Back in the summer, Mikal Bridges was a big fan of the New York Liberty and on more than occasion, he brought along another NBA player. Donovan Mitchell and Grant Williams stand out.
As Bridges told Yahoo! Sports Jake Fischer, he’s just a likeable guy and his wide circle of friends could help the Nets once again attract top-flight free agents. A recruiter-in-chief, so to speak? Maybe.
“I’m friends with a lot of people. I think friendships help. Obviously, if I think it’s a good option, then yeah,” said Bridges who also noted helping the organization rebuild is not his paramount driver. Winning is. “I’m just trying to win now and do what it takes. You can talk about all the ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybe this,’ but you can’t control that. Other than that just trying to win now. I’m more locked in on the guys here.”
Bridges’ likeability is not the only quality others recognize, His colleagues in the basketball world recount the myriad ways that the 27-year-old has shown leadership, from his public and well-timed praise of Ben Simmons and Cam Thomas during the summer to his willingness to create unique handshakes, cellys for teammates, what Fischer calls “the value of ritualistic camaraderie.”
Cam Payne spoke to Fischer about how Bridges and he, then with the Suns, created his most famous celly, the three-fingered salute delivered with a big smile.
“‘Kal would make shots, and he didn’t really have nothing. He’d just look at the other team,” Payne said. The duo put their heads, and their fingers, together. When Bridges direct messaged Payne some clip of a baseball team holding a trio of digits in the shape of a pistol, Payne further encouraged Bridges to wag his head side to side as he held the pose. “He’s been doing it ever since,” Payne said.
Similarly, Bridges worked with Yuta Watanabe last season, as Fischer writes.
When he first arrived in Brooklyn, a camera captured Bridges creating a new sequence with Yuta Watanabe in some back hallway as they waited to take the court. They clapped twice, low, then clapped twice up high, then side-stepped into a lefty jumper — Watanabe’s dominant hand — and yelled out, “Haaa!”
Just Thursday night, the Nets tweeted out his latest collaboration.
There’s also the lure of Bridges as a basketball player with a growing resume’ as Cam Johnson, his “twin,” told Fischer.
“You can see such a natural progression of skill, of the ability to change games, take over games, score when necessary,” Johnson said. “Earlier in his career, he was really a predominantly off-ball cutting guy. And then the three, the middy, getting to the basket, all those things started adding in. Pick-and-rolls, you saw a lot more of that right before the trade, and then a lot more of that coming here. He’s the type that’s gonna continue working. It’s not a matter of, ‘OK, I’m good. I’m here.’ No, he’s gonna put in the work.”
Jay Wright, his Villanova coach, calls Bridges “putty” who can molded to fit his team’s needs.
“I just didn’t want him being a go-to guy to change his mentality of always making the right play,” Wright told Yahoo Sports.
The Nets are unlikely to do much (if any) big free agent signings till the summer prior to the 2025-26 season, when they should have a ton of cap space. As of now, only Simmons and Cam Johnson are the only Nets who are currently guaranteed that summer. (Of course that could change with so many free agent decisions over the next two summers.)
There was a lot of speculation after the ugly departures of the Big Three that Brooklyn would not be the free agent destination it was with the Clean Sweep. The Nets vehemently deny that, dismiss it as noise. Bridges obviously doesn’t think much of it either.
- Why Mikal Bridges is the talented, malleable force players want to roll with - Jake Fischer - Yahoo! Sports.