It’s finally upon us... the 7/11 era has commenced. What began as a festivity-kicker on the Instagram account from none other than star point guard Kyrie Irving has now culminated into the first official––well, more like unofficial... but that’s neither here nor there––basketball game featuring the FULL Clean Sweep trio.
And who better to usher in the new great era of Nets basketball than head coach Steve Nash, the Hall of Fame point guard who will be entrusted with running Brooklyn’s operation from the sidelines.
Like the rest of us, Nash was thrilled about the opportunity to coach what should be an offensively prolific (maybe at an all-time level) basketball team. Here’s what he had to say about the opener.
“It’s a weird thing; you feel so close to it because you play the game for 18 years. But then when you’re actually in the spot, you realize all it entails and you feel farther from it in a sense. It’s great for me to get this experience and to start and acclimate myself to what it’s like to be over there (gestures toward bench)… what it feels like, what the demands are night-to-night. I’m excited for our guys to get out there in a different environment, replicate a game a little bit more so than practice.
“And then for me obviously, it’s a little more secondary, but I need to get comfortable on the sidelines. So it’s a good chance for both of us to get going.”
Nash, philosophical as it comes, issued a few simple wishes for his new group of guys in their opening exhibition matchup.
“Things you want every night: effort, connectivity, buy-in. And then as far as the details… getting into our defensive principles and schemes. Making sure that we’re diligent with recognition, getting there early, and making our work a little easier versus being late and reactionary. That’s the number one priority for our team is to be diligent with our principles on the defensive end.”
But, look. While all of that is fine and dandy. Let’s get into the important stuff. Why you’re (probably) clicking on this article.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Since Media Week, many have been pondering the same sorts of questions: Will Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving play in the preseason? (Yes!) If so, how much will they play? Will Nash utilize his celestial scorers sparingly, for fear of re-injuring either one of his TWO All-NBA threats?
My friends and readers, ease your worries. Here’s what Nash had to say about all of that.
“I think we’d like to get them to 20 or so if we can. But, like I said, I think that’s easy to say before the game starts, we’ll see how it goes. With only 2 exhibition games, it’d be ideal to get them north of 20 minutes if we can. We’ll see how it goes. You don’t want to, obviously, over-expose them in this first scenario. But that’d be ideal to get them to 20 or 20-something minutes in their legs before the next exhibition game. And then obviously, hopefully one more dress rehearsal will allow them to play somewhat toward a more normal toward normal minutes and intensity before the Warriors.”
So yes, Nash wants to give his stars ample time to get their reps and feel the flow of the game in their veins. That same message goes for the rest of Brooklyn’s players. But what about outside of that? Is the goal to win?
“No,” Nash said. “This game is an exercise. When we take the floor, we always want to win. The exercise and opportunity here is to continue to build and grow. There is a line there where we want to double down on growing and building our foundation, even if it is not going to get us a win tonight if that makes sense. Maybe we can depart from some of the things we are trying to implement to win tonight’s game but there is no prize in winning. There is prize in reward is us building and getting better tonight so we always want to win when we take the floor but at the same time, that is not the goal for tonight.”
Of course, Nash primed fans for what to expect––as he has tended to do in his short tenure as head coach––in the preseason meetup with the Washington Wizards. As far as nuanced sets and detail-oriented offense.... well, don’t expect too much of that. Again, rhythm and flow is the goal here, as well as gaining reps for the stars that are returning from injury.
“To be honest, we haven’t put a ton in,” Nash said. “We have been practicing for a week. We’ve realized we only have two exhibition games so a big emphasis for us is just having our guys play a lot, to get in shape, and air on the side of not drilling them. Having them in the gym for long hours and we have taken the priority of making sure that their health and the ability to sustain the demands of the game is as high as we can make that before we start. We are a team that would like to contend for a championship and the way to do that is to be healthy at the end of the year. In order to be physically able to sustain the riggers of the season, that became the priority. This is a working progress. We haven’t implemented nearly a majority of the things we are going to implement.
“We focused on other areas right now because first things first, to just get off to a healthy and competitive start rather than overloading them with the tactical elements of the game that maybe takes away from their physical preparation. Also, puts a little more risk of injury or doubt. That is the way we decided to approach this.”
So... a beautiful motion offense that replicates the 2015 Golden State Warriors... Yeah, I don’t think that’s happening on Sunday night.
Before he exited stage right, Nash gave the Nets community a glimpse into his expectations for Brooklyn’s prodigal third-star, the homegrown talent, Caris LeVert. Moreover, he fed into the daydreams of many Nets fans and a handful of major league pundits with regards to a role for the 26-year-old Michigan product.
“Still working through it,” Nash said. “Caris is a starter. Will he start for us? I am not sure yet. He is so good with the ball in his hands. There is a case to be made that he plays that [Manu] Ginobili role where he is clearly a starter. Manu played in All-Star games, starred on the bench, ran that second unit, and closed games. We’ll see how it goes. It is a great luxury to have and there is a thought where he can have more reps with the ball in his hand. He captains the second unit for two stretches in the game then plays with the starters in moments or to close. All that stuff is to be figured out but it is a great decision for a coach to have.”
Caris Ginobili. I like the sound of that.