When the Nets gather for Media Day, there will be a lot of new faces. Fewer than half of the 17 players who finished last season are back. So what’s the big change? The Bigs.
Whole lot of bigs! In addition to un-retiring LaMarcus Aldridge, the Nets this offseason drafted Day’Ron Sharpe and RaiQuan Gray, re-signed Blake Griffin, signed James Johnson and Paul Millsap, traded for Sekou Doumbouya, and added Devontae Cacok on an Exhibit 10. They even traded for the draft rights of Nikola Milutinov, one of Europe’s top bigs! The biggest change, for sure.
And that list doesn’t include the team’s two tallest players, Nic Claxton and of course Kevin Durant. So it would seem that easier part of the big build — acquiring them — is done. Now comes the hard part, as Greg Logan wrote for Newsday Saturday.
“As far as the big men, will it be tricky at times to find playing time for everyone? Sure. Part of being a championship team is being part of something that’s bigger than yourself,” Steve Nash said during Tuesday’s press conference. “We have guys that understand they all come here knowing that we’re trying to get across the line, and it’s not about the individual’s minutes or touches.
“I’m sure Kevin will play all over the place. There’s times he might play the 5, there’s times when he’ll play the 3. I think it’s also a little bit unnecessary to name positions the way we play the game nowadays. We’ve got options, and we’ve got a lot to sift through, before we recognize really clear patterns as to what we’re going to do.”
Brooklyn, of course, traded away their only true 5, DeAndre Jordan. There are hints — and maybe some hopes — that some of frontcourters will wind up playing different roles than expected. Maybe, they’ll ask Claxton to play a larger role on offense.
“I think Nic is an important part of what we do. He’s a unique profile on our roster, an athletic, active big who can finish around the basket, guard multiple positions,” Nash said Tuesday. “I think something that is very unique on our roster and he’s one of our better defenders, so I see Nic having a prominent role.”
The most intriguing addition is Aldridge who at some point early in the season will score the 20,000th point in his career. He only needs 49. The question is when will the 36-year-old seven footer hit the mark? How many minutes a game will the get?
Aldridge started immediately after he joined the team in early April, replacing and almost erasing Jordan. The seven-time All-Star looked rejuvenated, averaging 12.8 points, 4.8 boards and 2.6 assists while showing off a 3-pointer he hit four out of five tries. And he did it while playing only 4:22 seconds with James Harden. It was only after Aldridge retired did Griffin move into the starting lineup where he played well through the post-season.
“I thought he added a lot to our room,” Nash said of Aldridge. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of him on the floor, but he was an experienced, skilled, versatile big that knows how to play and was adding a lot to our collective IQ. So we’re excited to have him back.”
That doesn’t mean he will start though. And Marks noted that both Aldridge and the team understand the health risk, however low.
“I spoke to LaMarcus multiple times over the summer, specifically right when he decided to step away from the game, and I respect that decision completely,” Marks said. “I think we furthered our conversations, and he called and he said ‘look, I’ve been cleared. I’ve had multiple doctors, including our own and several specialists throughout the country, [look at me].’ It’s not something that we take light-hearted.
“It’s not something he should, either, and he was very comfortable, wanted to be back here and stated — like several of our guys — that there was unfinished business here.
The Nets brass appears comfortable about setting up a competition among them all, with minutes dictated by situations on the court and off. Some of those acquired are unlikely to see much time. Gray isn’t even on the roster and will likely sign directly with Long Island. Sharpe, who’s said his goal is the rotation, will likely spend time in Uniondale as well. Cacok is fighting for a two-way. Doumbouya’s status remains a bit of question mark as well although he’s guaranteed $3.6 million this year.
Still, there’s a lot of new talent upfront, enough to be the focus of training camp coverage.
- Steve Nash faces tough decisions with building Nets’ rotation - Greg Logan Newsday
- Nets’ ‘unfinished business’ was too enticing for LaMarcus Aldridge - Brian Lewis - New York Sports+
- BROOKLYN NETS TRAINING CAMP: 5 THINGS TO WATCH - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets