Some of our writers got together to give their responses on what we should expect from the Brooklyn Nets during the NBA restart.
Lucas Kaplan: The 2016 Yankees were treading water at .500, often on the verge of drowning, facing the July 31 trade deadline. GM Brian Cashman knew the team couldn’t contend and sold his overpriced veterans at the deadline for the first time in decades. Mark Teixeira then announced he would retire at the end of the season, and Alex Rodriguez announced he would retire in a week and a half, for some reason. The Yankees were giving up on a late season playoff push, and their biggest star was forfeiting the chance to hit 700 home runs (retiring with 696). Hordes of cameras disappeared. The team was suddenly stocked with eager faces playing for an organization only kind of focused on results, and fans who just wanted to learn their names. Which is how the current Brooklyn Nets arrive at the ‘meaningful games’ portion of The Bubble.
Those 2016 Yankees proceeded to rip off their best stretch of baseball all year following the deadline. Having escaped the burden of expectations, a suddenly baby-faced squad managed to get within 1 game of a Wild Card spot before ultimately falling short in September. You can’t really lose found money. Brooklyn did not arrive in Orlando with any of their own money. Their roster is stuffed with loose change that’s fallen out of other people’s pockets. But that can be liberating, for both new and familiar faces. Tyler Johnson has been guaranteed an opportunity to prove he is a valuable NBA guard. Caris LeVert will be taking more shots per game than he has since high school, and everyone can finally get off Jarrett Allen’s back. This team will be having fun again, and sometimes that can earn you a game or two. It’s how the Clippers took the Warriors to 6 games just last postseason.
The Nets aren’t that good, obviously. They’re equipped with such little ammo that I think it’s plausible to hope they embrace tanking by going, like, 1-7. I just have a sneaking suspicion that playing more freely than any other team in Orlando will enhance how competitive Brooklyn is. They still can’t pose a threat to Milwaukee (or Toronto), but playing relaxed basketball might be all it takes to go, say 3-5. Especially in the strangest environment NBA basketball has ever seen.
Justin Carter: This Nets team isn’t at 100%. Heck, they aren’t even at 75%. Team performance in the bubble will say nothing about the future of this team.
But I do think a few players can show some things individually during this time. Chief among them is Caris LeVert.
Is LeVert a key piece of the Durant/Kyrie Nets? Is he a trade option? How will he look as the (likely) lead option on this depleted Nets team? There are lots of things to think about with LeVert.
The other thing I’m looking for is effort and coaching. It’s been a long time since we’ve had NBA basketball, but if you remember back to the days when the NBA was last happening, you’ll remember that the Nets let Kenny Atkinson go. Can Jacque Vaughn coach his way into being the coach for Brooklyn next year? These next eight games will help us learn a lot about that possibility.
Alec Sturm: Sure, the Nets roster is depleted. They’re missing stars and role players alike, young prospects and aging veterans. However, the spotlight has never been brighter for the players still left. One could view this as a negative, but it’s a great opportunity to evaluate talent? How can Chris Chiozza run an offense? How will Jarrett Allen matchup against stars, even Giannis Antetokounmpo, who the Nets could see in the conference finals next year? Can Caris Levert carry the offense? Obviously, expectations have been lowered. But an opportunity for Sean Marks and Co. to see what they’ve got has never been more apparent.
Justin Thomas: Let’s be honest, the Nets’ roster heading into the NBA restart looks like a varsity team that had to call up a bunch of guys from JV because players were academically ineligible for the upcoming game. The team, already without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, is missing key rotational pieces such as Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and Wilson Chandler. I’ll be looking for a few things but mainly want to see this group go out there and give it their all for 48 minutes. The talent on this team is nowhere near where it should be to be truly competitive come playoff time. However, some enjoyment can come out of this.
For starters one thing I’ll be looking at is the play of Caris LeVert. Before the NBA went on hiatus LeVert was playing arguably his best ball since last year’s playoffs. During the Nets last five games LeVert amassed a triple-double against the Spurs and a 51-point masterpiece against the Celtics. This could be a place where LeVert makes a statement and shows the Nets don’t need to trade for a 3rd star because he is that 3rd star.
Another thing I’ll be looking at is if Chris Chiozza can keep up his strong play. “Cheese” has won the hearts of the Nets faithful and with an opportunity to play big minutes for this club I’ll be looking to see if he truly can be a reliable guard for this team next season.
And finally I’ll be looking at some of the new Nets acquisitions such as Jamal Crawford, Donta Hall and Lance Thomas. Perhaps one of them impresses enough to warrant a spot on next year’s Nets squad. You know, the “for really real” team with a healthy KD and Kyrie. And let’s be honest WE ALL want to see Crawford put on a dribble clinic and drop buckets in the bubble. Nets fans shouldn’t stress too much bout whatever happens in the bubble (barring an injury). So sit back, grab a cold one (if you’re of age) and enjoy Nets basketball being back. I know I will.
Geoff Magliocchetti: In the final verse of “Like a Rolling Stone”, Bob Dylan wrote “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose”. He may have well been describing the Brooklyn Nets’ 2020 Disney World endeavors 55 years in advance.
Barring a sudden retirement from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets had the luxury of temporarily throwing away their panic button. It came at the cost of the realization that a 2020 NBA Finals appearance was more than likely not to be. But this season was never about contending with the Bucks or Raptors. It was a 2017 New York Yankees-style consequence-free season, a chance to experiment and see how things played out, a season of biding time until the team reverted to full strength. If the Nets won games, they were ahead of schedule. If they lost, it’d be a shame. That feeling only increases in Orlando, with the exception of interim head coach Jacque Vaughn (who very well could be playing for full-time duties).
Already depleted by injuries, the Nets were particularly picked on by COVID-19, necessitating the arrival of several newcomers that weren’t even on the roster when we last saw Brooklyn take the court. Some will be making their 2019-20 debuts entirely. The Nets probably should make the playoff round, if only because they were able to build a sizable cushion on the woebegone Wizards in ninth. They’ll be fun to watch because they’ll be a team playing with reckless abandon with absolutely nothing to lose. Any extension of their Floridian endeavors is a gift. As long as effort is given over these final stanzas, there should be no cause for disappointment.