The Nets took a moment out of their training camp regimen Wednesday to celebrate their leader’s 33rd birthday. The best basketball player in the world got serenaded twice by the team’s rookies, neither of which was any good according to reports.
“I think there was, yeah they might have done both versions,” Steve Nash said of the Kevin Durant birthday party. “There was a version before practice and the cake version. We definitely made him feel special on his big day.
“We had the rookies sing Happy Birthday. He got a cake. I don’t think he wants to do much more. He’ll probably tell me ‘OK, that’s enough’ if I add something else to the mix,” added Nash, “It was pretty bad. It was not memorable.”
Cam Thomas, two weeks short of his 20th birthday, admitted “It was bad. But you know, it is what it is. I mean, he probably had 33 of those songs, so no matter.”
The video proved him right...
KD had to get that rookie serenade for his birthday pic.twitter.com/6mMilgothi— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) September 30, 2021
What, of course, is memorable is that at 33, Durant is as good, if not better, than ever which he proved both in last year’s series vs. the Bucks, then in the Olympics, where he was MVP and gold medal winner.
He may have missed games last season due to COVID protocols and a hamstring issue, the bane of the Nets season, but as Nash noted, he still has amazing mobility and explosiveness.
Also, it appears clear that the Nets, despite all the off-court clamor and controversy surrounding Kyrie Irving, are on a mission when on the court. Nash won’t even acknowledge the world outside Jenny Craig Pavilion at the University of San Diego, at least not publicly.
“That’s not really something I’m focusing on right now,” Nash said Tuesday when asked by The Post about his level of concern over Irving. “I’m trying to have a great camp. Things could change day-to-day in so many ways, as we saw last year. Right now, we are just focused on camp.”
Nash also noted that Irving has looked good. “I know he’s been great in camp, playing well and I’m excited to have him back on the floor. I’ve missed watching him play, coaching him. So, yeah, it’s just been great to have him back. So I really haven’t been involved with that side of things.”
There’s been little news out of the camp, which of course is how the Nets prefer it. Things are going well, players are developing and so far, so good with their health. And the team has kept the media away from Irving and uncomfortable questions.
What news there is has been positive, a welcome respite from what’s going on elsewhere...
- Thomas continues to impress his coach and teammates. Nash said Wednesday the key to Thomas development will be not “giving away days” even if he’s not in the rotation or playing on a given night. Bruce Brown is also on the Thomas bandwagon. Thomas said Irving and James Johnson have taken him under his wing early on camp.
- Jevon Carter has proved more skilled and a better shooter than Nash expected, the head coach told the media. Indeed, the 26-year-old shot 39.7 percent from deep in his two years with the Suns. Carter has also shown his defensive chops.
- DeAndre’ Bembry has been a “disruptor” on defense, according to Nash. That’s a big reason why he was signed.
- Both Joe Harris and Nic Claxton have given Kyle Korver, the new player development assistant and shooting coach, good reviews with Harris, the NBA leader in 3-point shooting over the last three seasons, saying he’d helped him “just being a more of an efficient mover into my shots.”
It hasn’t been all work out on the Coast. You don’t go to San Diego with its perfect weather and not play a little golf, a little tennis. Harris, however, begged off. He tried golf back in the Orlando “bubble” and the experience taught him a lesson.
“Yeah, it pretty it much ended there,” Harris said. “That was my first real kind of attempt at playing golf. And I know myself well enough, I’m not quite ready to socially play.”
No word yet on when the team, coaches and staff will meet with Joe and Clara Wu Tsai who live in nearly LaJolla, San Diego’s most exclusive neighborhood, but Nash has said it will happen this week. The Nets break camp Saturday for their trip to Los Angeles and their first preseason game vs. the Lakers.
Might any meeting include discussions of extensions for Irving and James Harden? There’s no word yet on what progress has been made although both players have said positive things about sticking around Brooklyn. And Harden told YES Monday that there had already been meetings with Tsai.
“Of course it’s on my mind. I’ve had multiple talks with [GM] Sean [Marks] and Joe [Tsai]. I don’t see myself anywhere else, honestly,” Harden told Ryan Ruocco and Sarah Kustok. “But I’m taking my time with it. There’s no rush. I want to bring a championship to the city. I’m here.”
Remember the news over the summer that the Nets were looking for a “Head of Performance Therapy,” which some took as an indicator that Sean Marks was unhappy with the performance team following an injury-filled season? Well, nothing much changed according to the roster and staff directory released by the Nets this week. With one exception, all the key staffers have the same titles and there is no “Head of Performance Therapy” listed.
The one change is that Dan Liburd, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, has moved on, joining a Phoenix-based performance company, replaced by Daniel Jones, who had been physical performance coach for Brooklyn. Taking Jones place is Chris Miller who came from US Ski and Snowboard Association.
Jones along with returning Director of Sports Medicine Les Gelis and Director of Sports Science Dan Meehan is a native of Melbourne, Australia, aka the “Melborne Mafia.” Stefania Rizzo remains Director of Performance Rehabilitation. Physiotherapist Andy Barr, who worked with KD on his rehab, remains on staff.
In Media Day discussions, both LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap gave high marks to the performance team, Millsap saying it was one reason he chose Brooklyn.
“The performance team has been great. They’re very hands-on as much as you want them to be but they also can give you a distance if you’re a routine guy like I am. They do their research. They bring things to you. They’re trying to make you better in every way. I felt like last year was great and even this year with my transition back in, they’ve been great too.” said Aldridge.
“It was very important. I didn’t mention that but it was really important to have a world-class organization at the top and world-class performance team, world-catering, world-class chefs. All of type of stuff matters. When you get older, you understand that a little bit more and it plays a big part in the decision making. All of that combined was part of the big decision,” added Millsap.
And in an ESPN interview that same day, James Harden told ESPN’s Malika Andrews he’s “healthier and stronger” and “probably felt better than I ever have before.”
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