When Mikal Bridges steps on the court in his Brooklyn Nets uniform Wednesday, shakes hands with the Clippers (including James Harden,) he’ll once again hit an “Ironman” milestone: 400 straight NBA games. Although nowhere near A.C. Green’s record of 1,192, it’s the longest current streak in the NBA.
While superstars rack up gaudy per game numbers and the league tries to enforce player participation, Bridges rolls along. Last year, he became the first player ever to lead the NBA in games, minutes and mileage three straight years. He’s also played in 39 straight post-season games and eight FIBA World Cup contests following a stretch of 116 NCAA games (including two championships) at Villanova. Having not missed a game since his junior year in high school, his personal streak is now nearing 600 games.
In answer to a NetsDaily question about the streak at Media Day, Bridges says he doesn’t pay much attention to it. It’s just part of his game.
“The streak is never ... you guys are the ones that remind me of my streak,” he told reporters. “The world and media reminds me of my streak all the time. I don’t look at it like that. If I would’ve missed a game two years ago or a year ago I wouldn’t look at it like, ‘oh damn my streak’s over,’ you know ‘what if I don’t feel well maybe I won’t play today’ ... I’m always gonna play no matter what the situation is.”
But in the Run Your Race podcast that dropped Wednesday, Cam Johnson belied a bit of that seemingly casual attitude towards the streak. CJ recounted how desperate Bridges was to play on arrival in Brooklyn, but how he couldn’t because the deal couldn’t be complete until after everyone in the deal cleared their physicals.
“We get back there, we had physicals as soon as we land,” Johnson told Theo Pinson. “Mikal was trying to play that night against Chicago! He’s like ‘Is there any way I can play tonight?’ I’m like ‘Bro breathe, you don’t even know but two of the coaches. Chill.’
“He know he had that crazy streak going, but it didn’t count as a missed game because he was ineligible to play and he ended up playing 83 anyway. He’s calling people [asking] ‘how can I play today?’ KD is not anywhere near Phoenix right now, he needs to have a physical before the trade clears, so you cannot play tonight. He’s actually kind of upset about it. I’m like, ‘bro breathe.’”
Whether the streak is more relevant to those who follow the Nets — reporters and fans alike — than Bridges himself is lost in a larger issue: the lack of availability by the previous main men on the team. Kevin Durant missed 177 games to injuries over the last four years, Kyrie Irving missed 151 due to suspensions and unexcused absences as well as injuries. That’s a grand total of 328 games for KD and Kyrie over the last four seasons to Bridges’ 0.
Bridges acknowledges there is an element of good fortune in getting to where he is. He also credits Villanova coach Jay Wright with emphasizing the need to be available for games, practices, other team commitments.
“Obviously it’s a blessing but I don’t look into it. I just wanna play every single game I can. If I’m healthy enough to go out and play I’ll play. The streak is… it’s dope though. I’m happy you guys take a part of that and remind me sometimes.”
In an interview with Chris Mannix last June, the 27-year-old Bridges said there are have been a couple of times that things looked bad, including last March after he was traded to Brooklyn.
“I had a couple things,” Bridges told Mannix. “I think one game in Charlotte this year when I was in Brooklyn, I think I landed on my wrist, something happened in the wrist. It kind of went away and when I lifted, everything was fine. Then I got home at night and I just started getting this big heartbeat feeling on my shooting hand. All night I couldn’t sleep. I had teammates in college that broke their hands. And I never did anything like that.
“And I was kind of nervous because it was so painful. I had to order freaking Tylenol and everything so I could calm it, so I could go to sleep. So that moment right there, I was nervous because I was just like, ‘Bro, if it’s broken, I have no choice.’ Then when I woke up next morning, it just all was my wrist. And then I was like, ‘O.K, let me get this looked at. If there’s nothing crazy, I’m just going to get it taped up and I’ll be all right.’ And that was the one point where I was nervous.”
And it should be noted that in the last day of last season, Bridges played only four seconds, permitting him to rest while keeping the streak alive. (It also dropped his scoring average with the Nets from 27.4 per game to 26.1.)
Bridges also told Mannix that while the streak is great, he’s not going to risk exacerbating an injury just to keep it alive.
“Obviously if something’s serious, I won’t risk something wild to be out there. But it’s nothing to do with the streak. I think it’s just me personally. I just don’t want to miss a game no matter if I had a streak or not. I just never want to miss games. I just want to be out there every time and give my team a chance to try to win a game.”
No word on whether the Nets will acknowledge the streak. The game is a big enough deal with James Harden and the Clippers in town. Indeed, you can make an argument that by not making a big deal out of it, you draw attention to its simplicity: a player just wanting to play the game. That is the way it’s supposed to be after all.