NBA basketball is back at the Barclays with the Nets first preseason game of the year scheduled to take place against the Philadelphia 76ers, It could be the first chance that fans will get to see the new Big 3 of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons.
The game will be the first of four that Brooklyn will play before their season opener on Oct. 19 at Barclays Center. The Miami Heat will travel to Brooklyn for the Nets’ second exhibition contest before playing two on the road the following week.
The Nets opened camp on Tuesday at HSS Training Center in Sunset Park with plenty of intrigue surrounding the team going into this year after a very chaotic offseason. Here are three things to look for in Monday’s game.
Ben Simmons finally playing a game
It won’t count, but it will be a significant moment seeing Ben Simmons on the court in a Nets jersey for the first time since being acquired at the trade deadline last season. Head coach Steve Nash said that “barring any setbacks” Simmons would be available for Brooklyn in their first preseason game.
After a saga in itself for Simmons to get to this point for the Nets, Nash seemed thrilled to be able to finally move past it when he spoke with reporters on Sunday.
“It’s a lot of fun for me,” Nash said. “I’m such a believer in his game. He’s such a dynamic, unique player and he does so many things well on the basketball court. I think he’s a great compliment to our team. He makes his teammates better at both ends, so just give him the support and platform to return from the injury and the long layoff. Allowing him to continue to grow with our group. It’s very exciting.”
Kevin Durant’s playing time
The Nets superstar told reporters on Friday that he would play in all four preseason games coming up, but that he wasn’t sure how many minutes he’d see on the court. However, Nash seemed to temper that expectation when he spoke to the media on Sunday after practice.
“Yeah, that’d be great. That’d be great,” Nash said. “If he’s in a good place physically, it’d be great if he could play all the games.”
Regardless of how many games Durant will get during the exhibition calendar, he’s sure to be in a good place physically. He has spent the offseason working out with various players across the league and should be back this season with an added drive after the quick ending to Brooklyn’s playoff aspirations.
How some players respond to new competition
The Nets had a number of players come into the lineup last season and make an impact on the floor. A large part of that had to do with the chaotic nature that the season took on as injuries and COVID reared their ugly heads. Players like Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe and Nic Claxton moved into regular roles at times during the year.
Claxton continued to be that as well once things started to stabilize, but this season there will be significant competition with Kyrie Irving back full time and a number of the offseason additions that general manager Sean Marks made. That will impact a couple of guys, especially Thomas.
“We’ll see how it goes after training camp. But he clearly is on a veteran team with a lot of guys who can play, have had a lot of success,” Nash said earlier this week. “We know Cam’s talented, and just trying to continue to develop him and see if he can keep pushing and getting better at certain things that’ll help him get minutes. “I said whether he plays or he doesn’t play, he has to stay positive, he has to keep the belief that this process is going to help him.
“So, as last year we saw he played stretches of the season and carried a large load at certain times during the year and then other times he doesn’t play, that’s very valid and possible this year.”