Every NBA team faces a condensed training camp and preseason because of complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Nets’ task is especially daunting because they are engaged in a crash course trying to build greatness around the talents of healthy superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving under the guidance of first-time NBA head coach Steve Nash.
To make matters more difficult, they play only two preseason games, the last of which is against the Celtics Friday night at TD Garden in Boston. The season opener against Durant’s former Golden State team follows just four days later on Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
"When you talk about putting the team together, we’re not in the business of making excuses or anything like that," guard Spencer Dinwiddie said after practice on Thursday. "So is it difficult to have a whole new team? Of course. Is it difficult to be dealing with coronavirus? Of course…But it’s a lot better to have this amount of time than to not have this amount of time."
Speaking of the need to quickly get acclimated with Durant and Irving, Dinwiddie added, "It’s going to be on us. We need to be accountable. We need to do our jobs and try to make their lives easy as they make our lives easy."
Dinwiddie said the fact Durant and Irving are best friends allows them to pretty much be in sync. Because they know what they want from each other, Dinwiddie said, "The messaging you get from either one of them is pretty much the same, so it makes it easy to kind of have the same type of voice lead the group."
Of course, the Nets also must get used to Nash’s voice. When the Nets face the Celtics Friday night, it will be as close as they can get to a dress rehearsal for how things might look during the regular season. It will be interesting to see if Dinwiddie remains at starting shooting guard, where he played in place of injured Caris LeVert in the preseason opener. LeVert has recovered and is available.
Describing his approach, Nash said, "I think we’re going to take a step toward a regular game by playing some more regular minutes or looking a little bit deeper at our rotations and minutes and trying to emulate what it will be like Tuesday against the Warriors."
While Nash wants to allow his players freedom to create within the template of the offense he outlines, they will continue to add more set principles over the course of the season.
"Our north star is efficiency," Nash said. "Are we creating good shots? Are we making them? Are we difficult to defend? Are we making people a multiple threat? There’s a method to it, but at the same time, there has to be a feel. You’re trying to reach a balance between art and science."
So the new Nets have their work cut out, but when it was suggested teams that have been together longer might have an advantage, Dinwiddie disagreed because they still have players such as himself, LeVert, Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen who made the playoffs before Durant, Irving and DeAndre Jordan arrived as free agents.
"Where we have less time under our belt together, we also have more depth than a lot of teams," Dinwiddie said. "If you look at some of the other top teams and take off their first or second guy, maybe third guy, the roster is unrecognizable, right? With ours, we have a lot of continuity.
"Just continue to build that chemistry, build that camaraderie, try to be in sync off the floor, and we have the talent to do something special. It’s just all about coming together and being accountable."