5 key takeaways from Nets’ media availability. Possible vaccination holdouts?
The Brooklyn Nets are set for training camp on September 28th, and not long after that the first preseason game tips off. The team’s opening exhibition is set for Staples Center where they’ll take on the Lakers during the first week of October. There’s no doubt this is a championship-or-bust kind of year. General Manager Sean Marks and Head Coach Steve Nash were available to the media and shed some light on a few key themes. Let’s look at the top 5 takeaways from their media session earlier.
1) Injury updates
The overwhelming feeling is that the Nets are favorites to win the 2022 title. They’ll just have to remain healthy, and it wouldn’t hurt to find a bit more chemistry than they could muster last year. According to NBA.com the trio of Kevin Durant Kyrie Irving, and James Harden only appeared together in 8 regular-season games last season, totaling just 202 minutes. They’ll certainly look to build upon that but where do Harden and Irving stand today?
Harden dealt with hamstring issues last season. He aggravated the injury in the first moments of the second round against Milwaukee which ultimately ended his season. Irving sprained his right ankle in game four and was not able to continue either. So how are they doing today with their respective rehabs?
Chris Milholen, for NetsDaily:
Sean Marks said Kyrie Irving and James Harden “look great and are in good spirits” with their respective rehabs.
— Chris Milholen (@CMilholenSB) September 21, 2021
We wondered whether or not each guard would be back to 100 percent for the first game of the season. This update doesn’t guarantee that but it is at least a step in the right direction. We know the team is likely to take a very conservative approach to their rehab, utilizing a diligent load-management program for their stars like they did last season. Making sure they’re not pushing their MVP caliber talents too soon in the rehab process is paramount here. But it’s great to hear that they’re progressing well.
2) Vaccination holdouts?
The other thing to be mindful of is the team’s vaccination status. The NBA and NBPA have had ongoing negotiations regarding COVID-related protocols. A recent report from ESPN’s Baxter Holmes and Adrian Wojnarowski indicated players will not be required to be vaccinated. But there was an exception.
“The NBA informed teams in early September that new laws in both New York and San Francisco regarding vaccine requirements will be enforced for members of the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors — including for their teams’ players — unless there is an approved medical or religious exemption, according to a memo obtained by ESPN.”
So there will be local city mandates the team will look to navigate.
Per SNY’s Ian Begley:
Nets GM Sean Marks says, due to local vaccine mandates, ‘a couple’ players would be unavailable if BKN held practice today. NYC mandate states BKN/NYK players need to be vaccinated to play/practice in city. Marks expressed confidence that all Nets will be available for the season
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) September 21, 2021
For now, this isn’t a pressing issue, as the team is holding camp in San Diego, California. New York Newsday’s Barbara Barker points out that the mandates do not apply there.
Definitely sounds like there are a few vax holdouts on Nets. With nyc rules, it is a good thing they are holding trading camp in San Diego. pic.twitter.com/y8etZ2Rbz9
— Barbara Barker (@meanbarb) September 21, 2021
Marks added that he anticipates his players will all be eligible to play by the regular season. The team’s first preseason game in Brooklyn isn’t until October 8th and the home opener is set for October 24th.
Per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps:
Sean Marks says that, as of today, there are "a couple" of players who would not be able to practice because of New York City's vaccine mandate, though he declined to say who. He then added that he anticipates that will no longer be the case by the start of the regular season.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) September 21, 2021
This is still a very important situation to monitor, but at least we know more now.
3) The team did not shy away from their championship expectations
Rarely does a team lose in the second round to the eventual champs, then doesn’t make any major changes in the offseason, but winds up favored over said champs. But it’s the Nets and not the Bucks who have the biggest bullseye on their backs here. There is just too much respect for the amount of top-level firepower the Nets have. The team’s head coach, Steve Nash isn’t playing any “we’re the underdogs here” mind games.
Per Begley, Nash stated “we own that we’re out to win a championship, we own that. But it’s a process and you have to win that process to be there at the end.”
4) LaMarcus Aldridge has “unfinished business”
LaMarcus Aldridge was one of the biggest names to join the Nets last season via the buyout market. But his retirement came as a shock to fans when he revealed he was stepping away from basketball because of an irregular heartbeat. The seven-time All-Star only appeared in 5 games last season, but amazingly, he was cleared to resume playing by doctors. The stretch-big signed a one-year $2.6M deal earlier this month. Marks illustrated how he tried to talk Aldridge out of his decision.
Per Michael Scotto, of HoopsHype:
Nets GM Sean Marks on LaMarcus Aldridge returning: “I tried to talk him out if it. I said, ‘You don’t need this. Why would you come back?’ I think it was important to see his conviction, and it’s not a conviction made without really doing due diligence.” pic.twitter.com/nOF7VOIHAE
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) September 21, 2021
We can assume that Aldridge is aware of any potential risks and feels comfortable with his decision to return to game action. He has little to prove, as Marks notes. The 36-year-old big out of Texas is 48th all-time on the NBA scoring list. But he’s looking to add a ring to his resume.
5) A couple more max extensions on the horizon?
Back in early August, Kevin Durant signed a four-year $198M extension to remain a Brooklyn Net through 2026. But we didn’t know where things stood with Harden and Irving. We got an update there as well. Per New York Daily News’ Kristian Winfield:
Sean Marks on James Harden/Kyrie Irving extension talks: "We've had very positive conversations with both of those guys and their family members. It always helps to do those things in person." Says they're going to resume talks in the next 2 weeks or so. #Nets
— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) September 21, 2021
The possibility of the Brooklyn getting these extensions done and having a trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden for the next four to five seasons (plus an ownership duo of Clara Wu and Joe Tsai willing to pay luxury taxes to retain this nucleus) should strike fear in hearts of the rest of the league. Any development on this extension front is very big news. Opposing executives rightfully construct multiyear schemes to land even one player as good as any single member of the Nets’ big three. And they might just keep the band together for the long haul. That’s a scary thought for everyone else.