The Brooklyn Nets are widely expected to be one of the top contenders for the 2021-22 NBA title, with or without point guard Kyrie Irving.
Brooklyn still has two of the top stars in the NBA in Kevin Durant and James Harden. The Nets added frontcourt veterans such as Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge, with swingman Bruce Brown providing versatility and defense and Joe Harris spacing the floor. Patty Mills gives the Nets a vital backcourt presence, particularly in Irving’s absence.
Injuries prevented the Nets from making a true run at the title last season, but (barring more physical setbacks) they should be in contention this time around. Only, head coach Steve Nash is already trying to temper expectations. The second-year head coach suggested fans need to pump the brakes and prepare for an adjustment period.
This preseason has been a strange one for the Brooklyn Nets
The Nets have experienced a rather peculiar offseason.
Brooklyn replaced the departing Jeff Green with Millsap. After being medically cleared to play, Aldridge returned to the Nets, and the team might have lucked into a future scoring star in Cam Thomas late in the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft.
But there were oddities. The Nets bought out DeAndre Jordan, who promptly signed with the Los Angeles Lakers and had choice words for his former organization. General manager Sean Marks was adamant that Brooklyn would sign both Harden and Irving to extensions. However, it now appears the team would only be willing to re-sign The Beard, and he seems comfortable testing the waters in free agency next summer.
Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated is the most notable happening of the offseason. The Nets declared he would not be eligible to return to the team until fully eligible and subsequently stated they would not pursue extension talks. Uncle Drew might even be a trade candidate, though buyers could be wary of his vaccination status.
All of the strangeness, plus Durant’s and Harden’s limited showings in the preseason, could lead to a slower start for Brooklyn.
Steve Nash says his team has plenty of work to do
It might only be his second year as a head coach, but Steve Nash appears to understand the pressure on himself and his team ahead of the 2021-22 campaign. His latest message could simultaneously lower expectations and motivate his players.
Nash said (h/t the New York Post) the Nets haven’t had enough time on the floor together and will need time to get into a rhythm.
The two-time NBA MVP almost seemed content with finding a middle ground, saying it would be “great” to get off to a “decent” start and bring everyone up to speed in terms of conditioning. Nash might have played in Mike D’Antoni’s “seven seconds or less” offense, but the former player turned coach is avoiding putting the cart before the horse.
The Nets get a playoff rematch with the Milwaukee Bucks on Opening Night
Although Nash is preaching patience, the Nets will likely be motivated to put on a show on Opening Night.
Brooklyn kicks off the season with a playoff rematch against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets nearly defeated Milwaukee last season, pushing the Bucks to seven games despite missing Irving and Harden being hobbled by a hamstring issue.
Speaking of The Beard, the condition of his hamstring could help define the Nets’ start. Harden has been insistent that he feels healthy, but it will be interesting to see how Nash manages his workload. The onus could once again be on Durant to set the tone.
Brooklyn’s push for redemption begins in just a couple of days. But Steve Nash understands it’s an 82-game marathon, rather than a sprint.