Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons controls the ball against the...

Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons controls the ball against the San Antonio Spurs at Barclays Center on Monday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Ben Simmons repeated the word a few times after the Nets beat the Spurs for their 12th win in a row Monday, and it was only so notable because it wasn’t something usually associated with his long journey back to the player he once was. It wasn’t a word, either, that’s often been associated with a Nets franchise that has spent the past few seasons bathed in controversy.

“Easy,” he said. “The game feels easy.”

It feels easy out there when Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant  and Simmons are clicking, and the supporting cast is stepping up. The team chemistry — something Simmons didn’t feel during the end of his tenure with the 76ers — felt easy. (It’s not too rare to hear them yelling from the locker room after a win.) And, it’s been said often, that coach Jacque Vaughn simplifies things on and off the court. Things like team outings are important, Vaughn said. So is putting in that modicum of extra effort.

Because of it, they’re just two short of matching the longest win streak in franchise history — something they’ll try to do as they embark on a three-game road trip to Chicago, New Orleans and Miami beginning Wednesday. Vaughn, meanwhile, was named Eastern Conference coach of the month Tuesday in his first month as a non-interim Nets coach. They went 12-1 in December, the winningest month in franchise history.



"[We're] just staying present game to game and giving the game what it needs every day, in terms of our preparation,” Irving said. “Little things — we’re going to get our lifts in on days off, and everybody is showing up. Little things like hanging out and just doing things for our camaraderie . . . We’re building trust on and off the floor and it feels good. I don't think we really pay attention to the streak. We just really want to play well for one another. We can tell there's a special [something] in the locker room so we just want to take care of that. God, please just keep us healthy throughout the rest of the season.”

And Irving makes a salient point at the end there. This is an 82-game grind, and it won’t always be quite so simple. But for a Nets team that’s often been big on talent but low on execution, this recent span has represented a prime opportunity. They’re coming off one of the best months in franchise history, they’re mostly healthy, they’re playing cohesively, and they’re not currently distracted by any off-the-court drama. The result is quick ascension in the standings — going into Tuesday’s off day, they were just one game behind the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics — and a good amount of confidence.

In December, they led the league in points per game, field-goal percentage, three-point percentage and effective field-goal rating. Their 54% field-goal percentage was the highest month total of any team in the last 30 years, according to the team.

“I don’t think I have anything new to stop them,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said before the Nets beat San Antonio, 139-103, Monday. “As I said a million times, ad nauseum, it's just basketball, and it ain't that complicated when you do what you do.”

It seems like that — and staying healthy — has always been the key. Irving, Durant and Simmons are proving to be one of the most devastating trios in basketball right now. But they’ve also, during this streak, managed to stay away from some of the selfish basketball that can trap teams with multiple superstars.

“We have a mature group in there emotionally, and the purpose is bigger than each one of us individually,” Irving said. “So feels good when you can have that selflessness in the locker room. It just looks good on the court.”

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