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ESSAY: We are in silly season as trade proposals for Mikal Bridges fly

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NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

It is silly season. For fans of teams who are longer playing (and for some whose team still is!), the period between the lottery and NBA Draft is fraught with silly trade rumors (if you can call them that), silly free agency signings and such obvious clickbait. It’s not that the playoff games aren’t entertaining (stick to boxing, Mr. Mannix). It’s just that fans, particularly the diehards, want more of everything particularly, bright, shiny objects.

This silly season seems to revolve around Mikal Bridges who some fans want traded to Portland in a package for the Blazers No. 3 pick and maybe Anfernee Simons, the mercurial 6’3” combo guard. Others think he should be traded for his pal and off-season workout partner, Damian Lillard. You have to consider it, tweets one fan. Not to be one-upped, other fans say you have to do it, not just consider it! Scoot Henderson, or Brandon Miller, are generational talents (despite never having played a minute yet in the NBA and their obvious flaws.)

Nothing can deter the rumors. Not what John Holllinger wrote on Wednesday...

On a related front, I have some terrible news for fans generating fake Mikal Bridges trades: The Nets don’t seem to have much incentive to play ball here. Brooklyn owes unprotected picks to Houston in 2024 and 2026 and unprotected swaps in 2025 and 2027. Thus, Brooklyn trading its good players and tanking would do a lot more for the Rockets than the Nets. Brooklyn’s likely best path forward is to muddle along with a Bridges-centric team, especially since he’s signed through 2026 to one of the league’s best contracts.

Not what his Athletic colleague and Nets beat writer Alex Schifferr wrote on Thursday...

Coming out of the combine, my understanding was the Nets aren’t interested in trading Bridges to Portland and would want more than the No. 3 pick and Simons (or Shaedon Sharpe) than just those two assets, if they did. That makes sense, too. If the Blazers are that desperate to help Dame, why not push for more?

Moreover, beyond the commentary that the Nets don’t want to trade Bridges to Portland is the Nets marketing of Bridges as the face of the franchise across team social media, the most recent showing him with team owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai.

On Tuesday night, Bridges along with his “twin” Cam Johnson were the guests of the Tsais at the Gordon Parks Foundation awards dinner honoring Wu Tsai for her work on social justice, including the $50 million Brooklyn Social Justice Fund and the REFORM Alliance which is involved in criminal justice reform.

And yes, also on hand was Orlando Magic point guard Cole Anthony who was with his mother, Crystal McCrary, the lawyer, producer and author who was also honored. Anthony and McCrary were at the premiere of “Unfinished Business,” the documentary about the WNBA, produced by Wu Tsai, as well...

(You want a rumor? There’s Cole Anthony standing right there in front of you!)

Bridges was also a featured courtside fan at the Liberty game last weekend, next to Wu Tsai.

Again, that’s all happened in the last three weeks. Bridges also had a good word for the Tsais in an interview with Hoop Herald last week.

“Joe Tsai’s a nice guy. His family’s sweet. I love his wife. His kids are really cool. They’re great people, man,” said Bridges. “They love the city of Brooklyn and they just want to do whatever it takes for the fans. They’re just great. They welcomed me with open arms and it’s been literally ever since.”

Not to mention the belief that Cam Johnson, seems like a lock to be re-signed. Bridges made it clear Friday that he wants the Tsais to get that done...

Dismiss it all, as well as the prominent role Bridges has had in Brooklyn Nets social media, but if you’re objective, it’s hard to dismiss. More importantly, the mutual admiration between owners and player does seem genuine. It’s almost as if the Nets told Bridges he was their guy, the face of the franchise, what you might call the anti-Kyrie. Not that we know that. We don’t. Fans already seem attached. At a season ticket holder event last month, Bridges was mobbed, with a crowd of 30 or so fans moving in tandem like a live multi-cell organism with him as the nucleus.

And yet, the rumors fly. Maybe it’s the narrative that others, most prominently Bobby Marks of ESPN, has hung on Bridges: that he is a first option for only a bad team and no more than a third option on a championship contender, in other words, overrated. Bridges himself admits that he needs to improve a lot of things. But fans should remember that “first option” moniker applies only his offense. His defense and his durability have to considered as well. After all, he was All-Defensive first team in 2021-22 and led the NBA in games and minutes the last two years, something last done by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962!

Sean Marks (no relation) has asked rhetorically who is he to say the 26-year-old isn’t going to improve, take the next step.

“Regarding Mikal, I think he’s proven to a lot of people that his role can continue to get better and better and bigger and bigger, so I think I would be pretty silly to be up here and limit him and say he cannot be something,” Marks said on April 24 in his post-season assessment. “I think that a few people have had their eyes opened to what he can do. But now when the ball’s in his hands in those key crucial moments of games, can he step up?”

“Can he be that guy that we can rely on in big moments? I think we saw it a little bit in Phoenix when Devin Booker was out, he carried a considerable load for them. And then we saw this year where he came in and immediately was a crowd favorite. You could get behind him. It’s just the way he played, how he played and he didn’t shy away from those moments either. So I would definitely not limit him and say he could only be this for us.”

Marks (Sean, not Bobby) had a lot to say about keeping the team core together as well. Again, dismiss it if you wish, but he said it in his post-season assessments given ESPN and the beat reporters.

So what should we be focusing on? The Draft for one because the Nets do have three picks, three more than last year, and because the silliness should abate around then.