This was the game Nets fans had dreaded, but now that it’s arrived, it’s not so bad. But for most of the summer, fans looked at the start of preseason as a bittersweet moment. The Nets would be back on the court, but would Kevin Durant still be a Net the opening night of preseason? If he was, would he hold out, be unhappy? And what about Kyrie? Would he be a Net in preseason? And the same question about happiness applied. We haven’t even talked about Ben Simmons! If KD and Kyrie split, could he lead a revamped Brooklyn Nets? Questions that are now answered or became moot.
As KD said three days ago, “I didn’t miss any games. I didn’t miss any practices. I’m still here.” Despite all the drama, that’s about it. So on Monday, the new “Big Three” will finally debut. Preseason and the game we had dreaded is here. We made it, we think.
Where to follow the game
The YES App and NBA TV are the places to be. We get started at Barclays Center just after 7:30 p.m. ET.
T.J. Warren (foot) and Seth Curry (ankle) are out. Warren will be evaluated in a month, Curry may play in the fourth game of the Nets preseason schedule on October 13, six games before Opening Night.
Danuel House (neck) is questionable.
Where to begin?? This the first of five meetings between the Nets and Sixers, three at Barclays, two at Wells Fargo Center. The story line from inside on both sides of course is that it’s only a preseason game, but whenever these two teams get together, it’s rather fun going back to the 2019 first round when things got ugly. Players were ejected and fined, Sean Marks barged into the refs locker room and got fined $25,000 for said confrontation. Then when Joe Tsai backed Marks in a tweet, he got hit with a $35,000 levy. Jared Dudley vs. Joe Embiid! Good times!
Last year, of course, had several great games between the Turnpike rivals. Kevin Durant led a group of rookies to a win and waved Embiid into the locker in early December, a favor Embiid would return two weeks later. Then, after the James Harden-for-Ben Simmons etc., trade, attention was focused on whether Ben Simmons would play in a March 10 game at Wells Fargo. He didn’t but the Nets simply manhandled the Sixers, sending their fans home, and eliciting what appeared to the faintest of smiles from Simmons.
Monday’s game carries no real significance. The superstars on both sides are expected to play. How much and whether they’ll start remain open question. For Ben Simmons, it will be his first game since June 20, 2021, Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals when Atlanta beat Philadelphia and a lot of the blame was placed on Simmons. For Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, it will be their first game since the ignominious Celtics sweep on April 25. Everyone has a lot to prove but we’ll details for the regular season previews. Remember, this time is supposed to be about preparation, readiness, health and just getting out of the gate. Fun. Believe that if you will.
Two things to look for: 1) the Nets secretive offense. Kyrie Irving said last week that he wouldn’t discuss specifics. It will be more wide open than last year — how could it be less so? Modified Princeton? 2) the Nets less than secretive defense. Steve Nash will have a lot more defensive options with the debut of Simmons: the addition of Royce O’Neale and also Edmond Sumner, both plus defenders: a promised defensive commitment by Kyrie Irving and the added confidence of Nic Claxton .
Also, although this is a preseason game, and starting lineups mean little, watch to see where O’Neale or Joe Harris gets the starting nod.
It’s hard to tell how many of the 76ers stars will play or how long. Doc Rivers suggested on Saturday.
“No, not really,” Rivers said about any final decisions. “I’m just going to burn some minutes, honestly. I’ll check with our guys after the practice to see where they are health-wise. If they feel great, I’ll play some of them. If they don’t, I’ll play very few. So I’m not that concerned by it. We’ve got 1,000 players at camp. So I probably will tend to play some of the other guys.”
On Monday, he said three starters would sit with Harden and Embiid the most likely to sit. We shall wait and see.
Player to watch:
Duh! It has to be The Beard who forced his way into Brooklyn, then a year later, forced his way out. In his 21 games with Philly last season, he averaged 21.0 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds, but his inconsistency and his poor shooting — 40.2 percent overall and 32.6 from deep — caused Philly fans, not exactly the picture of patience, to wonder if at 33, he was beyond his peak. He has claimed not and said he’d dedicate himself to conditioning, get back to the explosive James Harden Daryl Morey traded for and agreed to pay a lot of money ... if not the max.
“Everything is basically a fresh start and a fresh canvas,” said Harden at the 76ers training camp in Charleston, S.C. this week. As Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote Sunday, Harden is working on individual skills as well as durability but he still wonders how he will strike a balance between being a scorer and facilitator.
“But now, it’s a little bit more different,” he said. “Different because of the time [this summer] I had off to prepare and get my mind and my body right. And it’s just an opportunity with the new people that we have. And, honestly, just the communication with myself and Doc [Rivers] and Joel [Embiid] to know when it’s time for me to be aggressive and for Joel to be aggressive.”
The Nets will have to work Ben Simmons into the mix as well but he knows his role is as a facilitator on offense and a stopper on defense.
And Harden was asked how the revival of his explosiveness was coming along. “It’s getting there,” he said.
From the Vault
Game 4, Round 1, 2019 NBA Playoffs. Ben Simmons and Jared Dudley...
Like we said, good times.
More reading: Liberty Ballers
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Philadelphia 76ers Game Notes - Philadelphia 76ers
- Ben Simmons to make Nets debut in preseason opener vs. 76ers - Garrett Stepien - SNY