DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Mason Plumlee felt right at home during his first practice with the Brooklyn Nets.
The workout took place Tuesday on the same practice court at Duke where the former Blue Devil developed into a first-round NBA draft pick.
“It’s been a lot of learning,” Plumlee said. “The game is a lot different but we have the people that you want to learn from, and that’s really how I’ve taken it.”
Brooklyn had a busy offseason, acquiring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry from Boston this offseason and signing free-agents Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson and Andrei Kirilenko.
And 40-year-old Jason Kidd took over as their coach, hired by the Nets less than two weeks after he ended a 19-year career as a point guard that included an NBA title and Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2008.
“Today, we went in the right direction,” Kidd said after running his first practice as a coach. “Guys were a little bit excited and the ball was turned over a little bit, but today we didn’t really work on offense. We worked on defense, which is going to be the identity of this team. Their minds were in it and their bodies, which is good.”
The Nets fired Avery Johnson during last season, then rallied to make the playoffs under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo and took the Chicago Bulls to Game 7 in the first round before being eliminated.
“I don’t want to say night and day from last year, but it’s a different feeling,” point guard Deron Williams said. “A lot of teaching today, a lot of drilling, things we needed to do – starting with defense and working our way from there.”
Pierce said he hadn’t been this “anxious” since the Celtics brought in Ray Allen and Garnett before the 2007-08 season.
“We worked out together this summer, and being in the gym the last couple of weeks, but to actually get out here and start the journey, start the preparation for the season, definitely it was a lot of excitement,” Pierce said. “It was fun just to get the feet wet on the first day.”
The Nets dealt with a few injuries on Day 1: Williams (ankle) and Terry (knee) were limited, with Williams saying his work consisted mostly of some drills, shooting, riding the stationary bike and lifting weights.
They began working toward a championship of their own on a court beneath four banners that commemorate Duke’s NCAA tournament titles.
There are plenty of other connections between the Nets and Blue Devils beyond Plumlee.
Duke and U.S. national team coach Mike Krzyzewski watched the workout from a bench along with assistants Nate James and Jon Scheyer – a teammate of Plumlee’s on the Blue Devils’ most recent national title team in 2010.
Krzyzewski, who Kidd said spoke to the team before practice, also coached Williams and Kidd to gold medals during the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. And Nets general manager Billy King – who previously brought the Philadelphia 76ers to Durham – was a captain of the Duke team that reached the 1988 Final Four.
“It’s good to get away, and all that’s going to be going on is basketball,” Williams said. “There’s not much to do here. We can focus on basketball. … We didn’t have much to see. I don’t think there is much to see.”
Plumlee didn’t exactly disagree with his new teammate’s assessment of his old college town.
“Cameron’s like the landmark of Durham, right?” Plumlee said with a laugh, referring to the Blue Devils’ venerable arena, Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“We’ll show them that, but then back to practice.”