On Monday, Dzanan Musa, the Nets first round pick, finally had his minutes restrictions lifted. After six weeks of recovery and rehab from a partially separated left shoulder, then three games with his minutes limited, the 6’9” teenager from Bosnia can now play with a certain degree of freedom.
He got two chances to demonstrate his NBA skills on Monday as well. He played 28 minutes in the morning for the Long Island Nets in their loss to Fort Wayne, scoring 26 points, grabbing six rebounds and handing out six assists, some of them on nifty, NBA-ready passes. Take a look...
He played seven more minutes in garbage time for the injury-riddled Brooklyn club at night, scoring four points and grabbing a sole rebound. Still, he showed enough to warrant praise from Ian Eagle, as Greg Logan noted...
Eagle is not alone. The Nets as an organization still have very high hopes for Musa, the NBA’s seventh youngest player. He won’t turn 20 until May. The shoulder injury was his second this season. He hurt his ankle in September while playing for the Bosnian national team.
After the G League game, Long Island Nets head coach Will Weaver talked about Musa’s progress, taking special note of his passing ability.
“It felt good. It felt like he was dialed in,” said Weaver of Musa’s performance. “I think he had an intent to attack the basket which is, I think, where he is most special because of his passing ability. He sees it so well that when he gets downhill, the whole world collapses on him, it’s just effortless for him.”
“You’d expect a 19-year-old to have a big, fast curve ... and he has,” Weaver said, smiling. “I think the hardest thing for any young person —and we had this conversation openly a few days ago— is that there’s no home run. There’s just nothing out there to swing for the fences on. It’s just single, single, single, single and it just adds up.”
And so, he told Musa, focus on those incremental moves.
“There is approach required in every activity, trying to be mindful in weight-lifting sessions, or what you’re eating or how you sleep or knowing the scouting report ... or making a really accurate pass. The aggregation of that stuff is the whole season. He’s doing a great job. It’s just going to take some time.”
Truth be told, the Nets had higher expectations for Musa than any other NBA team. They saw him as a lottery pick. He was drafted 29th and the Nets considered moving up at one point during the draft to ensure he was wearing a Nets cap when Adam Silver greeted him.
Even though he’s been playing for Long Island —when not recovering, he says he remains focused and hinted a bit about being frustrated as well. He’s taken to looking at the long view, particularly about next season.
“Every player has his expectations,” he noted. “I think I have leader mentality. So you have to have that hunger for the rotation, hunger for playing time, but when I realized that this year might not happen my way, I just turned that into hunger. I’m more hungry now. All that will show at the beginning of next season or when I get a chance this season. So I’m just focused even when I’m not practicing, not playing, I’m always focused.”
Similarly, he says he’s happy that he’s been able to put on some weight —22 pounds since he was draft, which has been a Nets priority, but he’s looking forward to the summer.
“I feel great. I feel stronger, thanks to whole performance staff in Brooklyn. They’ve pushed me to 217 pounds ... Butby next season, I’m going to be a beast.”
His shot has also been a focus of him and the organization.
“We work a lot on my shot so I feel very comfortable shooting three’s and long distances, thanks to (assistant coach) Pablo (Prigioni) and (player development coordinator) Shaun Fein, all those guys that work my ass everyday.
“I was always a good passer. but now that I have the ball in my hand, I think that in pick-and-rolls, I can do real damage.”
In fact, Musa said he thinks he can play the point in the NBA. Asked what his best positions“1 through 3. I think I can play secondary point guard, the shooting guard also and I can defend low post, I am trying to do whatever the organization needs.”
For the record, Musa is now averaging 19.4 points, 3.1 assists and 6.7 rebounds while shooting 44/36/83. Not bad for the G League’s third youngest player.
More than 5,000 fans, almost all of them local elementary and intermediate school kids on field trips, filled the lower bowl Monday to watch the Nets lose to the Mad Ants, 140-119. The team was without Kamari Murphy and Thomas Wimbush, two of their most effective front court players as well as Theo Pinson, who was practicing with Brooklyn.
In addition to Musa’s 26, two Nets, Alan Williams and Tahjere McCall, finished with 17 each and Mitch Creek had 15.