It was certainly an eventful yet productive practice Sunday for the Nets.
“Cleaned up some of our defense. We scripted some offense but the practice was watching some film on defense and added some segments on some things we wanted to clean up through our defense,” Steve Nash said. “It was good. The guys were engaged, locked in and I thought it was productive.”
While the Nets primarily focused on defense, there was a lot to unpack starting with their stars ... whose number is growing!
Kyrie Irving will return from his three-game absence due to a “personal matter” and play against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, Nash disclosed
“Kyrie is available. Excited to have him back tomorrow,” Nash said, adding, “For tomorrow, it’s just Kyrie.”
Bruce Brown said he’s thrilled to have Irving back to face the Timberwolves. Brown called the addition of Irving “huge” and explained the impact Irving brings when on the court.
“Huge. Huge guy for us. One of our leaders. One of our brothers and to be back with us is huge for us,” Brown said. “The way he plays the game makes it all easier for everybody on the floor. We’re happy to have him back.”
While Irving is returning to the lineup, Kevin Durant will not play against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday and is unlikely to play this week. Same with Landry Shamet, who’s dealing with a right ankle sprain - will return this week.
“Landry needs time,” Nash said. “It’s not going to be a long-term thing but he’s not available tomorrow for sure.”
Despite the latest delay in Durant’s return, Nash thinks it’s all positive. The Nets head coach says his superstar is progressing and looking good but needs to reach a certain amount of markers before being available.
“Kevin played 4-on-4 with the guys. He looks good and he’s progressing but still needs to be monitored and get a certain amount of markers under his belt before we can put him in the frame again,” Nash said.
Nash was not the only one to say Durant is looking good.
“Kev is Kev. He’s going to go out there and get a bucket. He’s going to play his game and he looks really good out there,” Brown said. “I don’t know when he’s coming back but he looks really good.”
Durant, who will miss over 20 games with his lingering left hamstring strain, is ramping up. Nash explained how with the window of games left to be played before playoffs come around, the Nets will have to control what they can control to get Durant situated with the team.
“We still have quite a lot of the season left and plenty of games to play. Whenever he comes back, we’ll do the best to do that. I think the situation is we can only control what we can control,” Nash said. “There may not be a magic pill for all scenarios and I think other teams are facing similar problems. It’s just that type of season. We just focus on ourselves and control what we can control.
“When he does come back, we’ll be thrilled and we’ll just take off from there and try to re-incorporate him and the group to him and prepare for whatever amount of time that is heading into the playoffs.”
The Nets are going for the No. 1 seed and so all games matter leading up to the playoffs. Nicolas Claxton, for one, is glad to see his teammates getting healthy.
“That’s huge, especially with the playoffs coming up. These games matter and we’re going for that number one seed. Getting our guys back healthy, including Landry, it’ll be huge,” Claxton said. “Just continue the momentum.”
The Nets will face a scenario that most teams dream of but are strangers to - balancing minutes in a loaded frontcourt. On Sunday, a few hours after practice, Brooklyn signed LaMarcus Aldridge to a vet minimum deal. He’ll join the company of DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green, Blake Griffin and Claxton - who will all share minutes at the 5 and 4. Rolls will change.
The signing of Aldridge had not resonated throughout the HSS Training Center as much as you might think. Brown appeared to have found out about his newest All-Star teammate Sunday while talking to Nets beat writers. His mic was muted as he mouthed the words “oh s**t.” Take a look...
"We're really good. I just found out that Aldridge is coming, I didn't really know"— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) March 28, 2021
Bruce Brown finds out during his zoom press conference that the Nets signed LaMarcus Aldridge pic.twitter.com/19H4ZlnhzP
“Pretty good. I just found out that Aldridge is coming. I didn’t really know but we’re a talented team. We got to go out there and play hard every night,” Brown said. “Teams are going to try to play their hardest to we got to be ready every night.”
When Claxton found out Aldridge was joining the team, he was excited to have the opportunity to learn under the seven-time NBA All-Star.
“I was just chilling in my apartment and honestly, the more the merrier. The more players we get, the more deeper we are and the better we’ll be” Claxton said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and the coaches have a lot of different tools, different guys they can put in and decisions to make. I’m the younger guy on the team so I can earn from these guys for sure.
Nash couldn’t clarify or preview how the frontcourt rotation or minutes will look. The Nets will take a patient approach, which will include a feeling out process.
“We’ll see,” Nash said. “That’s something I can’t predict. We’ll see how it all fits together and it’ll present itself. Right now, I can’t predict how that is going to be. Whether it’ll be more than a prediction so, we’ll see how it goes. We have lots of depth, lots of options and we’re excited about it.”
Nash added how the options can become very limited when faced with the normal ebb and flow of a season, injuries and the tight schedule that often has teams playing back-to-back and three games in four days.
“First of all, something comes up every week this season. Your options always seem to be outstanding and then very quickly, they are limited. We’ll adjust and adapt as we go and put the team in the best position to win and to grow. What does that mean? I don’t know. It’ll declare itself as we proceed and deal with all the things thrown at us as we go along the way.”
Beyond the feeling-out process, Nash and the Nets will always value analytics when making those decisions, at least to some extent. The Nets head coach explained how he values the human side of things from a bigger perspective.
“Analytics is definitely a part of how we approach everything,” Nash said. “It’ll be a component of all of our decisions but there also has to be look, feel, and the human side of it too. I could only make a guess right now how it’ll play out but we’re excited to have options and depth. We are in a better position than yesterday because we have more depth.”
While Nash and the Nets will figure out and map out a plan for minutes and rotations in the frontcourt, the players acknowledge their minutes may look different following the latest addition of Aldridge, who has only come off the bench 44 games of his career.
“We have some great depth in the frontcourt and signing Aldridge ... that’s big and I’m sure I’ll be learning a lot from him. Nothing’s promised,” said Claxton who’s become Nash’s closer on defense. “I just got to control what I can control, continue to get better and take everything day by day.”
“You never know when your time is going to come so everybody has to be ready. I might play 30 one night and play five one night. I am going to be happy for whoever is on the floor,” Brown said. “We’re always going to be happy for everybody.”
With all being said and with a lot left to be worked out, especially in the frontcourt, it’s a win-now season for the Nets. The team is not shying away from the narrative.
“Our goal is to win a championship. We strive for that every day and prepare for that every day. That’s the ultimate goal,” Brown said.
Hopefully, things are about to get scary.
- Nets’ Big 3 reunion starting to come into focus - Ryan Dunleavy - New York Post
- Nets coach Steve Nash will have to wait for full-strength squad - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Nets sign big man LaMarcus Aldridge to already deep squad - Greg Logan - Newsday
- The Nets’ frontcourt is extremely crowded, but Kevin Durant is unlikely to rejoin it this week - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Kevin Durant unlikely to return for Brooklyn Nets this week, coach Steve Nash says - Malika Andrews - ESPN
- The Nets are adding LaMarcus Aldridge to an already stacked roster. Here’s how he fits - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic New York
- Nets’ Kyrie Irving to return on Monday vs. Timberwolves after three-game absence - Collin Martin - SNY