Fresh off a two-day break from games, Steve Nash spoke about how practice time, at a premium in this pandemic-condensed season, had been a mix of film and half speed sessions on both ends of the floor.
“Yesterday we just watched film and today, we watched film and rehearsed at half speed offense and defense,” Nash said on the past two practices. “Guys got some shots up and get ready to go for tomorrow and Saturday.”
On top of that, Nash admitted how COVID-19 testing impacts just how much time the team has. The rapid POC — point of care — tests required still takes minutes away.
“I think there is a POC test the players have to take. It’s ‘point of care’ where it’s like a rapid test. They have a 30-minute or 40-minute window to know when they get their results back,” Nash said about player testing. “Sometimes the results don’t come back so they have to do it again. Sometimes it delays the start of practice as it did yesterday and today.”
Still, Nash noted that things are looking up for three of his players who have yet to play an NBA game this season, two of whom were recently signed and the third recovering from injury.
Norvell Pelle practiced for the first time Thursday, Iman Shumpert should be out of health and safety protocols and available Friday while Nic Claxton is expected to get practice time with the “steady group” as soon as next week.
Pelle was introduced to the media Thursday and admitted to be excited about joining Brooklyn. Prior to signing with the Nets, Pelle was in Ohio preparing to play in the G League “bubble” with the Cavaliers G League affiliate, the Canton Charge. Pelle said while he was working out, his agent called to say that he was heading to New York to join an NBA team. Once he found out it was Brooklyn, Pelle got even more excited.
“The process of finding out ... I was in Ohio getting ready to go to the G League ‘bubble’ and my agent called and said it’s time for you to go to New York and I got excited when I found out it was the Nets,” the hyper athletic 6’10” center said with a big smile. “My main thing is to play defense, protect the rim as much as possible, and go from there.”
Then he began his quarantine. Pelle (who turned 28 Wednesday) noted how he was able to get some in-room workouts but. in his words: “sitting in four walls” and staring at nothing did set him back.
“I was quarantined in Ohio the whole time so I was doing the little semi in-room workouts but before I got to Ohio, I was working out every single day. That goes out the window once you sit in them four walls and staring at nothing,” Pelle said laughing. “It was kinda hard.”
When Pelle cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocol after a successful quarantine, the Nets were on the road. He was able to get in the gym and go over some plays.
“Cleared protocol and the team was on the road at the time so I was able to get in the gym and go over some of the plays,” Pelle said. “Just watching the games and putting myself in that position, as far as DeAndre’s spot, and mimic what he does.”
When asked if he can provide that defensive presence at the 5, a position where Brooklyn is in heavy need of assistance, Pelle explained how he has been a rim protector his whole life and is confident he can come in and fill that role.
“Yes,” Pelle said about filling a defensive presence. “My play is based on my defense. I’ve been a big rim protector my whole life so it is coming in and filling a role.”
It is worth noting that Pelle, whose main role with the Nets will be defense, has reunited with Ime Udoka, the Nets assistant coach who holds a strong voice on the Nets defensive schemes and plays. Udoka was with Pelle in Philadelphia, serving as an assistant on the Sixers.
Pelle spoke about his first practice with the Nets, not shying away from how he was a little nervous. He said he was in “awe” watching the team’s three superstars of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden on the same team ... while realizing they are his new teammates.
“I was a little nervous but overall it was good and it was fun. It’s hard to explain because you have all these great individuals that are all on one team. You just sit back sometimes and you are left in awe,” Pelle said. “The things that they do and you got to realize that you are playing too so. So just step-by-step and just gelling and meshing with the guys. Picking their brains a little bit throughout the practice and allow myself to adapt to the role I need to be in.”
Pelle is particularly thrilled to be able to play with Harden, who has perfected the pick-and-roll throughout his career.
“It’s exciting,” Pelle said of running pick-and-rolls with Harden. “Honestly, super excited and my type of player that I play is pick-and-rolls and he knows how to find the big and reward them. As long as I do my job on the defensive end, he is going to reward me on the offensive end but I am super excited to just be able to play with him.”
As for when Pelle will make his Nets debut, Nash didn’t guarantee minutes and left it as to be determined.
“We are trying to get him in shape, see what we got, and if we need minutes out of him, we have no problem putting him in the game,” Nash said about Pelle. “That is to be determined as well.”
Pelle, who has not played since August 21, is on a two-year non-guaranteed deal. Under that contract, in theory, the Nets will have to decide whether to keep him for the rest of the season —and next— by the 24th, which is when all non-guaranteed deals become permanent. As Bobby Marks of ESPN noted, Pelle will count for $11,100 towards the luxury tax for every day he is on the roster.
Diving deeper, Nash wanted to make it clear that the Nets will continue to be versatile at the 5 throughout the season. Nash wants to make adjustments at the five depending on the opposing matchup. In addition to Pelle and DeAndre Jordan, Nash has been using Jeff Green who’s been on tear. Over the past 10 games, he’s averaging 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and two 3-pointers per game on a 44.4 percent clip. (The Nets assigned another member of the bigs rotation, Reggie Perry, to Long Island earlier in the day.)
“To be clear, I think we are going to be versatile this year and mix it up,” Nash said about the center position. “There is no like ‘this is how we are going the rest of the year. It’s we’ll go and see as we need and be able to make adjustments.”
Shumpert, who last played in the NBA in December 2019 as a member of the Nets, will be out of protocol Friday and ready to practice, according to Nash. In Nash’s words, The 30-year-old will be “completely available.”
“I believe he is out of protocol tomorrow and he can join the group so I think he is completely available tomorrow if I am not mistaken,” Nash said about Shumpert.
Joe Harris, who also played with Shumpert in Cleveland, spoke highly of him. Harris noted how he can be plugged into any situation, offensively or defensively, and will make a difference. He noted how Shumpert is an excellent perimeter defender with great hands.
“I was obviously with him in Cleveland and then even last year when he played with us on the couple 10-days that he had. He is just one of those guys. He’s been around, had a lot of success, very reliable, and you can plug him into any situation,” Harris said of Shumpert.
“He’s not going to beat himself. He makes sound plays on the offensive end and then defensively, he can make a difference. He is very active, he is athletic, an excellent perimeter defender with great hands. Even like that, you can plug him into any situation and they are going to bring you positives.”
Outside of his play, Harris made sure to note Shumpert’s locker room presence which he believes will help the Nets.
“Just from a locker room standpoint, he provides a lot of great energy and a good voice, which I think will help us out a lot.”
And Shumpert has played in three NBA Finals, winning a ring with Irving and LeBron James in 2016.
Shumpert signed a one-year non-guaranteed deal worth the veteran minimum. Like Pelle, February 24 is the last day the Nets can release him without guaranteeing his contract. While with Brooklyn last season, Shumpert played in 13 games posting averages of 4.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in 18.5 minutes of play. Shumpert shot 32 percent overall and 24 percent from deep in that span.
As for Claxton, he is on the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to being ready to play. Nash said Claxton is still “a few weeks away” but hopes he can practice with the “stay-ready group” — bench players — as soon as next week.
“So nothing imminent with him. Who knows to be honest,” said Nash of Claxton who’s suffered from tendinopathy in his right knee. “I don’t want to put a timeline on it because he is not that close but he is getting there. He is definitely improving and hopefully, he can start playing with the guys next week.”
Claxton, who had shoulder surgery last summer, has not seen the court for almost a full year. The 21-year-old last played on February 28th.
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