Steve Nash knows how crowded his frontcourt is. He knows there’s a lot of veteran talent and some promising young kids. Getting to a rotation is, as he said Friday, going to be a “challenge.”
“We had an opportunity to get three or four veterans at the minimum. We thought it would be better to get the best players we can and work through that rather than not having the players and trying to figure it out,” said Nash Friday.
“It will be a challenge. Those guys have to sacrifice. We’ll have to play for something bigger than ourselves and find a way to affect the group positively whether they’re playing or in the rotation or not in the rotation or you’re not even suiting up some nights I think we’re all here for a bigger goal and that’s to see this team be at its best level.”
So expect a lot of line-ups, some experiments, in the team’s remaining practices and preseason games, starting Friday vs. the Bucks at Barclays Center. But so far, so good. The first experiment, running LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap together, seems to have worked out well.
“Wasn’t bad,” Steve Nash said of the veteran big men playing together. “Paul brings a versatility, and LaMarcus obviously brings his skill set as a true big for us. They’re both intelligent, know how to play, can play off each other, even if it’s not a traditional look for our team.
“They both had a really good camp. Both moved well, played well, showed their intellect and skill set. I thought they played quite well together even though it’s not something that we’ve necessarily done traditionally, played the two bigger guys.”
“It was pretty smooth,” Millsap said of his time on the court with Aldridge. “And the way we play, we feel we can implement anybody in the system and be successful, so as long as we’re moving and we’re cutting and we’re playing for each other, it’s gonna look good.”
At the end of last season, after Aldridge went down, Nash started another big with an award-adorned resume’, Blake Griffin, at the 5. He didn’t play Sunday vs. the Lakers. Nor did Kevin Durant who will occasionally man the big man positions — along with other positions — in the regular season.
That said, the numbers as well as the win were encouraging. Paul Millsap had a double double of 10 and 10 plus three assists while Aldridge finished with six points, four rebounds and tied a team-high with three assists in little more than a quarter’s worth of action, playing 14:43 for the game. Also, he used his size and cunning to battle DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard, the Lakers’ counterpart to him and Millsap.
Nash praised Aldridge in particular during training camp in San Diego.
“He looked good. He had a good week of camp and it looks like he’s moving well. Confident. Doesn’t look like he’s missed a beat,” said Nash. “We’re really pleased with him. Excited, one, just to have him back playing the game, back with us, because we enjoyed having him last year. It’s icing on the cake that he played so well and looks good.
“It’s great to have him back. We really enjoyed having him last year for a brief period of time. We were all really sad and devastated for him when he had to retire. He was fitting into our team, but more importantly him having to step away from the game was tough. So to have him back is a great story, and he’s been not only a pleasure to coach but he looks good. Playing well, moving well. I’m almost a little surprised, considering the layoff and everything that went on.”
Nic Claxton will likely get bigger and hopefully more effective minutes Friday night than he did Sunday afternoon vs. the Lakers. He had three straight offensive foul calls early that seemed to take him out of his game and he finished with three points, three boards, three turnovers and six personal fouls. Nash seemed to shrug it off. It is after all, preseason.
Also expect to see more minutes for Day’Ron Sharpe, who’s likely to spend a lot of his time in Long Island. The 19-year-old had a surprisingly good game in his first pro outing, scoring 13 points and grabbing six rebounds in 14 minutes. His performance in training camp impressed the coach. Expect him to take more shots on the perimeter. The Nets see potential there as well as underneath.
“He hasn’t gotten a lot of shots up here,” Nash had said Thursday. “But in the future, I think he’s capable. He has a soft touch and he can make shots. But that’s definitely something he’s got to develop.
“I mean, shooters shoot. They shoot every day. So if you’re trying to become a shooter or you are a shooter, you have to shoot every day if that’s where you’re going. If you’re not a shooter, maybe that’s not a part of your development. A guy like that, just like the other shooters on the team, you got to shoot every day and get better at it.”
The Nets didn’t play James Johnson Sunday. He’ll probably start to get some minutes starting Friday.
There will probably be more than just experimentation coming up. There’ll be roster decisions. Although the Nets think they see a multi-position in Sekou Doumbouya, he’s primarily a defensive big right now. DeVontae Cacok is another big with defensive chops who’s facing the numbers game.
But as Alex Schiffer wrote Monday, it’s a problem a lot of coaches would like to have.
- LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap make case to be in rotation for Nets - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Steve Clifford’s role, Brooklyn’s frontcourt, Day’Ron Sharpe’s potential and more: A wrap-up from Nets camp - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic