Every team has a turning point in a season. Last season, an embarrassing defeat in Detroit to the Pistons put the Nets in a different gear. This season, it’s more traditional: the passing of the NBA trade deadline.
It’s no secret that the days leading up to the date — marked on every player and fan's calendar — can put additional pressure on players. And in the days leading up to the February 10th trade deadline, Brooklyn had all the NBA’s eyes on them. Not to mention the noise. In the closing hours, Brooklyn and Philadelphia shuck up the league, sending James Harden and Paul Millsap down 1-95 in return for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks. Once 3:01 p.m. ET came and went, there was a heavy weight lifted off all the players' shoulders.
“Definitely. The locker room, it’s just a great vibe in there right now. I don’t know what it is. Everything just shifted after the trade deadline,” said Bruce Brown after the Nets’ 109-85 win over the Sacramento Kings Monday night. “Everybody likes everybody. It’s just great.”
The 25-year-old was asked a follow-up question; Was there was tension inside the locker room before the blockbuster trade, to which Brown replied; “No. Everybody liked everybody. We’re just a little closer now.” And a little younger, athletic and bigger.
Brooklyn’s first game after the trade deadline was in Miami against the Heat on Saturday, a l a game the Nets fought hard to snap a then 10-game losing streak but fell just short with two of the three new Nets, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond on the bench in street clothes and the third in Brooklyn. It was yet another loss in the record books but the team bonding event served as an almost-win. Brown declined to get into specifics but talked about a “team bonding event” in South Beach.
“When we were in Miami, we had a little team bonding event, and then the vibe just changed,” Brown said. “We can all feel it. We can feel it in the locker room, and we know we’re going to be here so it was just good for us to be around each other, learn more about each other, and it was just a good win for us today.”
Brooklyn followed up the team bonding event with an 11-game losing skid-snapping victory over Sacramento Monday night that elevated the vibe even more. The home win also included the debuts of Curry and Drummond, as well as the return of LaMarcus Aldridge. It got the available players growing another level of excitement for the uncertain returns of Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons and maybe an end to the city’s vaccine mandate.
“Definitely,” said Brown on the simple equation of having more bodies. “It was just great to have everyone out there. Can’t wait for KD and Ben to come back and just get our whole team healthy, and everybody to be out there on the floor for us.”
That’s also been on the minds of Curry and Drummond, who only have two shootarounds and a game under their belts with their new squad. Both former Sixers, who fill different but what had been obvious Nets' needs, foresee Brooklyn being a threat when the games really matter, if healthy, starting in two months.
“We have a great group of guys. Guys that are missing right now, we got to wait for them to get healthy but once everyone gets back, I think we’ll be very good and make a very good push in the playoffs,” said Drummond following his Nets debut Monday night.
Curry, who was fresh off the court after a 23-point sharpshooting debut, knew the moment he found out about the deadline blockbuster that he’d be getting better looks with the amount of gravity his new teammates create. Like everyone, Curry has a good feeling Brooklyn will be a major threat in the postseason if everyone stays healthy.
“I already knew. I didn’t have to see what we did tonight to know the kind of style of play. We’re going to have so many weapons out there, offensively and defensively,” Curry said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to play. It’s been a while since I got up and down the floor like that, and play with that kind of pace, even in the halfcourt. We’re gonna be a tough, tough team down the stretch when everybody gets healthy, comes back, and get some cohesiveness. Looking forward to it.”