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For Mikal Bridges, milestones beckon on final day of season

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

When the Nets put out their injury report on Saturday, it was filled with a lot of player listed as “questionable” or “out,” but Iron Mik, aka Mikal Bridges, was nowhere to be found. He will be on the court, ready to add to his laurels in the last game of the season.

For openers, Bridges has already secured one milestone, most minutes for the season. For the second straight year, the 26-year-old will have racked up the most minutes in the NBA. Going into the game, Bridges has played 2,963 minutes, 161 more than Anthony Edwards of the Timberwolves. It will be the second straight year Bridges has been the top man in minutes. Last year, he got to 2,854. It’s been 31 years since a player led the league in minutes back-to-back, not since Chris Mullin did it in 1990-91 and 1991-92. That’s durability!

And if you do some quick math, you’ll realize that Brides is also only 37 minutes short of 3,000 minutes. It’s something that’s only been accomplished 174 times, by only 51 players, in NBA history, the last time by Bradley Beal who put up 3,028 in 2018-19. That, of course, seems unlikely. It’s hard to imagine Jacque Vaughn leaving Bridges on the court for 37 minutes in a meaningless game this afternoon.

Moreover, Sunday will be Bridges 83rd game this season. That’s something that’s only been done 41 times previously. Of course, that’s also a function of the trade that brought Bridges to Brooklyn. It’s been eight years since that happened. Josh Smith did it last in 2014-15, doing it for Houston and Detroit.

How does he do it? Barbara Barker asked him last week. His answer was a little surprising.

“I definitely got a work ethic from watching my Mom,” Bridges told Newsday. “I just want to be out there all the time and play. It got really serious when I got to ‘Nova. Coach [Jay] Wright didn’t want you to miss a game unless you are really hurt. That mentality really grew when I was in college.”

Bridges of course has played in 392 NBA games, but he also didn’t miss a game in three years at Villanova. The last time he missed any game was when he was a junior at Grand Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, when he was sick. Since then, all told including NBA playoffs, the number is now more than 560.

The NBA record for consecutive games played is a long way off. A.C. Green played in 1,192 between 1986 through 2001. The record would appear to be safe, based on what he told Barker.

“If I can play, I’m going to, play,” Bridges said. “Yeah, I do take pride in it. But I think when people talk about a streak — I guess A.C. Green back in the day he would clock in and get some minutes and get out, I would never do that. If I can’t go, I’m not going to go.”

For the Nets of course one big issue in the Big Three era was that minutes matter. Over the course of the past four years, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and now Ben Simmons played in fewer than half the game for which they were eligible.

“Availability is the best ability,” Nic Claxton said, succinctly. “He’s playing at an All-Star rate right now, so it’s good having him out there, for sure.”

“He’s the Ironman,” said Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie.

In other words, minutes matter.