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3 takeaways from Nets preseason opener vs. 76ers

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Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant handles the ball during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in New York.
AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson

The Nets new Big 3 hit the court on Monday night for the first time at Barclays Center after months and months of anticipation. Brooklyn fell 127-108, but in a game that meant just about nothing, there were plenty of tidbits to glean from the effort.

After a week of training camp and one preseason game in the book, it’s clear who the Nets starting five will be out of the gate. Still, there will be minutes to battle for and chemistry to build. 

Here are three takeaways from the Nets’ first exhibition matchup. 

A glimpse of what the Big 3 can do

Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say and neither will the chemistry between the new Nets core. Ben Simmons, appearing in his first game in 470 days, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving took some time to get used to one another and the opening part of Monday’s preseason tilt against the 76ers wasn’t pretty, but as the night went on the Big 3 started to develop a bit of that chemistry that so many had expected them to showcase.

Simmons, Irving and Durant all played 19 minutes in the first half before sitting the entire second half of the game. Durant led the way with 13 points while putting up four assists and pulling down four rebounds, Irving shot 4-of-8 from the field and had nine points and Simmons had six points and recorded a team high five assists.

There were moments where things looked out of whack and rusty as expected, but when the three started gelling a bit more it was easy to see why the franchise had been so eager to get them on the court. 

As for whe that chemistry will completely come, it’s still a little ways away. 

“When we win games in the regular season,” Durant said. “It’s kind of hard to say. I think you know you get used to your teammates every day. You talk, have conversations about where you see each other and how you can help each other, and go from there. So the dialogue is always on with Kai, Ben, myself, Royce, the rest of the guys. So I think it just happens.”

Royce O’Neale stands out 

In his first game in black and white, Royce O’Neale definitely made the case for playing time going forward. With the added depth and health this season, playing time is going to be hard to come by and O’Neale will be battling for it. 

He was the first one to come off the bench, taking the spot of Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris, and instantly knocking down three from the wing when Simmons found him for a cross-court pass. O’Neale finished with 11 points and shot 2-of-4 from three-point range in 17 minutes on the court. 

The 3-and-D wing also pulled down a pair of defensive rebounds in the effort. 

“I think Royce is going to be a great addition for us,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “Incredible IQ and feel for the game on both sides of the ball. I think he’s going to tie the room together on many occasions.”

A good crowd in Brooklyn

As the Nets head into their 10th anniversary season in Brooklyn, they had a good-sized crowd on hand for the first game of the year. Now the game means nothing, but drawing 13,250 fans to Barclays Center for an exhibition contest is a good start to the 10th anniversary season.

The Nets have begun to make inroads in the market since they transitioned from New Jersey to Brooklyn 10 years ago and began playing at Barclays Center, which they had also shared with the NHL’s New York Islanders for a period of time. It will be interesting to see if they can replicate the crowd during Thursday’s preseason game against Miami. 

For more Nets coverage, visit amNY.com and our affiliate site at TheBrooklynGame.com

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