The former Sun quickly cemented himself within the inner circle of the NBA's rising stars, averaging 27.7 points per game on 47/38/89 shooting splits in 30 appearances. He continued to turn heads during the FIBA World Cup, emerging as Team USA's second-best player behind only Minnesota superstar Anthony Edwards.
Entering 2023-24, Bridges is expecting a star-level workload and says he's ready for everything that comes with it:
“It’s just the next step,” Mikal Bridges said Monday at Nets Media Day. “All the excitement that I know you guys have and probably what you guys are writing about all summer is the same thing personally for me. It’s a new role and I think I can fulfill it and succeed in it with just who I am as a person. I’m willing to take every bullet and take the blame for losing, I’m ready for all that.
“I think it’s just that time where you keep growing as a person and a player. Who wouldn’t want this? Who wouldn’t want this type of pressure? These type of expectations? If you really love the game and you really love the game and you really wanna be the best you can be as a player, you would want this type of feel where you’re the main guy and everything is on your shoulders like, what are you gonna do? I feel like I’m ready for the moment and always have been.”
Mikal Bridges dropped 42 PTS in the Brooklyn W 🔥 pic.twitter.com/hYecncLVb5
— NBA (@NBA) April 1, 2023
ARE YOU SERIOUS MIKAL
— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) September 10, 2023
Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said he intends “to put a lot more on Bridges' plate” this season. That should translate to more clutch opportunities and greater responsibilities as a ball-handler and passer.
“Offensively, just being able to do what I do, scoring the ball and passing, facilitating, getting everybody involved, that’s something great for me, which I gotta get better at, but know that I have (in that area),” Bridges said of his focuses this offseason. “Hearing from the coach to know what he wants helps. Then defensively, just still being at the level of how I defend. And rebounding, I think that’s another big aspect for us, being one of the worst rebounding teams, and I know I can be better. Just doing a lot more, which is great.”
While Mikal Bridges headlines the roster, he isn't the only Net with growing expectations in 2023-24. The team has raved about Ben Simmons' improved health after a full offseason rehabbing in Miami. And Cam Johnson, who played in the Fiba World Cup alongside Bridges this summer, is expected to receive expanded on-ball opportunities offensively.
Johnson has been Bridges' closest teammate since he entered the league in 2019, and the 27-year-old said he has no doubts about his “Twin's” ability to excel in a lead role.
“It's all in the work. He's been willing to put in the work every day of his career,” Johnson said Monday. “He shows up every day. He's available, and he commits himself to getting better, he identifies where he wants to improve. You just watch over time and you can see such a natural progression of skill, of the ability to change games, take over games, score when necessary.”
“Earlier in his career he was really a predominantly off-ball cutting guy and then the three, the middie, getting into the basket, all those things start adding in. Pick-and-rolls, you saw a lot more of that right before the trade and then a lot more that come here. So just putting that all together, continuing that momentum. He's going to continue working. It's not a matter of ‘Okay, I'm good, I'm here.' Nah, he's going to put in the work.”
After the Durant and Irving trades saw players from a handful of teams enter the mix in Brooklyn last year, the Nets have had an offseason to begin establishing an identity. There are no doubts about who is at the top of the pecking order, and Bridges is aware of the All-Star expectations facing him.
However, the Villanova product insists he's only focused on one thing ahead of his first full season in Brooklyn, and it isn't an individual accolade:
“Obviously, I can't sit here and lie and be like I never want to be an All-Star, but that's just something that's not on my mind,” he said. “I think it just all happens with good things. You got to feel like if you play well, we win, then that opportunity is there. But I feel like first, you’ve got to win, you know? And that's the main thing for me, is to win.
“So maybe those things come if we win. If not, that's fine. As long as we’re winning, man, I swear that's all that matters to me.”