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Nets head to Milwaukee for preseason contest

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Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Woe is us. The Nets are 0-2 and facing nagging injuries. Woe is them. The Bucks are 0-4 and facing nagging injuries.

It’s preseason.

Sam Mitchell used to tell tale about how in 2005, rookie Joey Graham thought he had played pretty well against Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson in a preseason contest, then two weeks later, in a regular season contest, he was amazed at how good VC and RJ had gotten in such a short period of time, the two combining for 55 points while Graham was limited to 14.

It’s preseason.

Of course, there are worrying trends for Brooklyn, like how they’ll take time off playing defense for long stretches, having given up 118.5 points per game in their losses to Philly and Miami. And those nagging injuries, while not yet worrisome, are concerning. Joe Harris has a sore left foot, now nearly seven months after his second ankle surgery since last year, and fellow sharpshooter Seth Curry has yet to play five months after his ankle surgery.

The Nets will need these last two preseason games, on Wednesday in Milwaukee and Friday in Minnesota to establish themselves if they are to hit the ground running on October 19, a week from Wednesday, vs. the Pelicans.

Where to follow the game

YES Network and ESPN are the places to be. We get started at FiServ Forum just after 7:30 p.m. ET.


How much time you got?

Joe Harris (foot), Seth Curry (ankle), T,J. Warren (foot), and Edmond Sumner (hip) are all listed as OUT for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday, all of whom didn’t suit up vs. Chicago on Tuesday, will play vs. Brooklyn. Wesley Matthews (ankle), Pat Connaughton (calf) and Grayson Allen (illness) are out.

The game

How much credibility will the game have with so many key players out? Good question. The Nets braintrust will no doubt be looking to see how their new offense, previewed here and there vs. the 76ers and Heat, is working and whether their switching defense can work at all. Also, a lot of eyes will be on Ben Simmons who has asked for patience as he works his way back from being off for a year and nearly four months. As everyone (who is a not a Nets fan) notes, Simmons needs time on the court more than anything else.

“I think with Ben, a lot of it is not just the understanding, it’s the reps,” Steve Nash said Tuesday. “He hasn’t played for a long time. He’s coming off a back surgery. I think there’s some periods of indecision and confidence that he has to gain from playing. All of us do. We can’t take that much time off, join a new group and just figure it out, Day 1. He needs time.

“We’ll be patient with Ben because he is an incredibly talented and unique player. He’s not gonna be his best in the short term. He’s gonna continue to slog through this period of returning to play and getting his confidence, timing and rhythm back.”

The Nets indeed need Simmons to show how he fits in the offense and whether he and the Nets can get past their habit of giving away the ball. In the first two games, the Nets had a lot of turnovers: 26 to the Heat’s 11 after 27 to the 76ers’ 16. You could chalk it up to preseason, but as the stats note, they gave up the ball far more times than their opponents.

With so many injuries, expect more minutes for players like Kessler Edwards and Cam Thomas and maybe Yuta Watanabe. Nets are still carrying 19 players on the roster after releasing Noah Kirkwood early Wednesday. NBA teams have to cut rosters to 15 standard deals and two two-ways by Opening Night.

For the Bucks, their game vs. the Bulls on Tuesday was not at all illuminating. Milwaukee fielded a team that had maybe two or three rotation players and did not include any of their Big Three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. Jordan Nwora led the Bucks with 25 points on 9-of-17 from the floor, 4-of-9 from three as Milwaukee lost by 23.

Player to Watch

Two of the three best basketball players on the planet are expected to go up against each other Wednesday in Milwaukee: Kevin Durant vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks have rested Antetokounmpo much of their preseason. Giannis played for Greece in the FIBA Eurobasket tournament last month, suffering a mild ankle sprain, and the Bucks traveled to Abu Dhabi for their first two preseason games and are in the midst of a preseason back-to-back.

Antetokounmpo scored 19 points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out two assists in 21 minutes in his one preseason game, a 123-113 loss last Thursday against Atlanta in Abu Dhabi.

Now with only one preseason game left, expect acting head coach Charles Lee to give Giannis plenty of time vs. the Nets Wednesday. Kevin Durant who said he expected to play in all four games before the October 19 opener is also likely to play big minutes. The two of course have had a number of notable contests, particularly in the 2021 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

From the Vault

Speaking of notable contests, let’s go back to Game 5 in 2021 when the Nets won and Kevin Durant scored 49 points in one of the great individual performances in franchise history.

More reading: Brew Hoop.