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A week in the playoff push of the Long Island Nets

Long Island Nets

Tom Dowd of the Nets website spent last week with the team’s G-League team “over in Long Island,” as we’ve heard the affiliate described. (The Nets avoid terms like being “sent down.” It’s “over.”)

Dowd recorded his impressions of the young team, coached by 28-year-old Ronald Nored, as they went through the ups-and-downs of a playoff race. Over the course of seven days, four games —all in the New York suburbs, Dowd spent a lot of time with Nored, who was Brad Stevens’ point guard in Butler’s two trips to the NCAA Final game, as well as key players, like Milton Doyle, James Webb III and Shannon Scott.

Bottom line, the Nets won two, lost two and most importantly, stayed even in the playoff picture, hanging on to the fourth of six wild card spots, three in each conference. But the details are what makes the story a tutorial on how the Nets run their G-League operation. Here are some impressions.

The pace is quickening ... and the Nets like that.

NBA teams widely consider the G League a laboratory for experimentation, so you’ll see NBA trends pushed to the extreme. The NBA’s pace of play - counted as possessions per 48 minutes - has steadily been climbing for a decade, to the point where the “seven seconds or less” Phoenix Suns of the mid-2000s would be considered to play at a middling speed today.

But in the G League, 13 teams are playing at a pace faster than the Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA-leading 103.19. Nored considers it a key for the Nets, who rank ninth in the G League at 105.17.

Things change fast in the G-League.

The Knicks will dress just eight players on Tuesday night. Most of the players who had hurt the Nets in two Westchester wins won’t be here. Luke Kornet and Isaiah Hicks are two-way players currently with the Knicks. Trey Burke has been signed to an NBA contract by the Knicks. Xavier Rathan-Mayes is on a 10-day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies.

And after Cotter had included Nigel Hayes in Monday’s film session and scouting report, the coaching staff returned to their offices to find that Hayes had signed a 10-day with the Toronto Raptors.

”You can’t watch film on them,” says Nored before the coaches enter the locker room to go over the scouting report. “You can’t watch two games ago. Completely different team.”

Communications between Brooklyn and Long Island is daily and detailed.

“The communication’s good between Brooklyn and here, so we know the situation that we’re going to be in on a given day, whether it’s a training session or a game,” says Nored. “I think that’s really important. If it’s not, if your communication’s not good and they send Isaiah here and you didn’t know it was going to happen, and all of a sudden you’re scrambling trying to figure out how you’re going to game plan, it starts there between Brooklyn and Long Island and the communication’s good there.”

The culture extends beyond the confines of Barclays Center and the HSS Training Center. The group is together.

“What I’m hearing, we have one of the best teams in the G League as far as off the court, as far the family atmosphere, as far as the trainers, as far as how we’re taken care of,” says Kamari Murphy (a native of Brooklyn and a high school teammate of Whitehead). “I’m in a blessed position right now as far as being with the Nets. Next year I wouldn’t say that I want to come back to the G League, that shouldn’t be anybody’s goal. But if I end up back here, I’ll be happy.”

“We’re always talking to each other every day,” says Shannon Scott. “On our off days, we say we’re not going to talk about basketball, but we end up doing it every time.”

Connections abound between Brooklyn and Long Island players and so do stories. Not only did Murphy and Whitehead play together at Lincoln High. Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris played four years at UVA and Scott and D’Angelo Russell formed the Ohio State backcourt for a year.

“When he got there, we knew he was good,” says Scott. “A little skinny shooting guard. But we had one preseason open gym in the summer. We were playing against the older guys - Evan Turner, Mike Conley, Greg Oden, JJ Sullinger, they all came back. They were going at us, and out of nowhere, D’Angelo - all the other freshmen were kind of scared and worried because they haven’t seen professional players before. D’Angelo went right back at them. We kind of knew from there he was going to be a special kid. It kind of took off from there.”

There’s a lot more, including the extensive international backgrounds of Nored’s assistant coaches and how half the team is housed at one Long Island hotel where they bond, play video games and some cards. The G-League season ends soon and Nored is looking forward to the playoffs, which would be Long Island’s first.

“We end the season with five games in nine days. It’s not easy to do. It’s really not. I’m glad we came out on the right side of it. And I hope we learned from it. We get a little bit of a break. And then we go do it and finish the season the right way.”

The first of those nine is Sunday afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum vs. the Delaware 87ers, Philly’s affiliate. Some adroit investigation of LIRR schedules could permit a fan to hit both the G-League game and the battle between the parent clubs which start at 7:30 p.m. A double-header!