A young fan walked up to Mikal Bridges at the Vitamin Shoppe and flashed a wide smile while they took pictures Saturday. After shaking Bridges’ hand, the fan’s mouth got wider with shock as if he couldn’t believe they met.
It showed some of the joy Nets fans had while meeting Bridges as he signed autographs for two hours. There even were a few Suns fans who were glad he now plays nearby, even if it isn’t for their team.
“It’s crazy and it’s a small world,” Bridges said. “They’re Phoenix fans that moved to Brooklyn, so it’s all cool.”
It’s also part of Bridges’ adjustment to being the face of the Nets. Bridges took that responsibility further by greeting the Nets’ draftees Friday after they were introduced.
Noah Clowney, one of the team’s first-round picks, admired Bridges for how he went from being an All-Defensive player to the Nets’ No. 1 scoring option after he was traded in February.
“I like [him] because of the role he played with the Suns and then to come here and step up. Kind of waited his turn,” Clowney said.
Bridges returned the love, praising Clowney, Dariq Whitehead and Jalen Wilson for their work ethic. It also reminded him of his own draft day five years ago, except Bridges went from being drafted by his hometown 76ers to being traded to the Suns.
“Lucky for them, they didn’t have to go nowhere. They stayed instead of finding out somewhere in the morning,” Bridges said. “I’m definitely excited for them and just know that feeling, especially their families as well. I’m happy for them.”
He also confirmed his commitment to play for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup this summer (he’ll be joined by teammate Cam Johnson). Training camp will be in Las Vegas before the tournament starts in the Philippines on Aug. 25.
“It’s an honor, it really is. Just appreciative they asked me to be a part of it,” Bridges said. “I don’t think no was even an option in my head, so I’m just blessed to even have the opportunity.”
As glad as he is to play with Johnson this summer, he’s also stayed in his ear about remaining in Brooklyn. Johnson is a restricted free agent and will be highly coveted once teams can begin negotiating with players Friday at the start of free agency.
Bridges and Johnson have played together their entire NBA careers and remain close friends. General manager Sean Marks reiterated this past week that he wants Johnson back, as the Nets can match any team’s offer sheet.
That leaves Bridges to just keep lobbying his friend to stay. Just one more job that comes with being the leader of the Nets’ new era.
“When I’m texting him or talking to him, he knows what’s on my mind,’’ Bridges said. “So he definitely knows I want him here and nowhere else.”