It’s normal for an NBA club to emphasize teamwork as it enters training camp, and so, no surprise, the Brooklyn Nets are pushing the idea that their closeness, their chemistry, can help them win ... this year. In their press conference Tuesday and now in a new five minute and 40 second promotional video released Friday, the franchise is pushing chemistry and continuity along with internal improvement as themes for the season.
Of course, the Nets don’t have the luxury of a superstar (or two) but the emphasis appears —and has appeared— to be a legitimate expression of the reality of the team’s situation.
“Going into Year 3, I think obviously just having the familiarity with the players, obviously more familiar with each player, I think that breeds a trust and a camaraderie,” said Kenny Atkinson on Tuesday.
“Listen, that stuff matters. Sean and I both believe that matters. I think we’re more together than ever as a group, as a staff, and that’s throughout the organization. Obviously that breeds confidence, all those things together.”
Indeed, much of the press conference found Atkinson and Sean Marks diverting attention from individuals — barely mentioning players by name — to larger, team-oriented issues.
Now comes the marketing video, aka The Bridge, Episode 1.
It is being promoted as the first in a series of behind-the-scenes looks at the team and in scene after scene, players talk about how close the team is and without using the term, the Nets culture is what drives them.
“I felt most comfortable playing for a great organization where you feel they do stuff the right way,” said Joe Harris in the video, explaining why he re-signed with the team. “It makes it easier. It makes it a lot easier. It’s a family-first organization and they want that to be noticeable, especially among the players.
“We tend to gravitate. We hang out and want to be around each other.”
Caris LeVert talked about the practical aspect of it all.
“How you build a chemistry. Once you know more about them off the court, it helps fight harder with your teammates on the court,” offered LeVert. “That bond you build can go way beyond basketball.”
“That’s just how the Nets do it,” added Jarrett Allen. “That’s the guys we want here. Everybody that supports each other to be the best we can.”
There’s also reference in the video to the players’ trip to California in May, what D’Angelo Russell called “the Joint in Cali.” Not only did they work out and dine together, they took part in smaller activities with teammates. Allen, for example, got surfing instructions at Santa Monica Beach ... with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson offering his own brand of encouragement.
The video also features two of the new guys, former Trail Blazers Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier, talking about how they signed with Brooklyn because of its reputation for team chemistry.
“I talked to a few players who’ve been through here,” said Davis. “You know a lot of teams preach the family thing and ‘together,’ and this is probably the first one where they really are a family and are together. So that definitely is a big reason why I’m here.”
“It’s a great group of guys making great steps to better themselves,” Napier said. “So I felt this was just the perfect place for me. This team is on the rise in the years to come and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Will it work, lead to something special? No one says, but veterans Davis and Carroll suggest the Nets togetherness will produce success.
“You’ve got some good pieces on this roster and you know anything can happen in the NBA.” Davis said.
“We should surprise a lot of people,” added Carroll. “We’re just going to keep staying true to the system.”
Marks and Atkinson deliberately —as they always do— steered Tuesday’s discussion away from predictions of wins and losses, playoffs, etc., but Marks did say he expects improvement from his players learning together.
“I would say guys going through the process of losing close games and having the ball in their hands at certain moments of a game [is an area of improvement],” Marks said, as Greg Logan wrote for Newsday.
“We’ve seen it different times, different scenarios. You learn with experience. So those guys have gone through that. We’re all growing, and the players look forward to getting out there and having those opportunities again.”
On a practical level, Marks has said that he hopes to reduce the record turnover on the team’s roster. Before he arrived, the Nets record for most players in a single season was 22. He beat it in 2016-17 with 24 and tied it last season.
Of the 13 players who flew to California in May for the team-building exercise, six are gone ... traded or unsigned. It’s a business. Despite that, the team’s chemistry remains good. We’re about to find out how good.
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