Back to Brooklyn: Nets Return to Practice at HSS Training Center After China Trip
After two wins over Lakers, one preseason game remaining on Friday vs. Toronto
Early Sunday morning, the Brooklyn Nets landed back home after their week in China for two preseason games.
“It’s more valuable than training camp, the sense because of the bonding, because of being in a foreign country, I think it becomes – in the long run – more valuable,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson of the international trip. “The travel obviously brings you closer together, it was good in that sense.”
Much of that team bonding was organized by Nets owner Joe Tsai, whom Joe Harris credited for putting together events for the team and described as “definitely engaged with the team” while the Nets were picking up two wins over the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Any time you go to a place where – it’s not like a lot of guys have a lot of connections in Shanghai and Shenzhen, so it’s a little different than taking a road trip to LA or Miami,” said Harris. “You’re forced to hang out together. A lot of team events, team dinners. Joe Tsai had a lot of different stuff planned. It was a lot of time we spent together off the court.”
Harris was back in China for the second time in less than a month after a two-week stay with Team USA for the FIBA World Cup. The Nets even played in two of the same cities, staying at the same hotels, that Harris visited with Team USA.
“To be honest, I know there was a lot of stuff going on but the atmosphere was really very similar to what it was during the World Cup,” said Harris. “The fans were extremely passionate, they love the game. They still sold out both games. Take out what was actually going on, it really felt exactly the same.”
BACK TO BROOKLYN
After a light recovery day on Tuesday, the Nets were back at HSS Training Center on Wednesday morning for their first full practice session since before they played their second preseason game in China last Saturday.
It’s an adjustment, as you can tell by the fact that coach Kenny Atkinson copped to nodding off at his desk on Tuesday afternoon.
Joe Harris is familiar with the feeling, having to adjust to United States re-entry after last month’s World Cup.
“Few days just to sort of get back on a regular sleep schedule,” said Harris. “A lot of us probably in the same boat right now where you go to bed earlier and you’re waking up pretty early too, but in a few days you get back to normal.”
But all of this was part of the equation. General manager Sean Marks had laid out during his preseason press conference that the team had done a great deal of research on the effects of the travel on the players and their performance. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a bit of a residual effect.
“When we came back there was special protocol,” said Atkinson. “It wasn’t like we were coming back from Philly or something. We had a plan in place, put together by our performance team obviously, and we adhere to it. I think we knew this when we first added the trip that was going to be important, how we treated this week. But I can even see today, I can see signs of fatigue. Normal kind of decision making, guy stepping out of bounds, I just felt it. I guess that’s normal.”
“I think guys’ internal clocks are a little messed up just a 12-hour time difference, but had a pretty good practice today,” said Harris. “Yesterday was a light recovery day. Tomorrow, good game prep, get ready for Toronto. I know it’s our last preseason game but the way we’re looking at it, it’s supposed to springboard us into the regular season, so that’s how we’re approaching it.”
LIMITED ACTION FOR IRVING
One part of the trip that didn’t go as planned was the limited playing time for Kyrie Irving. The free agent guard had sat out Brooklyn’s first preseason game after suffering a facial fracture during workouts before training camp, then took contact to the same area in the first minute of the first game against the Lakers and did not return in that game or play in the second game.
“I think we all understand, I've gotten a broken nose from an elbow,” said Kenny Atkinson. “The face is a real sensitive place. From what he's gone through I completely understand it. He's aggressive, he's quick to the ball, he doesn't shy away from contact. He sticks his body in there.”
Atkinson said Irving practiced on Wednesday and played “really well,” with the team including an intrasquad scrimmage in the session partly in order to get Irving some work in game situations. The coach also said Irving is expected to play in Friday's preseason finale against Toronto.
“The biggest thing with him is you just want him to be healthy,” said Joe Harris. “You don’t ever wanna force guys back or make them feel like they’re obligated to come back too soon. So whenever he feels right, feels good and is ready to play, that’s how we want him. Everybody’s excited not only to see him play but also to play with him.”
PRINCE KEEPS CONNECTING
One highlight of the trip was the play of newcomer forward Taurean Prince, who made 8-of-11 3-point attempts in the two games.
“He shot great,” said Joe Harris. “I think anytime that you can have another shooter on the floor that helps create space especially with a lot of the facilitators and ball-handlers that we have just makes the game a lot easier for everyone.”
In three preseason games, Prince is averaging 18.0 points and shooting 63.3 percent from the floor, including 14-for-19 from 3-point range.
“He’s been great,” said Caris LeVert. “Picking up our offense really fast, defense as well. Knocking down shots, high basketball IQ. You can tell he’s getting more comfortable each and every day so he’s going to be a huge asset for us.”
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