Each team in the NBA has a point in their season that serves as a reset button. A turning point. For the Brooklyn Nets, it’s could be the “much-needed” All-Star Break — a break one of their veterans believes will have the team return to the court fully understanding why they came to Brooklyn in the first place: to win a championship.
“Where we are at right now is a much-needed break for everyone. For us to hit that reset button and come back hungrier than ever and really understand why we’re all here. We all came here to win a championship this year,” Patty Mills said.
Mills, who has served a pivotal leadership role with the adversity-filled Nets, knows what it takes to win a championship. The Aussie guard won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs — a team that also included a well-rounded ‘Big 3.’ The veteran guard knows that it will take every member of the Nets organization to buy in to get their biggest goal accomplished in June.
“For us to truly believe that and understand that is where I think we’re at. It will take everyone in the locker room; all the coaches, all the staff, and everyone in this organization to buy into what we’re trying to do here to be able to get this thing done this year,” Mills added. “I think we’re in a very hungry, hungry place right now.”
There’s been a different type of energy hovering over the Nets locker room and on the court since the February 10 NBA Trade Deadline passed. In Miami, Bruce Brown disclosed that the team had a team bonding event which grew the group closer together. In the five games played before the All-Star break, a number of Nets explained that there’s a great vibe growing within the walls of the locker room. Mills was the latest Net to dive into the increased energy level, adding it helps build a better understanding of what it takes to be the last team standing.
“The locker room is as strong as it’s ever been this season. We feed off each other’s energy. You can see it on the court. I think coming back from the All-Star break, we have players coming back from injury that’s going to take this thing to another level. The key is to understand the end goal of what it’s going to take to get there. It’s going to take all of us. Every single person in this organization. That’s the belief that I know is there. We just got to tap into it every single day from the time we come back from All-Star break.”
Although the All-Star break provides each team a well-deserved breather, what’s ahead for Brooklyn who have 23 games left isn’t the easiest of tasks. It could still lead to the bright outcome, the team believes. Those hopes are highlighted by the looming returns of Kevin Durant (right knee, MCL sprain) and Ben Simmons (return to competition reconditioning). Meanwhile, they’re also optimistic, in Sean Marks words, that the City of New York’s indoor vaccination mandate will ultimately get lifted so Kyrie Irving (unvaccinated) can be eligible to become a full-time player again. If all goes Brooklyn’s way, the team will finally be at full force but figuring it all out in the remaining 23 in the regular season is a familiar obstacle that has yet to be crossed.
“We’re excited. We have 22 games (23 actually) to kinda come together as a team,” said Steve Nash looking ahead post-All-Star break. “Kevin returning. Ben returning and hopefully, we get a good run of health where we can really build something in a short period of time and get a better seed, and also more cohesion in the playoffs.”
Of course, it’s not just the return from injuries — and the uncertainty removed at the deadline — that give the Nets renewed hope. Just observe Cam Thomas’s heroics at the Garden two nights ago or all the starts Kessler Edwards — and Day’Ron Sharpe — are getting along with big minutes and bigger confidence.
Also, newcomers Seth Curry and Andre Drummond have played well, with Curry averaging 18.3 points since joining the Nets while hitting 52.2 percent of his shots from deep. Drummond, meanwhile, is averaging 12.3 boards. Both are starting. And with Steve Nash saying he’d like to see the 6’11” center get in better shape so he can assume a greater role, Drummond says he’s working on it.
One new twist is that Nash plans to run Drummond and LaMarcus Aldridge as a tandem.
“LaMarcus (Aldridge), we know can score and space the floor and cause problems with his shooting and his experience [and] then Andre is such a natural rebounder and deterrent in the paint defensively,” Nash said. “They’re really able to kind of complement each other very well out there.”
There will of course be questions when everyone (hopefully) gets healthy gets on the court. Nic Claxton hasn’t played a second since the trade. Where will Ben Simmons play? At the point, in the post? And will the Nets add someone before the buyout deadline, now 10 days away.
All good questions, but considering where they’re coming from, if that’s the worst going forward, it’s an improvement.
- Seth Curry giving Nets exactly what they need since trade - Laura Albanese - Newsday
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- Nets rookie Cam Thomas showing he’s more than just a scorer - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Andre Drummond will be the Nets’ featured center, when he’s ready to handle the minutes - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News