Increasingly, it’s becoming clear: this is the roster is the roster the Nets plan to go to war with. Put aside the James Harden rumors. Don’t enter “Spencer Dinwiddie” in the trade machine. The Nets are happy with what they have ... very happy.
And part of that happiness is due to their versatility, which head coach Steve Nash, superstar Kevin Durant and veteran Jeff Green all agreed is the team’s strength. They established that early during Wednesday’s Zoom call with reporters.
When Durant was asked what he thought of the James Harden trade rumors, he made quite clear he doesn’t.
“I don’t think about James Harden at all. He doesn’t play on our team,” he deadpanned.
And when a reporter asked Steve Nash about the possibility of trading Spencer Dinwiddie, the new coach —and former point guard— positively guffawed.
“I mean, you’re giving me the sweats. We’re already trading him? I just got him in the gym,” Nash told reporters. “Love working with him. Incredible talent. I just went on about how many roles he can play for us. I’m heavy voting towards not trading Spencer and I think the front office feels the same way. It’s a unique situation because he’s a free agent at the end of the year, but we all love him and we know it’d be very difficult to do better than Spencer in a trade.”
Then, he went on, his praise building, saying stop thinking of Dinwiddie as simply a point guard. Those who parse every statement from Nash and think they’d spied an absence of interest in Dinwiddie’s game got a surprise.
“He’s an outstanding basketball player, high IQ, has a good feel for the game,” Nash said. “He’s an outstanding athlete and he’s skilled. He’s a big point guard who can play off the ball, can play multiple positions, can make plays for his teammates and can score. So you’ve seen it in the past.
“He’s played heavy loads for this team, so he gives us a lot of versatility. There’s a lot of gaps to fill around Kevin and Ky and he can fill a number of them, whether he’s creating plays for them, or whether he’s spotting up, or he’s taking on defensive assignments. It’s a joy to have a player like that with that much talent and versatility in our lineup.
“So I love him and I just want to try to maximize his usage,” Nash added. “With Kevin and Ky, it diminishes the load in some ways, so how can we tweak his versatility in some ways to be such a weapon and asset, because he’s the type of player that’s capable of carrying a load, but at the same time he’s capable of carrying a little versatility and being able to give us different looks and different options at multiple places, so I’m thrilled to have him, thrilled to coach him and think he’s gonna play a big role for us.”
Versatility. Remember that word. It was everyone’s lips, Nash’s, Durant’s, veteran Jeff Green’s. Nash and the Nets have stressed versatility throughout training camp and with another day in the books, he and the others took it to another level.
“The definition of versatility in a team is us,” Green said. “Big guards who can play multiple positions. Fours can play from 1-through-five. Even our so-called centers are mobile enough to play multiple positions so that’s the league. That’s is what is going us to great. We can throw different lineups out there that you can’t really prepare for so it is going to be fun.”
Durant spoke about how he thinks Nash will play him. The two-time champion knows he has to be ready for anything the coaching staff plans in terms of managing his positioning but he said he’s ready for that.
“Talking with the training staff and coaching staff what my load will be in this first preseason game. As far as schemes and how I fit on the offense and defense, I think the coaches are going to use me in a variety of ways. Especially as a small-ball 5, 4, sometimes. Bringing the ball up too so I just got to be ready for anything,” he said, adding of preseason minutes. “As far as minutes are concerned, I am just looking forward to seeing how my body responds and how we respond as a team our first game.”
When Durant was asked about an “emphasis” about him and the small-ball-5, he noted there is not an emphasis behind that. As he worded it, the Nets are trying to play a style of offense that fits the player’s strengths.
“It’s not an emphasis,” Durant said. “We are trying to play a style of offense where everybody can utilize their strengths, handle the ball, anybody can bring it up, and guys are going to be switching on the defensive side of the ball. As the game goes and flows, each play guys are going to be playing different positions. One possession, Kyrie might be the 2. Caris might be bringing it up. So, you just got to be able for anything but coaches are just going to throw me out there and see how I respond.”
The Nets, as it sounds, appear to be trashing the 1-through-5 dynamic. Instead, Nash and the Nets coaching staff are preparing their players for any situation ... from who will take the ball up the court to how mobile the centers will be, there are going to be a lot of different lineups and most certainly, a lot of switching on the defensive end.
“We have such a talented group,” Durant noted. “You have guys that can do multiple things on the floor with the basketball. It brings the best out of anybody having Spencer, Caris, and going at it every day. Kyrie and myself going at it. DJ and Jarrett going at it every day.
“That just breathes the competition and it is a healthy competition. It’s not like guys are wanting this other guy’s spot. It’s more so we want to push each other because we know everybody is going to help towards the end goal so it’s been healthy, it’s been good, and guys are getting better.”
Ultimately, of course, the head coach will have to put a starting line-up out on the court and push and pull players while forming a rotation.
“I couldn’t tell you what’s going to happen to the rotations yet,” Nash told reporters. “There’s a lot of competition for spots and minutes which is a positive as well. It’s tough on a coach but it’s positive for our group and program but they are. They’re gaining connectivity which I always preach that familiarity that chemistry’s coming and so that’s something where I’ll say a few days in I’ve been really positive and excited about it.”
When Green was asked where he fits, he added to the impression that while things may not be a free-for-all, traditional strictures may not as apply as much as they have elsewhere in his 13-year career.
“I am kind of everywhere,” Green said about positioning. “There is not anywhere specific that I am playing. I am like the Swiss Army Knife. The guy who has the ability to play multiple positions so I am pretty much playing all over the floor...
Green continued, noting everyone is going to be playing what might have been called, “playing out of position.”
“Through our offense, it’s pretty much knowing every position. You are never going to be in the same spot all the time so that is where I would say the Swiss Army Knife position that Kevin has been playing in is going to be used mostly I would say. I can’t give you a 100 percent answer on that because I am not the coach.
“But as for me noticing in practice, with our versatility being who we are, guys are going to be in multiple positions. Whether that is bring in a quote-on-quote 5-position or a point guard position. It is going to be used for a lot of our guys. I’m pretty sure it is going to be used highly with Kevin with the way he plays.”
Green also said it’s “definitely inspiring” to see KD “back in the form he was in before he got hurt.”
Nash who has spoke highly of Kyrie Irving’s game continued it on Wednesday, noting that he’s been surprised by his All-NBA point guard’s athleticism and calling him may be the best ballhandler ever.
“His skill level is historic. His ball-handling may be the best ever. Shot making, going left, right, all three levels, incredible finisher with both hands,” said Nash who added that he’s been surprised by Irving’s athleticism in camp. “I knew he was a good athlete but he’s just so mobile. He’s like a cat. He has ability, mobility and he has sneaky athleticism. In NBA terms, we pigeon-hole athleticism as ‘explosiveness.’ He has some explosiveness but what’s equally or more impressive is his agility, his mobility.”
With the depth and versatility high within the Nets organization, the meshing among players and overall learning are still areas of development, as expected. Durant strongly believes he and the Nets will play hard every night and with the makeup of this team, he likes his chances at the end goal of championship aspirations ... while admitting at the same time that it is very, very early. Things can change ... and probably will.
“It’s early in the season, it’s training camp, and guys are still learning each other,” Durant said. “[Guys are] still learning the offense and defense but I am very excited about the future of this group. I have never been the one to predict anything but I like our chances of going out there and competing at that high level every single night. With as how tough that is, I think we are capable of doing it.
“We have a lot of guys who have so much experience in this league. We got champions on this team. We got guys who have been in the playoff runs. Been in Game 7s. That’s always important to have that much experience and knowledge within the group and we’ll see where we go from there.”
The Nets, which have had more players test positive for COVID than any other team, has not experienced any positive tests since camp opened. At least six players in camp tested positive in March and July.
- Kevin Durant will be ‘ready for anything’ in Nets’ preseason debut - Mollie Walker - New York Post
- Steve Nash doesn’t want Nets to trade Spencer Dinwiddie - Mollie Walker - New York Post
- James Harden needs six straight negative COVID-19 tests before he can practice - Ted Holmlund - New York Post
- Kevin Durant ‘ready for anything’ as first Brooklyn Nets games draw near in 2020-21 NBA season - Malika Andrews - ESPN
- Nets’ Steve Nash doesn’t want to trade Spencer Dinwiddie - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Kevin Durant as potential small-ball five highlights bigger focus for Nets - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Kevin Durant not thinking about possible reunion with James Harden as Nets continue training camp - Greg Logan - Newsday
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