Brooklyn’s approach this go-around is a little different compared to years past. Last year, for example, the Nets were, in Joe Harris’ words, “looking down the road” and “feeling the loss from the prior year in the (2020) playoffs and wanting to get back to that point in the (2021) playoffs.”
This year, Brooklyn’s focus is cut and dry.
The Nets are simply looking to “(have) a good second day of training camp,” said Harris, “and then tomorrow, we’ll have another good day. And we just keep having these building blocks that we’ll build off of, but we’re not trying to look too far ahead.”
The group’s mindset may be an indicator of a mature and balanced outlook going forward as Brooklyn, maybe chastened by last year’s results, treks through the NBA season. Thus, tempered excitement is permitted, if not expected amongst Nets faithful.
So, in that light, here are three main takeaways from Day 2.
It wouldn’t be a practice write-up without an obligatory mention of Brooklyn’s injury status report.
Let’s start with the negatives. T.J. Warren will not be available for Opening Night and the Nets plan to re-evaluate him in November as he continues to rehab from a 2021 foot surgery. Steve Nash said that the Nets “knew this going in” and don’t want to “take big risks” given that Warren has been out for two years.
Seth Curry, meanwhile, “has a chance” to play on Opening Night which is three weeks away. Nash said Curry is entering the final stages of his rehab from a May 9 surgery on his left ankle. Curry told reporters on Media Day that he’s “85-90%” healthy.
How about some positives?
Ben Simmons, meanwhile, said “pretty sure I’m good to go” in reference to full health clearance after an offseason epidural on his back. Steve Nash indicated that Simmons should be ready for his regular workload—around 34 minutes per-game—his career average.
“I don’t want to get too carried away. We’ve had a few problems in the last few years so nothing is set in stone.” said Nash in reference to the various health setbacks the Nets have dealt with over the years. “That would be the plan. He’s in a great place now, great condition already; but to build back into the NBA rhythm, demands and travel, all that stuff, that’s the last adaptation process. But he’s in a great spot.”
Joe Harris, coming back from ankle surgery in March, revealed that his left ankle “honestly feels fine.” This is, obviously, excellent news after the pair of surgeries Harris underwent on that same ankle, one in late November, another in early March.
“I feel great,” said Harris. “I mean, my ankle honestly feels fine. It’s kind of the rest of my body that has to catch up. You just have little stuff here and there, whether it’s like, your knee or back, certain stuff just kind of flares up that typically hasn’t popped up in the past. But that’s all part of the rehab, too. I mean, I hadn’t played since last November. So taking that much time off and then trying to get back into the swing of things. My ankle is definitely feeling great, but it’s kind of the rest of the body that has got to get acclimated.”
Steve Nash details the coaching roles of his staff
Brooklyn revamped its coaching staff this offseason and brought in Igor Kokoškov (former head coach of the Phoenix Suns and an assistant on nine other teams) and promoted Trevor Hendry from video coordinator and Adam Caporn from head coach of the Long Island Nets.
Steve Nash gave reporters a look underneath the hood at the roles of his assistants after Wednesday’s practice. Brian Keefe and Jacque Vaughn will be handling the defense; Caporn is in charge of player development; and Kokoškov, who Nash called “an incredible offensive encyclopedia,” would command the offense for the Nets.
Interestingly, Nash also mentioned that the Nets will be “changing some of our schemes” and will be “resetting in a lot of ways,” specifically highlighting some of the defensive personnel the Nets now have as a reason for the changes.
What could this mean?
Brooklyn have added two uber-switchy athletes, Ben Simmons and Royce O’Neale, to the fold, both of whom can guard up-and-down the positional spectrum. They join the likes of Kevin Durant and Nicolas Claxton, so one has to speculate if the Nets will lean even further into switching assignments with regularity, eschewing some (or most) of the drop coverage that they ran throughout last season. It’s early, of course, so things can change, but Nash’s response about schematic alterations will no doubt make the minds of the wildest hoop heads buzz with excitement and wonder.
Ben Simmons, a center in Brooklyn?
The center position has been a big topic of conversation during training camp thus far given Brooklyn’s relative lack of depth in this category — at least compared to other positions. Day’Ron Sharpe and Nic Claxton are the only two traditional bigs on the roster, and after Wednesday’s practice, Nash showered Claxton with praise, citing his maturity and commitment to improving his body.
“His professionalism, that will to want to get better, he took another step,” said Nash about Claxton. “He’s a more conditioned athlete, and I think we feel more confident about him in that way, as well.”
Nash was also asked about another possibility at the center position: Ben Simmons.
“If he’s the lone big, that’s a role we would definitely play him at,” said Nash with confidence. “But he’s also our playmaker and point guard.”
Simmons, who typically played the point as a Philadelphia 76er—and is the tallest starting PG in league history—was noticeably open to the idea of playing the 5 in Brooklyn, first stating he’ll “play wherever the team needs me to play.” Later, Simmons noted that he had some experience at center when former teammate Joel Embiid was out.
“[If we were] shorthanded, depending on if Joel was in or out, I was down there playing the five. Different matchups, trying different things out,” said Simmons. Simmons concluded with...
“I love playing the 5, I don’t mind.”
Nash also addressed Simmons lack of 3-point shooting, quickly cutting off debate on whether he needs to shoot.
“Very unique,” Nash said of Simmons’ talents. “That’s what makes Ben great. That’s why I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot for the Brooklyn Nets. He’s welcome to, but that’s not what makes him special and not what we need.”
However, beat writers have spied Simmons along with Claxton practicing threes.
It’s far too early to think about starting lineups, right? Maybe not. After Nash and the players met with the media, the Nets released a short video clip of practice. Eagle-eyed fans quickly looked to see who was playing who.
Nets running a first group of Irving-O’Neale-Durant-Simmons-Claxton here. Lot of defense. https://t.co/crEesYMGG6— Alec Sturm (@Alec_Sturm) September 28, 2022
On the other side: Harris, Markieff Morris, Cam Thomas, David Duke Jr. and Edmond Sumner.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Malika Andrews visited HSS Training Center and spoke with Nash on Durant’s trade request...
The Nets will practice again Thursday.
- Steve Nash doesn’t care if Ben Simmons ‘ever shoots a jump shot’ for Nets - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- T.J. Warren has long road ahead before playing for Nets after injury - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- What the Knicks and Nets need to find out about themselves in training camp - Peter Botte - New York Post
- Steve Nash enamored with Ben Simmons’ skill as Nets playmaker - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Nets Notebook: Steve Nash says team is changing up offense schemes - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- No minute restriction expected for Ben Simmons: ‘I’m good to go’ - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash lauds Ben Simmons’ versatility as ‘incredible playmaker’ - Nick Friedell - ESPN