As we get closer to pre-season, we try to tamp down some of the most optimistic predictions while pointing out some positives. Doesn’t much matter. We’ll know how good (or bad) the Nets will be in a few weeks time.
A little skepticism to start
The Nets are eight days away from the start of training camp. September 26 is Media Day. That’s a week from Monday. Camp starts the next day. The first preseason game, vs. the Pistons is October 6. Life comes at you fast, particularly in the big city.
As Joe Harris noted in talking to Brian Lewis on Saturday, the Nets had 11 players working out scrimmaging on August 1. And as Brook Lopez noted, there were four, including him, who were in the gym in May. It’s not just exemplary. It’s probably unique. It builds continuity, which is critical on a team that added 10 players in the off-season.
But how good can they be? Bojan Bogdanovic thinks that from what he’s seen on the court, the Nets can make the playoffs. Without being so specific, his teammates think Brooklyn’s chances are underrated.
Making the playoffs is, of course, a tall order. The Nets aren’t built for it. They’re built for development, with eight players 26 or younger, including four 22 and under. They’re built for flexibility, with seven players either on a one-year deal, an expiring contract or a two-year deal with a team option for the second year. They’re built for hope, with a number of players getting a second, maybe even a last chance at the the NBA.
In July, Sean Marks was asked about what will define success this season.
“I think it’s going to be about progress throughout the season. I think we’ve said enough about bringing in competitive guys.
“I think Kenny is going to bring the best out of those guys and all these guys have come here to win. They haven’t come here to win 10 games or 15 games or 20 games. They want to win, they want to compete every night. So that’s what we’re going to see from the vets and they’re going to be taking the younger guys with them,
“But again you look at the way Caris (LeVert) played in Michigan. There’s an edge to the way he play. He wants to win.”
Hopeful, but no great expectations in terms of wins. That’s probably the attitude we should all adopt.
Inside HSS Training Center
So what has been going on inside the gym at 168 39th Street in Sunset Park? This being the new Spurs-like Nets, there’s not a lot of leaking, but picking up pieces here and there, mostly through social media, we’ve heard or seen a few things...
—Joe Harris and Caris LeVert, both coming off ankle/foot surgery, look good, shooting the lights out at HSS. We don’t know much else about the two but their health is a big positive. LeVert of course needs some bulking up.
—There’s some concern about Greivis Vasquez’s ankle. A couple of weeks ago, he said he hoped to be ready for training camp, but one of the cardinal rules of covering a team is never believe what a player says about his own health. It’s always going to be optimistic. Vasquez flew back to Caracas this week to help his foundation distribute school supplies.
—Luis Scola has already assumed a veteran leadership role. Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez may be the natural leaders as the team’s two best players, but Scola was signed in part to be the veterans’ voice and he has been.
—The Nets are pushing Chris McCullough. They’d like to see him take a big step this year.
—His teammates like what they see in Anthony Bennett’s progress, his potential. Teammates and fans in Cleveland, Minnesota and Toronto have seen those hopes crushed in the past, but the sense is that the Nets are doing everything they can to build up his confidence ... and it’s working.
Like we said, not much. After training camp opens, you’ll see and hear more.
Who was in early?
For the record, now that all 15 roster players (and we believe the three partial guarantees) are in camp, here’s a breakdown of who was in earliest.
In May, Brook Lopez. Sean Kilpatrick, Chris McCullough and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson were at HSS most days.
In July, draft picks Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead were on hand (although LeVert was rehabbing), as where some summer league invites. Free agents, guys like Joe Harris, started filing in after they were signed.
In early August, 11 of the team’s players were on hand, everyone but the Olympians and Jeremy Lin, who had previous commitments on the west coast.
Not everyone was there everyday. Players took vacations and spent time with family. But they had to turn the lights on at 168 39th Street most days.
The Nets are calling their new alternative uniforms “Brooklyn Remix.” It is a mix of the team’s Brooklyn black-and-while colors with the design they wore both in Long Island and New Jersey, with “Nets” dominant, not “Brooklyn.”
We found a few things interesting about the roll-out...
—In the past, the Nets have rolled out alternative uniforms later in the season. This is the uniform the Nets will wear on Opening Night, four times before Christmas.
—With its darker colors, the uniform can be worn on the road as well ... and it will be. In fact, the uniform will be worn more on the road —eight times— than at home —four times. We can’t recall any of the previous alternative unis being worn at home and on the road.
—Two days after it was rolled out on the Nets Facebook page, it showed up on national TV, Brook Lopez wearing it on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. That’s some impressive marketing.
All that leads us to wonder if this uniform has some permanence beyond this season. We would have no objection.
Your ubiquitous Nets
The Nets were everywhere this week. If everyone is in the building, why not show them off around the metro area.
—Trevor Booker and Justin Hamilton helped build a playground in Canarsie.
—Jeremy Lin was at the annual CF Charity drive at Cantor Fitzgerald, the big bond-trading firm that lost 658 employees on September 11.
—Lin, Chris McCullough and Caris Levert rolled out the new Brooklyn Remix uniforms.
—Greivis Vasquez was in Venezuela handing out school supplies.
—Brook Lopez was in a phone booth on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
—Lin and Joe Harris helped out on the Nickelodeon Worldwide Day of Play.
—Randy Foye gave away some school supplies too.
—and everyone got their picture taken in their new uniforms.
Alumni roster report
No surprise, but Andrea Bargnani is out with the foot issue in Spain. His teammate with the Knicks, Nets and now Baskonia, Shane Larkin, is also out, with a hamstring issue.
Henry Sims appears headed for the Jazz training camp. Their D-League team, the Utah Stars, traded for his rights this week, which D-League experts believe was a way to get him into the big team’s camp.
It’s getting late with only a few teams having even camp spots available and Thomas Robinson still doesn’t have a job.
Is Caris LeVert the next Steph Curry or Seth Curry or a modern version of Dell?
Well, apparently, in France, he already is. As one fan tweeted last week, “Caris LeVert” is French for “Green Curry”
We’ll take it!!