clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mikal Bridges: ‘We need to make the playoffs and just be a scary team’

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Let’s face it. In the aftermath of a trade deadline that saw its two superstars head off for what they see as greener pastures, better fits, the Nets are an afterthought, at least in the eyes of most pundits and assorted analysts.

That, however, is not how Mikal Bridges sees it.

“We all want to win, and I just feel like as time keeps going, we are going to keep getting better. We need to make the playoffs and just be a scary team,” Bridges told Marc J. Spears of Andscape.

As Spears notes, Bridges is the “potential face of the franchise.” Indeed, after breaking the news that Kevin Durant was headed to Phoenix for a package centered on Bridges, Adrian Wojnarowski told his ESPN audience that Bridges was someone “the Nets have coveted for some time,” calling him “one of the best young two-way players in the league.”

Later that day, Sean Marks confirmed Woj’s comments, adding, “I think he’s really underrated and I look forward to him just watching him kind of explode here, to be really honest,”

So far, so good. Bridges has averaged 25.0 points in three games, including his monster 45-8-5-2-2 line the day before the All-Star Break began vs. the Heat. His shooting splits, even factoring in his and the team’s stinker vs. the Knicks, are 54/57/87. And as Jimmy Butler can attest, his defense has lived up to its billing.

“Mostly I’m just being aggressive, which is how I kind of was when Book [Booker] or C [Paul] was out when I was on the Suns,” Bridges explained to Spears who runs the ESPN-affiliated site. “Just the same situation. Just be more aggressive. There’s more than just shooting, as well. Still defending and still finding your teammates to try to make the right play every single time, honestly, that’s kind of my mindset on it.”

Indeed, as Spears notes, whenever he’s been called on, he’s been ready. During Booker’s recent 21-game absence, from December 26 to February 6, Bridges averaged 19.3 points, 4.9 assists and 4.0 rebounds. Going deeper, as snarl2 did on our comment page, the numbers still look good...

Bridges has played 30 games where he’s been the offensive lead -- 27 games with the Suns without Booker — and three games with the Nets. His stats in those games are the following:


45% FG

38% 3Pt

89% FT

Along with elite defense. And he’s been getting better as the season has gone up. In the last 15 games where he played lead, his stats were the following:


50% FG

42% 3Pt

89% FT

Even if you take out the final game where he scored 45, his stats look great


48% FG

39% 3Pt

88% FT

In fact, his offense, including that 45-point outburst vs. Miami, even surprised his new head coach.

“That last month when Booker was out [Bridges] really took a step in his game that, I’m going to be honest, I didn’t know he had in him with his ability to shoot the ball off the bounce and his ability to play pick-and-roll. We did a little bit of that the first game he was with us. We really think he can initiate some offense, play pick-and-roll, and push the pace himself. I’m impressed with what he has done so far and think he can do more.”

As Spears notes, Bridges has shown a remarkable ability to cope with what has happened, going from a fourth option in Phoenix to the first in Brooklyn while moving across the country.

“It’s kind of cool just be part of this and go through that whole trade process,” Bridges told Andscape before the Nets’ 124-106 loss to the Knicks on February 13. “Just midseason going to a whole other team, different concepts, people are different. It’s just a whole other city. It’s kind of cool to me, honestly, just see what you’re made of. I know it’s not easy and I’m not going to be the person that dwells on it and [is] upset about it. I just want to take action. I know times get tough with moving around, trying to find a spot. I feel I can just show that a person, like myself, when the going is tough, I’ll go for it …

“I always preach what Monty always preaches, ‘You ain’t getting sent off to war.’ So, I always have that mindset. Just like life goes on, it’s part of it.”

That humility is also refreshing after what Nets fans have gone through. The test of course will come with the integration of the 6’6” wing into a deep, if wing heavy, rotation. Bridges seems ready for that as well.

“I’m not really thinking about becoming an All-Star. I am just trying to get better, honestly,” Bridges said. “Just each year, [I] try to get better and if that happens, it happens. I try to do everything just to get better and try to help the team win.”

“The team,” of course, is now the Brooklyn Nets and he will be called on to show how much offensive firepower he can supply in helping the team get to the playoffs and once again be scary.

The Spears interview was one of two to drop on Friday. J.J. Redick and Tommy Alter talked with Bridges on their “Old Man and the Three” podcast.

In the interview, Redick noted that according to an ESPN stat package he received the day of the trade, Bridges has spent more minutes guarding All-Stars than any other player. Redick also says the Nets fielded five offers for Bridges from other teams between the time Brooklyn and Phoenix agreed to the deal shortly after midnight and the 3:00 p.m. ET deadline.