Steve Nash and the Brooklyn Nets acknowledged on Thursday that the upcoming season will be filled with expected — and unexpected — challenges, especially with a new-look team with limited preparation … let alone playing through a global pandemic.
Take it from Jarrett Allen. It will be tough, and it will be an ongoing process that will involve some extra steps.
“It is definitely tough,” Allen said. “Even from the bubble, it is going to be a different team, especially from last year when we first started.
“We only had a couple of months to prepare and now the season is going to be even shorter. It is definitely going to fast forward everything. We are going to have to try to force-feed some chemistry and try to learn each other’s game even quicker. Not only watch film on the other team but watch film on us. See what everybody else likes to do too.”
Of course, the Nets have something to ease that burden: superstar dialogue, in other words, the messaging between Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the rest of their teammates. Both players and coach think that can smooth out those rough edges.
“The dialogue is great,” said Spencer Dinwiddie of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. “They are obviously best friends so they are in sync and on the same page a lot of the time. The messaging you get from one of them is pretty much the same so it makes it easy to have the same type of voice leading the group.”
The rookie head coach understands the value of his two superstars and the role they will play when it comes to building the bridges. Nash notes how the pair’s body language and high basketball IQ will translate throughout their roster while adding a level of freedom for the coaching staff.
“They both have such high basketball IQ’s that a lot of it is body language, understanding, and processing as they go,” Nash said. “They are definitely two guys that have a great relationship and will talk things through as will the rest of the team but some of it is just by experiencing it together and recognizing trial and error and that this is a process to form cohesion and understanding. That is part of the structure and then we have freedom. Part of that is problem-solving.
“You want them to solve some of their own problems. You don’t want them to look over to you to solve problems. You want them, especially those two highly creative and skilled players, trying to give a balance of their freedom within our confines so that our team plays great basketball.”
Dinwiddie said that the rest of the roster will have to support the superstars as well ...noting it’s a two-way street.
“It is a lot better to have this amount of talent than not have this amount of talent. It is going to be on us. We need to be accountable. We need to do our jobs and try to make their lives [KD and Kyrie] easier as they make our lives easier.”
Outside the valuable Nets superstar dialogue, the Nets depth comes as an insurance policy Dinwiddie believes the Nets depth is deep that even if the big three guys miss action, there’s enough continuity all the way down the bench to help make up for the loss.
“There is also an argument to be made because we have better depth than most teams that we have an advantage there so where we have less time under our belts to get together, we also have more depth than a lot of teams,” said the Nets leading scorer last year. “So if you look at some of the other top teams and take off their first, second, or third guy, the roster is unrecognizable.
“With ours, we have a lot of continuity. You take off those types of players like DJ, Kyrie, and KD - the main guys - you still have guys like myself, Caris, Joe, Jarrett Allen, and guys that helped us get to the playoffs.”
Nash said that depth is going to give his players more freedom, a unique “template,” that he hopes will continue to evolve over time. Because of the short training camp, limited number of preseason games and COVID restrictions, the team playbook is not as extensive as it might have been. Enter the “template.”
“We want to give our players a template,” Nash said. “Then, let them discover how it fits for them individually and how they can make connections with each other. Then, we rein them in, refine it, add something new, and then let them go with it and repeat that process throughout the season.
“We will be implementing more structured stuff, more diagram stuff, but we want an element of our play to be random within a template and play in an unpredictable way where they are reacting, playing the game, being creative, and showing cohesion.”
So, more or less a hard copy in the draft stages.
“He definitely has started implementing some of his stuff but we haven’t gone over absolutely everything,” Allen noted. “It would be a lot trying to cram in two weeks training camp. Still, he has given us the foundation and start of his offense. We have been doing that well.”
There are other things that won’t be normal, that will slow things down, like bonding on the road. No big meals at players’ favorite restaurants, fewer group trips to an historic landmark, a scenic point or just a club where they can let off steam.
“Take these road trips, take the time and dinners together, or whatever it may be to continue to build that chemistry and comradery,” said Dinwiddie, noting that they’ll have to find alternatives. “Try to be in sync on the floor and we have the talent to do something special. It is all about coming together and being accountable.”
Still, said Dinwiddie, even with shortened preparation window with freedom and patience being emphasized, high expectations remain in stone.
“In terms of putting the team together, we are not in the business of making excuses or nothing like that. Is it difficult to have a whole new team? Of course. Is it difficult to be dealing with coronavirus? Of course. There are things that everybody is dealing at this moment in time that are not exactly the most seamless of easy.”
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