The All-Star Break is not mid-season nor the halfway point. It’s now two-thirds into the season. for the Nets who are 34-24, it’s actually 70.7%. Of course, with all the roster movement, one could say the break is more like the beginning of a season.
No matter what the percentage, however, the Nets are at a crossroads. They are still the fifth seed, two games ahead of the Knicks, two and a half ahead of the Heat. They are as healthy as they’ve ever been in Brooklyn with no one on the injury report in their last game and presumably that will also be the case when they take the floor at United Center in Chicago Friday night. The issue of course is how well with they do without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and with Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith. So far, they’re 2-2 and if not for a bad none call at the end of the 76ers game, they’d be 3-1.
So where are we? First things first, they face a tough schedule coming out of the gate. Of their first 11 games, nine will be on the road and the opponents include the Bucks home and away; the Celtics away; the Knicks at the Garden, the Nuggets in Denver. Their longest road trip for the remainder of the season will take them to Houston, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Denver and Oklahoma City in seven days beginning March 7. It is the toughest remaining schedule in the NBA, per the Daily News.
And as both Brian Lewis and Kristian Winfield write Wednesday, the team’s goal changed at the trade deadline. No longer is the title the thing. It’s more about starting the rebuild, holding on their playoff hopes and seeing who’s worth keeping, who can bring back assets in the summer. Lewis notes that the Nets already have had offers of four firsts for Bridges, two for Finney-Smith.
A lot will depend on chemistry with four new players in the rotation and how much more experimentation will newly extended Jacque Vaughn carry out. He’s gone from a rotation of 12 players immediately after the big trades to 10 and with hopes of getting to nine by the post-season, whether it’s the playoffs or the play-in. Good health is indeed a blessing but it might lead to some bruised egos. We’ve already seen that with Cam Thomas.
Then, there’s Ben Simmons situation. Our Lucas Kaplan wrote about that Wednesday morning. Vaughn isn’t guaranteeing anything with the 6’10” and that includes where he plays. As Steve Lichtenstein writes, that doesn’t sound like fun.
While many fans are looking forward to seeing whether Bridges can replicate his 45-8-5-2-2 performance vs. the Heat or whether Nic Claxton can continue to challenge for the Defensive Player of the Year, the pundits are less sanguine about the Nets, particularly on offense. They are also predicting the Nets fans may have to deal with an F-word other than fun: frustration.
Questions will abound: how do Dinwiddie and Simmons fit? Is Cam Thomas going to get big minutes? Will the Nets add a big, someone like Tony Bradley or Moses Brown, to the roster before the March 1 buyout deadline to give Claxton some rest? How many wings can one play? We will start to find out in two days.
- How Nets can pick up the pieces after Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving trades - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Playoffs? Nets tough schedule could bump them down the standings - Kristian WInfield - New York Daily News
- The Nets At The Break: Sorry, But This Isn’t Going to Be That Fun - Steve Lichtenstein - Steve’s Newsletter