Nets hold off-day practice at Fort Hamilton army base

Brook Lopez enjoys a meal with servicemen stationed at the Fort Hamilton army base in Brooklyn during Veteran's Day. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets.

Brook Lopez enjoys a meal with servicemen stationed at the Fort Hamilton army base in Brooklyn during Veteran’s Day. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Brooklyn Nets spent their Veteran’s Day at the Fort Hamilton army base in Brooklyn where they held practice in front of more than 300 troops, posed for pictures, served meals and were presented with a flag that was flown over the World Trade Center site during the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

“You always hear about players coming to do meet-and-greets at high schools, but for the whole Brooklyn Nets basketball team to come to Fort Hamilton and celebrate Veteran’s Day with us, it’s an absolutely incredible thing,” said Air Force technical sergeant Derek Bishop, a Long Island native who organized the event told Mike Mazzeo of

“I’ve never heard of anything like this before, and I’ve been in the Air Force 15 years,” Bishop said. “It’s an honor to have them here and I think it’s great that they take the time to come out and spend time with service members.”

The flag was one of just 15 that were flown on the Sept. 11, 2011 ceremony with the majority of them having gone to families of the 9/11 victims. The flag will now be flown at the Barclays Center.

“We felt that, as all five branches of the armed forces, there was no better reason to present one than today,” Bishop told Tim Bontemps of the NY Post, “because for the Brooklyn Nets to come out here to show their appreciation is second to none. So I hope the flag flies proudly in the Barclays Center.”

Many of the players related to the soldiers by discussing their own connections to the military. Brook Lopez talked about hearing war stories from his grandfather and Paul Pierce, who had uncles in the military. All of the players seemed to really enjoy their time there.

“We play basketball for a living and eventually that’s going to end,” said Pierce. “The things that these soldiers do, it’s part of everyday life, and we don’t realize it because being in the game of basketball … it’s really not a real, normal life.

“But you understand that these soldiers fight for your country and really serve to protect and sacrifice so much. They sacrifice their families, they sacrifice so many other things for the protection of our country.”

“To be here and be able to hang out with the soldiers and get to know them personally and put a face behind these heroes is really a great honor for me.” Lopez added. “It’s something I feel very privileged to do.”

• Andrei Kirilenko was the lone Net not in attendance as he took the day off while he is still recovering from his back spasms. The Nets recalled both Tornike Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor earlier in the day with Toko likely being recalled as insurance with Kirilenko out. The Nets don’t know when to expect Kirilenko to return, but back problems tend to linger, as this one already has, so it could be a while.

• At 37-years-old, Kevin Garnett is the oldest of the Nets, but he has looked even older than that this season as he has averaged just 9.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per 36 minutes with an effective field goal percentage of 32.1 percent. That’s a healthy rebounding number, but career lows for points, blocks and eFG%. It has only been six games, but when it’s the oldest player on the team it is a concerning trend.

Pierce told Bontemps that KG is still adjusting to the new team. “Kevin’s been one that’s always … he’s always been a guy that needed to feel comfortable, who needed to make an adjustment, the familiarity. And I think he’s still getting familiar with the offense and understanding where his shots are going to come from, the minutes played adjustment,” Pierce said. “…He’s going to find his rhythm eventually and really find his groove.”

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