Well, it was a good run.
With a 133-116 loss to the Delaware Blue Coats on Tuesday night in the first round of the NBA G League playoffs, the Long Island Nets’ 2021-22 season is over.
The Nets didn’t clinch a postseason appearance until the last game of the regular season then Long Island lost in their first post-season appearance in three years.
The game started with hot shooting from both teams, but the Nets jumped out ahead first. It was a very high-scoring start, with Delaware’s blitzy offense becoming a theme for the entire game. Bottom line was that the Nets couldn’t keep up with Delaware’s hot scoring. And upfront whenever Day’Ron Sharpe exited the game, Delaware’s big, Charles Bassey, was able to roam free.
The Blue got the lead to 11, but the Nets went on a 8-0 run. Delaware then responded with a 10-0 spurt of their own. The Blue Coats took advantage in transition, particularly from behind the 3-point line. At halftime, Delaware led by 18.
In the third, Delaware’s lead grew past 20 points, but Bryce Brown was able to cut the deficit to 14 twice with threes. From there, the Blue Coats’ advantage shrunk to twelve. They led by 94-12 entering the fourth quarter.
A David Duke Jr. field goal in the opening minutes of the fourth had it down to 11, but the Blue Coats fought back. It took until a Ty Wallace 2-point free throw with 6:28 remaining for it to be down to single-digits; nine points.
An open Duke three would’ve cut it to six points with about three minutes remaining, but the long-ball was off and the two teams traded baskets until the Nets were down 11 with just over two minutes remaining.
The Nets resorted to intentionally fouling, but couldn’t land the threes to make up the difference.
A Jaden Springer layup with 1:14 remaining — to put Delaware up 14 points — sealed the game, and Long Island’s season.
Wallace, Long Island’s only player to earn an NBA Call-Up this season (with the Pelicans), finished his G League year on a high note, scoring 28 points on 8-of-16 shooting, including draining 3-of-6 attempts from deep. Wallace also dished out six assists and snagged four rebounds, while adding a steal and a block apiece.
Duke Jr. had his most efficient scoring game since returning from a right ankle sprain, dropping 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
The 2021-22 Long Island Nets G League season saw the franchise make their second-ever postseason, appearance, as well as see their first player earn Player of The Month honors, which Craig Randall II did in February. Head coach Adam Caporn also won Coach of The Month, the second-ever time in Long Island history.
Brooklyn’s G League affiliate team showcased homegrown Nets talent all year. Rookie guard Cam Thomas only needed two games (including one 46-point masterpiece) to prove he was ready for the next level, while forward Kessler Edwards also permanently graduated to the NBA roster before the G League’s regular season was even officially in swing.
Fellow rookies Duke Jr. and Sharpe spent significant time in Long Island showcasing their games. Sharpe was a featured low-post presence and a menace on the boards, while also showing flashes of a jump shot, as the Nets encouraged him to shoot threes. The 20-year-old was perhaps the biggest success for Long Island’s development team. He averaged 18.8 points, 13.1 rebounds while shooting 50 percent overall, 33.3 percent from deep in 32 minutes. He also established a G League single game record for offensive rebounds in a game with 15.
Duke excelled as a point-of-attack defender whose 3-point shot is still coming around but keeps making improvements. After starting the season as Long Island’s full-time point guard, Duke was moved an off-ball role which the coaching staff believed suited him better. That’s what G League coaches do. Duke averaged 16.2 points and 6.1 boards for the season but his shooting splits were an odd 37/30/90.
The Nets’ affiliate also housed second-round picks 6’2” Marcus Zegarowski and 6’9” RaiQuan Gray (also known as “Turk”). Zegarowski averaged 10.1 points per game and despite average shooting efficiency, showcased his potential as a long-range marksman. His season was derailed by plantar fasciitis.
Gray struggled for most of the year but found his shot late. He finished the season with averages of 6.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. The Nets continue to hold both players NBA rights.
Moving forward, what does the team look like?
There has been lots of turnover from year to year in Long Island, both in the coaching ranks and on the roster. Only one head coach in G League Nets history has returned for a second season in the franchise’s six years of existence: its first, Ronald Nored.
This year, only one player on the roster — Jordan Bowden — returned from the 2020-21 Long Island team and only one coach — Jimmie Oakman — was a returned as well. The Nets’ other three assistants, along with coach Caporn, were new to the franchise.
Caporn told NetsDaily on March 31 that his aspirations “are to do a good job for the Nets,” but if he was not to return to Long Island’s bench (whether that be in a different role in the Nets organization or otherwise) Oakman is expected to receive consideration as head coach.
As for the roster, one name that stands out is Randall. The third-highest per-game scorer in the G League this year at 26.7 and the league leader in threes made, Randall did receive interest from other NBA teams but a deal never came to fruition. There has been mutual interest in Randall, 25, joining Nets in Summer League in Vegas, though that was before he missed six of the Nets’ final seven games due to undisclosed personal reasons, including Tuesday’s game. That situation will have to be sorted out.
On a personal note, Tuesday’s game closes out the G League season for me here at NetsDaily. We’re not done with Long Island just yet, there should be a longer, in-depth look at the season as a whole coming soon. But the day-to-day game coverage is over. I truly appreciate each person who has read or noticed by writing, engaged with the G League work on social media, or watched the film breakdown videos with players.
It’s been a dream year.