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Nets look toward preseason ... Will Kevin Durant play?

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Sights and sounds from Nets training camp (continued)

It has been a long time coming for this Nets team as players and coaches finally enter a season with only the highest aspirations. So, for the Nets, who wrapped up another day of training camp Monday, the upcoming preseason games will be nothing short of significant and highly competitive.

Does that mean that we’re about to see — if only on the YES Network — Kevin Durant in a Nets uniform, 500+ days since he last played in an official NBA game? Nobody is saying definitively, but there are significant hints.

“The preseason games are so important this year,” Steve Nash said. “In particularly for us. It’s a new group. We only have two of them. We have guys who haven’t played, played in the bubble, and then we have guys that either didn’t play in the bubble or guys like Kevin [Durant] and Ky [Irving] who had some injuries before that. Ky, I think, has played 20 games over the past season.

“Kevin, obviously, has been out for 18 months so every chance we get to play is important for us. To form that commonality, that connectivity that I keep talking about, and give us that common experience. Right now, that is something we are really short on. We definitely have to use the exhibition games to find that. I’m not sure what that looks like yet but we are taking them seriously as far as getting our guy’s reps and experience to get on the floor and address rehearsal.”

Sounds promising!!

Brooklyn believes the two preseason games (Sunday December 13 against the Washington Wizards and five days later against the Boston Celtics), will play a big role in terms of setting an early rotation for the team.

On Monday, Nash wouldn’t (couldn’t?) provide details on a rotation. Clearly, there are a lot of factors both on an off the hardwood that will serve as crucial factors.

“I couldn’t answer as far as how many in a rotation,” Nash said. “I do think the rotation will change itself. Whether it’s injuries, COVID, or whatever it may be so don’t have an answer for how deep our rotation will be hopefully a lot of people will get a lot of looks this year.”

Caris LeVert spoke about how roles have yet to be cemented heading into their first preseason game. The team has focused more on plays and positioning.

“Right now, we are just talking about the plays and positioning,” LeVert said about whether Nash cemented his role. “How we can be better as a group. I think we will get into those things as the games start to get closer but I prepare myself for any situation.”

Despite the normal bumps and bruises of preseason, that competitive fire is still present. As Joe Harris noted Sunday the first practice was one of the most high-level and competitive runs he has experienced, LeVert provided the same take.

“I agree,” LeVert said the competitive level of practice. “It is a very high level. Today was a very high level as well. I think we expect that from ourselves though. We have high-level guys on our team. We put in a lot of work and work extremely hard every day so I think going forward, we push ourselves every day to get to that level. It is good to do it one or two times but I think consistency is what we are all after.”

Bruce Brown, who is one of the 12 new players who’s embarked on a Nets career, talked about translating that excitement into execution in those upcoming games.

“Definitely going to be huge man,” Brown said about the games. “We are just going to come in, have energy, play the right way, and hit shots. Me personally, just play defense. Show Steve I can go out there and guard the best guy whoever we play the first night, whether their stars play or not. I am going to be ready to go.”

Nash spoke took time to talk about how Brown, acquired from the Pistons on Draft Night, is developing his offensive game, specifically shooting and playmaking. Although viewed as a key defensive piece, Nash has high hopes for him beyond that.

“I think he is a defensive player at this point,” Nash said. “The offensive game is something he is still developing so we have to be patient with him as he continues to work on his shooting and playmaking. He competes, he’s a good defender, and he can grow defensively as well. He has an opportunity to get better on both sides of the ball and make an impact but we have to be patient with him.

“He is a player that is coming into a team with a lot of talent. For him to find a role, I think really comes down to his continued development. He is going to use that competition and that depth as a way to really put pressure on himself to develop and then we will see. His effort has been amazing and I have high hopes for him.”

Brown said he has not talked with Nash about how his offensive play will determine his role but noted that his defense will be needed.

“I really haven’t talked about that much,” Brown said about any conversations with the coaching staff about offensive improvements. “I mean scoring wise, I don’t think we need to score as much. We have Kyrie, KD, Caris, and all those guys who score the ball. I think my main focus should be on the defensive, trying to get better, and learn the new rules we have on this team.”

With this role in the air, like many Nets players, Brown has that next-man-up mentality.

“Definitely huge,” Brown said. “There is definitely going to be nights where KD, Kyrie, and all the guys are given rest. So, guys like me and whoever else comes off the bench can be ready and play. I started the whole time I’ve been in the NBA so I have experience out there. I played in a playoff series so I know what to expect and be ready for it.”

As for overall chemistry and connectivity Nash said his team is in a unique situation, trying to mesh a group who played in the regular season with a group who played in the “bubble” and players who are on a whole different level like KD and Kyrie. As Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot noted on Sunday, the Nets are essentially a “new team.”

“I am not sure I can answer it,” Nash said when asked how long it will take to develop chemistry “I think some teams come together quickly. Some teams take time. I do think there is an extra challenge for a new team that is a contender.

“When we are talking about making a deep playoff run and trying to contend for a championship, you just don’t have those common experiences. They are so valuable on those moments so deep in the playoffs so we can’t overcome that with experience because we don’t have time to go through those playoff battles and gain that so what can we control?

“We are going to be behind it a little bit as far as common experiences. Having said that, we have a lot of experience in our locker room and will overcome it by controlling the things that we can control like executing, fighting, having that connectivity. We are trying to build that now and that is a process that is going to take us through the end of the season and hopefully with a lot of success.”

Nash talked as well about how there were some minor injuries that took place during Monday’s practice.

“A couple of guys had a little of bumps and bruises today,” Nash said. “Basically, we had everyone here and doing well.” Nicolas Claxton, who’s been ruled out of training camp with tendinopathy, is a different story, he conceded.

“Nic [Claxton] is probably multi-date,” Nash said of the second year center. “That is the one. TLC had a little hip pointer and someone had a calf or hammy or something that is like day-to-day other than Nic. Everyone is in pretty good health other than Nic, who will be weeks. Hopefully, fingers crossed he’ll be back and he has put in a lot of work himself.”

Nash added he and the staff are very high on Claxton who he sees as a “modern day 5.”

“I think for Nic, he is a development player but how long prevents or includes him from being in the rotation is really up to his health and his development,” Nash said about Claxton. “I think, he’s a great modern 5.

“In theory, he’s a mobile big who can handle the ball and make plays. He is developing shooting but I think nowadays when people are going with the small ball five or a more mobile five that you do not have to hide on offense. Theoretically, when I guy that can either shoot it or can make plays for his teammates and Nic’s mobile enough to handle and pass. He has a future and we are really excited about his development if he can get healthy.

Still, the excitement of hitting the hardwood and making games count is everywhere. Take it from Brown.

“We are going to be really good,” Brown said about his new team. “Everybody can do about everything. Scoring wise, everybody can score. Everybody can play defense so the sky is the limit for us man. We are going to go out there and play, do what we got to do, and this is definitely the best team I’ve probably ever been on.”

Having players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will do that for you!