- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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They certainly did not expect a disappointing 3-7 start that's led to frustrated players huddling together behind closed doors in the locker room following a 108-98 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.
"As competitors, we're angry," Pierce said of the team's mood after a lengthy practice that lasted over two hours. "Nobody likes to lose. Everybody in this group that we're here with is very angry. Nobody's happy about losing."
Garnett described the team's frame of mind in the locker room meeting on Monday as "dismal." The Nets have dropped five of their last six games as they open a two-game road trip Wednesday in Charlotte.
"I really believe that when you go through dismal times like this, it builds character," Garnett said of the Nets' players meeting on Monday night. "It shows you who's within and who has the rope and who's going to let go. I think it really separates the ones that are willing to fight and so far everybody's in here. Everybody's in the conversation. We don't have one or two guys floating throughout. We're in here.
"Even the guys that are hurt, we're in here and we're all trying to fix this thing," he continued. "It's not something that none of want to be in. It's not a good feeling. I don't think we're having any fun around here. Nothing's fun about losing and we're trying to fix it."
The Nets will play five of their next seven games on the road and Garnett and Pierce are trying to hold things together for a team that is beginning to feel the pressure of championship expectations.
Rookie coach Jason Kidd took the blame for the Nets' defeat to Portland despite the team scoring 40 points in the first quarter.
"The blame is all of us man," Garnett said. "It's not just on Jason. You can't put the s--- all on him."
The growing pains have taken a lot longer than Garnett or Pierce expected with injuries to several key players like Brook Lopez (ankle) and Deron Williams, who plans to return from an ankle injury against Charlotte.
"I'm not a genie," Garnett said of when the Nets will turn things around. "I'm not a fortune teller. I can't tell (or predict what will happen in) time. The only thing I know is just to work through the process and work through what it is.
"My confidence is that we have a group of guys that are willing to and committed to changing what the current is. It's easy to quit. It's easy to give up and walk up out of here and say, 'You know what, this is too hard,' but we don't have that type of team nor do we have that of character."
But the Nets are still searching for their "true identity," as Garnett said. The Nets have had issues offensively and defensively. They've gotten a lot of the open looks they want but are shooting just 42.9 percent from the field and 32.6 percent from behind the three-point arc. And when their shots aren't falling, the Nets stop defending on the other end and have allowed 102.4 points per game -- a far cry from Garnett's preseason goal of holding teams under 80 points.
The team chemistry is out of sorts with injuries hitting the starting five. Joe Johnson is the only starter to start every game this season so far.
"A combination of things has to happen," Pierce said. "We've got to get healthy. Things aren't going to happen overnight, we understand that, but at the same time, we've had different lineups within the first 10 games, probably more different lineups or unpredictability about who's going to be playing then probably anybody in the league.
"So eventually that's going to come. And with that, it's going to create better chemistry. So by no means is my confidence shaken."
Garnett feels better about the team after Monday's meeting and Tuesday's effort in practice.
"When you see these teams like Indiana, they've had their guys, they've added some pieces but their core has been together," Garnett said. "This is a brand new group and it's not easy to just put these ingredients together and expect it to just work and being a new system on top of that, guys being in and out.
"But we'll get it and we're committed towards making this thing what it's supposed to be and what it's going to be. And if not, we're going to die trying."
3dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann