The Nets have taken a season that looked as though it would be a lost cause and have now won nine straight to take hold of third in the Eastern Conference. Considering where the Nets were when they fired head coach Steve Nash and were embroiled in an off-the-court controversy, this team has looked and felt different in recent weeks.
Brooklyn made the most of a weaker period of the schedule and several banged-up teams that they had to face and made a statement in their last two with wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Nets’ success has had many people asking what has changed in Kings County and how did they turn this year around.
Here are three reasons the Nets have turned into a winning ball club again.
The Jacque Vaughn effect
There’s no doubt the change in head coach has had a positive impact on the Nets. Vaughn is now 20-7 since taking over running the bench and his system and style have helped the Nets improve.
One thing that a number of players have talked about was the freedom he has given them on the floor and in their preparation. In turn that has forced the players to be more accountable that they’re doing what they need to do in order to be ready on the court for an opponent.
“He gives us a lot of leeway, but at the same time, it’s a lot of responsibility,” Ben Simmons said earlier this month.
Vaughn’s also been changing up the team’s practice schedule and pregame schedule, doing away with morning shootarounds and giving the team what he has called “get what you need” days. All of that has been part of Vaughn’s strategy of managing the physical toll on his players.
The Nets are just hooping
As much as the Nets and their front office had talked about being free of the drama this season, that didn’t last long at the beginning of the year. First, the losses and injuries piled up and then a controversy surrounding Kyrie Irving and his sharing a link to a film filled with anti-Semitic tropes put a cloud of the team.
But since Irving returned from an eight-game suspension, the Nets have remained controversy free and the focus has remained on basketball. It’s clear how much that has helped the team on the court as they’ve won 13 of their last 14 games and 18 of their previous 23.
“Basketball,” Vaughn told reporters in Cleveland before Monday’s win over the Cavs. “We have not steered away from today is today. The most important part of today is we’re trying to win this ballgame. When we step into the gym every single day it’s about basketball. How we’re going to take care of each other on the floor, cover for each other on the floor, it’s about basketball.”
Team coming together
Kevin Durant and Irving get all the headlines, and rightfully so, but what has also been a major factor in the turnaround has been the contributions beyond just the two superstars. They’re both having massive efforts for the Nets and that can’t go unacknowledged here — Durant surpassed Tim Duncan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list Monday.
Still, Ben Simmons has begun to find his rhythm as a facilitator for the Nets offense, coming up with rebounds and even putting the ball in the net. T.J. Warren has quickly gelled as well since returning to the court, which included a 23 point effort from him against the Cavaliers and marked the first time in two years that he ha a 20-point game.
Nic Claxton has also become an important piece for the Nets as the team’s big man