King brings Duke toughness while building Nets
Back standing on the baseline at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Billy King uttered an assessment of his improving Brooklyn Nets that sounded straight out of a Mike Krzyzewski Duke practice.
“At some point,” King, the Nets’ general manager, said Wednesday, “you’ve got to knock a guy on his ass. You’ve got to take a hard foul.”
King was addressing his team’s mindset in reference to its game 7 loss to the Chicago Bulls in last spring’s NBA Eastern Conference playoffs. With the Nets holding training camp at Duke this week, he’s naturally fell back on his experience playing for Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils from 1985-88.
The Nets began training camp at Duke with two practices Tuesday. The team is holding two more practices Wednesday and will be workout out the Krzyzewski Center practice facility through Saturday.
It was King’s idea to bring the Nets to Duke as the team begins a new era under first-year head coach Jason Kidd, who ended his playing career last spring. Brooklyn overhauled its roster this summer with a blockbuster trade with Boston to acquire Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Paul Pierce.
The 1988 national defensive player of the year on a Blue Devils team that reached the Final Four, King said coming to Duke was an easy decision.
“It’s the best university in America,” King said. “I think it’s a place where, for me, it instilled the foundation, the family atmosphere. It allows the guys to practice but also allows them not to be distracted with things of home life or road life. They can take care of their business and go back to the hotel.”
On that subject, Nets guard Deron Williams said Tuesday that it was easy to focus on basketball because “there’s not much to do here.” King fired back Wednesday in defense of his alma mater’s hometown.
“There is more than Champaign, Illinois,” said King, referencing Williams’ college home of Illinois.
So far in the few practices the Nets have held at Duke, King sees the team communicating well. Again, he referenced statements that Krzyzewski has often used.
“It’s early, but it’s nice to see a KG out there to see a Paul,” King said. “To see their leadership and their talking on defense. That’s the key to defense – if you are talking. KG is talking and it’s becoming contagious.”