Nets will abide by this four-letter ‘P’ word all season long

BOSTON — The first three words on the grease board in the Nets’ locker room make it clear what their philosophy is, what they’re working on.



And — you guessed it — pace.

It’s the direction the NBA is going — no, scratch that, has gone. If you don’t go along for that ride, you’re going to be left behind in whatever sporting abyss outmoded, outdated teams end up stuck in.

It remains to be seen if the Nets — and Brook Lopez — can do that. Monday’s 120-99 loss to the Celtics before 15,925 at TD Garden — their fourth straight defeat after winning the preseason opener — underscored just how far they have to go.

“It’s just playing, honestly,” said Lopez, who had just six points on 2 of 8 shooting. “It’s just getting out there and playing as much as possible, getting used to what everyone does in this system.”

This system is the motion offense new coach Kenny Atkinson brought with him from Atlanta, and the breakneck pace that goes along with it.

“The league’s moving in that direction. You have to play fast. You can’t win if you don’t play fast,” forward Luis Scola said. “It’s just the way the league is moving. You have to be able to keep up with that pace. If not, it’s going to be difficult.”

Scola’s not wrong. Just watch the Warriors play.

The Nets were just 21-61 last season with a plodding 97.37 pace (possessions per 48 minutes) that was the league’s 10th-slowest, and was downright glacial before Lionel Hollins got fired. But Atkinson has them at 103.06 this preseason heading into Monday, which is eighth-fastest — and would’ve topped the league last season.

The growing pains have been obvious, the Nets shooting just 41.4 percent and getting outhustled 55-34 on the boards. The biggest adjustment has been Lopez, the top-scoring center in the East last season averaging just 7.0 points per game this preseason on 40.7 percent shooting.

Sean Kilpatrick led the Nets with 15 points Monday night.Photo: Getty Images

“That’s the way the game is being played today,” Atkinson said. “The more minutes [Lopez] plays the more comfortable [he’ll get]. He’s just got to find his niche in this offense where there’s not as many playcalls.

“We’re not calling plays every time down the court. We’re more in a motion set, similar to what we did in Atlanta, so there’s really no play calls. … It’s learning how to play without having your name called coming down the court. The good thing is he’s a skilled guy. He fits that style of play. He’s skilled and he’s smart.”

The Nets can only hope he fits soon. The motion offense has plenty of early staggers, wide pins, but fewer post-up plays — or any plays, for that matter.

It made Thaddeus Young expendable, and it’s making Lopez adjust. It’s also taken the ball out of the hands of Lopez and point guard Jeremy Lin (13 points and five assists), who have yet to run many pick-and-rolls as the Nets install their new system and put more onus on the other players to make quick reads and decisions on the fly.

It hasn’t kicked in yet. Sean Kilpatrick was the leading scorer with 15 points but Scola and Isaiah Whitehead shot just 1 of 6 each while Bojan Bogdanovic was minus-35 in just 21 minutes.

“Definitely. That motion offense, it’s going to be a lot of reads [by others],” Lin said. “If they don’t stop me and I have the ball in my hands I’m going to shoot it; I’m going to go. And if they do, I’m getting it out to hopefully the open man and from there it just flows.”

It didn’t flow Monday. They trailed 67-50 in the third quarter before a 7-2 run — capped by Lin’s 3-pointer — cut it to 71-69 against Boston’s bench. But by the end of the period it was back up to 94-76.

Caris LeVert, Anthony Bennett, Greivis Vasquez and Trevor Booker did not play.

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