The Nets are coming off one of the most turbulent seasons the franchise has had in quite some time and looking to put that in the rearview in 2022-23. The return of Kevin Durant, a full-time Kyrie Irving and a healthy Ben Simmons has put the expectations back on Brooklyn to compete for a title.
That has been the belief for the past few seasons since Durant and Irving arrived in Kings county, but after there was speculation that Irving wouldn’t be back and Durant requested a trade during the offseason that was very much in question. The Nets still have plenty to overcome and entered training camp with plenty of questions.
“I think everybody, we all have a lot to prove,” Nic Claxton said about the team’s mindset this season. “From top to bottom. The way the year ended later year being swept (by the Boston Celtics) and just like I said top to bottom everybody. We all have a lot to prove. We all have a lot of different things, our own agendas that will help the team.”
The first two games of the preseason were far from perfect, but things started to come together as the exhibition calendar went on. Ben Simmons will be a key addition this season after not getting the chance to have Simmons on the floor last season after acquiring him via trade.
Royce O’Neale will be another important piece, especially with the health of Joe Harris a bit of a question mark.
Here are some of the biggest keys and questions for the Nets as they prepare to open the new season at Barclays Center against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Joe Harris’ health
This was something that many people thought had been closed off the list of things to worry about. However, Joe Harris’ health is once again a question as the Nets prepared to open the new year.
Harriss played in just one preseason game for the Nets before soreness in his foot kept him off the court for the rest of the preseason and he has been ruled out of Wednesday’s season opener. Harris told the New York Daily News that there had not been any specific moment or incident that had triggered the issue and that he was working his way back.
“I’m hoping to be back here pretty soon, full go,” Harris said. “But even when I am, I’ll still be at a little bit of a limited capacity.”
O’Neale is expected to jump into the role for Harris while he’s still working his way back. The offseason trade acquisition had a good preseason and was Nash’s first option off the bench for both games in Brooklyn.
Ben Simmons impact
The Nets acquired Simmons at the trade deadline last season with the expectation that he would help facilitate the team’s offense and be a big part of Brooklyn’s defense. As the saying goes, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry and boy did it ever for the Nets with Simmons.
Now he’s healthy and fully ready to go. His playmaking ability has been seen throughout the preseason at times when he has been on the court and that will go a long way during the regular season. So much has been made about Simmons’ shooting ability, but Nets coach Steve Nash has said repeatedly that it wasn’t something they had been harping on for him.
“I think he’s grown throughout the preseason,” Nash said. “I think he’s gaining a confidence, familiarity with our group and the environment itself.”
The New Big 3
Nets fans had gotten a taste of it during the preseason, and now the wait is over to see what Durant, Irving and Simmons can do on the court together when the games actually mean something. It has been a work in progress to get the trio in sync with one another, but all three have spoken glowingly about playing with one another and now get the chance to prove just how dangerous that they can be.
Tough schedule out of gate
The Nets will find out pretty quickly what kind of team they are. Yes, they’ll be without Harris and fellow sharpshooter Seth Curry, but with a gauntlet of a schedule through the first 20 games, it will be a good litmus test for Brooklyn.
They’ll have to play 12 of their first 20 on the road and they have five back-to-backs on the calendar in that span.