DURHAM, N.C. –- Kevin Garnett has played in 1,323 games over 18 seasons.
During that time, Garnett has never played alongside a talented scoring big man. Now with Brooklyn, Garnett will play alongside Brook Lopez, who may be the best center he has ever been paired with.
"I've never played with a center whose skill level is at this point," Garnett said after practice at Duke University. "I've obviously played with greats, but to the point where he's young and still hasn't peaked yet."
Garnett has played with the likes of Christian Laettner, Joe Smith, Rasheed Wallace and Kendrick Perkins. He also played with Tom Gugliotta, who was a power forward with scoring ability. But Lopez is a true big man with size, potential, skill and youth to be Garnett's best frontcourt partner.
Lopez averaged 19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks and became a first-time All-Star last season. General manager Billy King said Wednesday the Nets' championship window is now, and that includes needing Lopez to average more than he did last season.
"If Brook gets it in the post, Brook's still got to look to score," King said. "We need Brook to average 20. We don't need Brook to average 15 and 10 assists. We need Brook to average 20."
Deron's ankle: King said there's no rush to get Deron Williams back on the court to play full contact. The Nets are playing it safe with the bone bruise in the point guard's ankle.
"There's no timetable," King said. "And I say that not to [create] headlines. We're going to go slow there. There's no need to rush it. We don't play our first regular-season game till the 30th. There's no need to rush him back, so that's why there's no timetable."
The 'S' word: King said there were times last season when he saw the Nets play soft. He would have liked to have seen a Net "knock a guy on his ass" at times.
Enter Garnett, who will try to add toughness to the Nets.
"I just play hard, man," Garnett said of his mentality. "I don’t take any [stuff]. I play with my heart on my sleeve. I care about the game and I never disrespect the game or myself or my family ... if you want to call that tough, I guess that's tough."
Coach Jason Kidd said being called a "soft team" ranks as one of the worst things a team can be labeled.
"I guess that goes with no identity," Kidd said of the two worst labels that can be put on a team.
"I don't know if I have ever been on a soft team, maybe finesse," Kidd added with a chuckle.