When the Nets (31-29) finally get healthy and the looming return of Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons become a reality, it’ll be a huge much-needed boost. It will also allow the Nets to exhale, at least until the games are played. In the Nets’ eyes, good health is all they’ll need to get back on the track and be a championship contender.
“That’s it. That’s one, two, three, and 4 really,” said Steve Nash when asked for a list of what his team needs after the Nets’ 129-106 stomping Thursday night at Barclays Center. “These guys could’ve played better tonight but we can play better on nights we have everybody too. You’re not going to play great every night. In this league, you flip it. Take the Celtics and take four of their starters out. That’s a different look.”
Prior to the crushing defeat, Nash provided a status report on the star reinforcements Brooklyn needs. Kevin Durant, who is working his way back from a right knee MCL sprain that has sidelined him since Jan. 15, is the closest. The 33-year-old only needs a handful of “high-intensity workouts” before getting the green light to return to the hardwood.
The newest Net, Goran Dragic, who hasn’t played since Nov. 13, is undergoing a ramp-up and is likely to return in the next three to four games, according to the Nets head coach. Simmons is the farthest away and is still in the conditioning stage of his ramp-up. The 25-year-old has been doing individual work within his ramp-up program and hasn’t participated in the two practices since returning from the All-Star break.
“I think it is just health,” Bruce Brown said. “We haven’t played with each other yet so just getting on the floor with everybody, I think will figure out what we need to do, learn, and fix things we need to do. We just got to get on the floor together.”
One Net player’s health that remains a bigger mystery is Joe Harris and his left ankle. A month after his operation date (November 29), the sharpshooting wing suffered a setback in his left ankle rehab. Since then, Nash and the Nets have remained quiet on his situation, and in the latest development, the Nets head coach pushed back on a report that aired during TNT’s broadcast Thursday night.
Ian Eagle, who was calling the loss to the Celtics, said the Nets will decide whether Harris will need a second operation on his ankle by the end of the week. When Nash was asked about the on-air report, he stated, ‘I do not know that, no.’
That all being said, Brooklyn remains very confident that a healthy roster in the near future will solve all the concerning woes. Since Durant suffered the right knee injury, the Nets are 5-14 including the 120-105 win over New Orleans the night he got hurt back on January 14. (Moreover, the Nets hopes that Kyrie Irving’s part-time return could ease the pain haven’t panned out. They’re 4-10 with him on the court.)
“Show up every day with who you got and try to make the best of it,” added Seth Curry on playing without several key teammates. “Every individual’s got to come into work every day not thinking of any excuses, working to get themselves better and figure out what they need to do to get the team better. When guys come back, they come back. Until then, we have how we have and got to make the most of it.”
The losing streak, which included a league-worst 11-game losing skid, has pushed the team into the play-in tournament bracket (eighth seed). Despite trailing six-seeded Celtics by 3.5 games, there is little to no concern. It’s about getting healthy, everyone says.
“I just know we’re in the play-in right now. I don’t know how many games or anything, but I’m not too worried about it,” Brown said. “Our guys are going to come back and we’re going to take care of business.”
“It’s more of just a talent thing right now. That’s a good team. They got a lot of players. A lot of good high-level players that we played against tonight. We just didn’t have enough to match it tonight,” Curry said. “Guys are playing hard. Guys are in the right space mentally and energy-wise. It’s the NBA. You got to have talent to give yourself a chance every night. We got to keep showing up hard, showing up with the right mentality, and giving us a chance to win every game.”
There’s no secret the major ingredient in winning in the league is quite simply talent on a roster. Still, there are only 22 games left in the regular season — and a handful of practices — and by the time the stars and key players return to the hardwood, both numbers will be lower. It is a situation where chemistry and continuity will be a premium ... and the clock won’t stop ticking.
“The smart thing to do is take it game-by-game but we understand the situation we’re in. We know there’s urgency,” said Nash on continuing the slide down the Eastern Conference standings. “We know we’re not going to have half a season to figure this thing out. We’re going to be up against the clock.”
In the meantime, the Nets head coach wants his players to continue to keep their spirits high and make the best of their depleted arsenal with the main goal “staying together” till reinforcements arrive, whenever that is.
“Our message is staying together. Staying positive,” said Nash on what the Nets needs to do to stay afloat. “I told the guys we had two great days of practice, and tonight [blowout loss to Celtics] I don’t think we got better. I don’t care about the result but I thought we could’ve played better. We recognize we’re shorthanded. We know we’re sending these guys out there asking them to do more than they’re accustomed to doing, and that’s tough. At the same time, they’ve responded every time we asked them to keep their spirits high and work. That was clearly on display in practice yesterday.
“We’re pushing them to come in tomorrow and have a great attitude to push each other, support each other, keep getting better in the meantime, and continue to build. We’ve built a lot of resolve over this difficult stretch. It’s just a matter of staying with it until we do get a little more size and talent back in the lineup.”
- The one thing the Brooklyn Nets need right now is a healthy roster - Neil Best - Newsday