To say the Nets’ start to the season is daunting is to say Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, the NBA reigning MVP, is merely great.
In their first 10 games, the Nets face seven teams that reached the playoffs or play-in tournament last season. They face the defending Eastern Conference champion Heat, the new-look Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard and two games with the Boston Celtics.
One of the games against non-playoff teams? The Mavericks on Friday in Dallas, which will be Kyrie Irving’s first time facing the Nets since his trade last season. Safe to say the Nets will be put through the fire early and they know it.
“I think the guys would say I’ve been stressing that a little bit,” coach Jacque Vaughn said pregame Wednesday. “Just that start and how important it is for us to be ready to play. The first 10 games [are] pretty high level and I want us to embrace that.”
The Mavericks are the start of a four-game road trip for the Nets, who also visit the Hornets, Heat and Bulls. So the Nets know things won’t get easier after opening against the Cavaliers Wednesday.
At the same time, it’s a challenge that’ll reveal plenty on where this team stands early in the season. Vaughn thinks it’ll help set a tone because it forces the Nets to raise their level of play immediately.
Nic Claxton took it further by saying the Nets have nothing to lose. Daunting or not, it’s an opportunity that means they can’t afford any lulls the next few weeks.
“Going against the top teams in the league, the talent that we’re about to be facing, it’s not going to be easy,” Claxton said at shootaround Wednesday. “But we have to stick together. We’re being tested early and I think it’ll be good for the group.”