the best way you can," Garnett said. "Every guy has to look himself in the mirror and see what he can do better and try to bring that effort that's going to make this team better."
Garnett, 37, has been largely a disappointment since coming to the Nets. He's averaging just 6.7 points and 7.1 rebounds on 37.5 percent shooting.
"Well, what you have to understand is that I'm not a primary [option] here," Garnett said. "I don't have plays called for me. I'd like to say that at the end of the day, I hang my hat on the defensive end."
Asked about the team's struggles on the defensive end, Garnett said, "Well, we've had a system to where we worked on something in training camp ... and within a month and a half, the system changed. So I just think that everybody just kind of sits back and thinks this is so easy to change. But when you work on something and kind of embed it in your mind, and that's what you go with, and then a couple months later you have to change that up, the terminology and scheme-wise, whatever. It is a transition. It's not necessarily an easy transition.
"I could sit here and give you 101 excuses, but at the end of the day, it's about winning. If everything gets unorganized or if things fall short of being less than that, then it has a trickle effect. We still haven't adjusted the chemistry, the connections, the problems that we have, and there's a lot of variables that go into that. It's not just like we're out here trying to lose. That's not what it is. Every guy in here is a prideful guy, and like I said earlier, everyone needs to look in the mirror and see what they can do better."
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.