Mikal Bridges speaks during Nets player exit interviews at their training facility...

Mikal Bridges speaks during Nets player exit interviews at their training facility on Monday. Credit: Jeff Bachner

At media day in October, Mikal Bridges said that the playoffs were his expectation for this season. On Monday, Bridges and his teammates were blunt on not meeting that mark.

“You could say it was a failure, 100%,” Bridges said during exit interviews. “It's tough, you know? Especially seeing the teams that are in there [the playoffs)] and you just know the talent we have and things like that.

Added Cam Johnson: “Obviously we failed in our mission this year, point-blank period, no way around that.”

At 32-50, there’s plenty of blame to go around for the Nets missing the postseason. Enough was heaped on Jacque Vaughn to cost him his coaching job. Now the Nets have plenty of time to sort out where they go from here.

For Nic Claxton, that plan is more literal than for most of his teammates. It’s his first time as an unrestricted free agent and, after five seasons with the Nets, he's weighing all of his options.

“At the end of the day, I trusted in my body,” Claxton said. “I trusted in all the work that I put in this offseason and now the time is here. So we’ll see what happens.”

It’s one of several things that could change the makeup of the Nets. Claxton is expected to command a contract that could pay between $20-25 million annually.

Johnson mentioned the team needed to close out games better. Cam Thomas added there needed to be more consistency with responding to teams going on a run.

Bridges blamed himself for letting his emotions get to him at times. He mentioned the Dec. 27 loss to the Bucks, a game the Nets rested four players and pulled three more early, as a moment where he felt hurt and angry by the team’s decision.

At the same time, he could’ve handled it and other moments better. It reminded him why taking a leadership role this season taught him to manage his reactions better.

“I think mentally I wasn’t as strong and positive as I should’ve been, which brings it down to the offensive end and how I’m playing and being so frustrated,” Bridges said. “And I think toward the end, being so beat up mentally and lacking confidence, I think that hurt me as well.”

Johnson also cited that time of year in December and January as a turning point. The Nets were 13-10 after beating the Suns on Dec. 13 but then lost 14 of their next 17 games.

Still, the Nets were optimistic that a new coach could change things. Claxton thinks a decision will happen “sooner rather than later”, which might explain general manager Sean Marks not being made available to reporters.

For the players, they wanted someone who can be detail-oriented. Someone who’ll be transparent and establish good habits the team can fall back on. Someone who will allow players to play free because they know their team identity on both ends of the floor.

It’s the first step in an offseason where things have to change. Eleven players are under contract next season so there’s time to build more chemistry.

If last season felt like failure, the focus starts now to ensure those struggles and bad habits don’t carry over with a new coach next season.

"That's where my head's at right now,” Johnson said. “How we can elevate the organization, how we can be better on the court, off the court and get back on track to where we think we should be.”

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