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LI Nets prepare for condensed G League season in Disney bubble

The Long Island Nets and Santa Cruz Warriors

The Long Island Nets and Santa Cruz Warriors center Deyonta Davis to start an NBA G League basketball game at Nassau Coliseum on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Long Island Nets basketball is back. And they won’t have to worry about grabbing a snow shovel.

The Long Island Nets, the Brooklyn Nets’ G League affiliate, are one of 18 teams playing in a condensed season this winter. The Nets will play 15 games over 25 days at the Walt Disney World resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

The Nets open Feb. 10 and play their 15th contest March 6. The season will feature an eight-team single-elimination playoff.

"This is such a unique experience and our guys are incredibly motivated," coach Bret Brielmaier said on the Nets’ virtual media day on Monday afternoon. "They get to play this game again and some of them have been off 8-to-10 months."

Last year’s G League season was suspended March 12 and ultimately canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Players are adjusting to being away from their families, but they are happy to be playing after months of uncertainty.

"It’s just about adapting," guard CJ Massinburg said. "Us, as humans, we’re made to adapt to any environment that we’re put in, so I like how the G League and the NBA was able to get us in a pretty good spot to execute this plan."

The Nets were 19-23 last season. They went 34-16 the season prior, and lost in the finals.

Players and coaches emphasized the importance of staying mentally and physically healthy over the stretch of 15 games in 25 days.

"That’s a lot on your body right there, so you need to be mentally ready for that," guard Shannon Scott said. "Mentally, put yourself in a situation where you are ready to accept that challenge but also physically, you really got to take care of your body."

The NBA and WNBA successfully finished seasons and crowned champions in bubbles last year. The G League hopes for the same.

"We’re doing our best to protect ourselves and protect each other," Long Island Nets general manager Matt Riccardi said. "Obviously things happen. There are 17 other teams in the bubble that are all dealing with the same things, so we are trying to keep ourselves as safe as possible and follow protocols and hold everyone else accountable that we can."

Playing for Jo-Jo Wright

Brielmaier said the team had a "powerful conversation" following the car accident and death of Jo-Jo Wright, a star boys basketball player at Uniondale High School.

Wright, 15, was killed in a car accident Wednesday afternoon (Jan. 27). Brielmaier said Riccardi brought up the subject around the team, which sparked a meaningful conversation among the players and coaches, and reminded them how lucky they are to be playing basketball.

"Our guys have kind of rallied around that and are making the most of this opportunity," Riccardi said, "and playing for him and all the other people who are out of work right now or will never be able to play this game."

The Long Island Nets traditionally play their games at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale.

"We know his family is going through a lot right now, but we definitely want to dedicate our season to the Wright family, everyone at Uniondale High School," Scott said. "Just know that we’re thinking about them every day and we’re going to play a little bit harder, just for Jo-Jo."

New York Sports