When Mikal Bridges seemed to hurt his left wrist on a missed dunk in the second quarter, the Nets wing grimaced a bit, held the wrist then flexed it a bit throughout the rest of the first half. There didn’t appear to be any concern either then or post-game. Bridges finished with 27 points in 40 minutes.
“I just hit my wrist when I missed the dunk. It was just bothering me a little bit,” Bridges said after the game. “Just shaking it off. Nothing worrying.”
Shaking off injuries is what Bridges does. He has now played in 386 regular season games plus another 35 in the post-season, and as of Thursday morning, he leads the NBA in minutes. Bridges now has played 2,774, ahead of Julius Randle 2,738, who’s in second.
Randle, however, sustained an ankle injury that forced him to leave the game Wednesday, playing only 14 minutes, and will put him out for two weeks. Anthony Edwards of the Timberwolves is third with 2,671, but last week he missed three games, So, as long as Bridges streak continues, it looks like he will lead the league in minutes again. Bridges was the minutes champion last season as well with 2,854. (Spencer Dinwiddie ranks ninth with 2,551 this season. Dorian Finney-Smith ranked 10th last season.)
“So far, so good,” said Jacque Vaughn of Bridges wrist injury.
“Everything seems to be OK from the quick synopsis I get from the [medical] group when we walk in together,” Jacque Vaughn said after the game. “I think he was trying to dunk that ball extremely hard with his left hand. That got it in position to start shaking that thing a little bit.”
Sean Marks, who holds the NBA record for fewest minutes played in a career lasting 10 years or longer, understands how big a deal the streak and Bridges durability is.
“You look at how he plays the game,” Marks told ESPN. “Obviously, when he was playing in Phoenix, even dating back to college days, the length, the reliability — he’s nearing 400 games played in a row, it’s pretty unique in this day and age. And for somebody who actually wants to play at that clip is also certainly refreshing.”
Teammates weren’t worried about Bridges’ minor scare, as Andrew Crane of the Post noted.
“He’s a tough dude,” Royce O’Neal said. “If he can walk and run, he’s going to play.”
During Tuesday night’s season ticket holder event at Brooklyn Steel, the 26-year-old was asked where that his desire to stay on the court comes from, He credited Jay Wright, Villanova’s head coach, who pushed the value of durability.
Of course, even before he played all those minutes on the Main Line, Bridges had a reputation. He didn’t miss a game since since the end of his junior year in high school when he had to sit out a game due to illness, one of two he missed in four years. His coach forced him to stay home, concerned he might try to sneak in the game if he made into the gym. So, with the 116 games he played at Villanova as well as the NBA regular season and playoff games, Bridges is now at 537 straight games. Add in that senior year at Great Valley High in Malvern, PA, and you’re up to 561.
“Always just been blessed,” Bridges told The Athletic recently when asked about the secret to his success. “I think my body might get hurt, heals a little faster. Everybody’s body is a little different, but my body will hurt and next day the swelling will go way down. And every time I did get hurt it’s been in the preseason or offseason, I was like in high school or stuff so that kind of helps as well.”
Still, Bridges has a long way to go before he can even think about the NBA record for consecutive games. A.C. Green played in 1,192 consecutive games, a streak that went from 1986 to 2001.
“I don’t think I’m going to make it there,” Bridges Alex Schiffer. “That’s a lot of games. That’s untouchable.”
It’s no secret that in doing the trade deadline deals, the Nets brain trust put a value on minutes. Three of the four players acquired in the deals were top 10 in minutes played at the time of the trades or last season. Why wouldn’t they prioritize durability? By this season’s end, not Kevin Durant, not Kyrie Irving, not Ben Simmons will have played even half their teams’ games over the past four years, missing more than 450 games combined. As Schiffer writes, before the trade deadline, Vaughn told reporters that he wanted to be able to pen, not pencil, his players into the lineup.”
“It’s a good feeling,” Vaughn said of Bridges. “Some things as a coach you don’t want to think about and that’s one of the things. Like you want your dudes to be available on a nightly basis and Mikal Bridges is a guy that takes pride in that, he’s done it his whole career. So when you’re thinking about game-planning and what’s next for the team when you can pen a guy in on a nightly basis, that eases the mind of a coach and what he brings so far has been phenomenal as a human being and as a player.”
As the regular season winds down, Bridges may make a little bit more history if he can play the rest of the way. He will wind up playing 83 games, not 82. As Schiffer notes, he’ll be the first NBA player to do that since Josh Smith in 2014-15, who, after being waived by the Hawks joined the Rockets. And as Nick Friedell notes, only 41 players all-time have played more than 82 games in a season.
“I just want to play every game,” Bridges told Schiffer. “That’s my thing. Even if I’m banged up and I’m hurt a little bit, if I feel like I can go, I’m gonna go.”
- Nets’ Mikal Bridges displays iron-man will after jamming his wrist - Ryan Dunleavy - New York Post
- Nets’ Mikal Bridges is more than NBA’s Iron Man; he’s determined - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic
- Nets’ Mikal Bridges on pace for 83 games, and GM says it’s ‘refreshing’ - Nick Friedell - ESPN