So, what will Steve Nash’s Brooklyn Nets look like on the court?
The Hall of Fame point guard is stepping into not just his first head coaching job, but his first full-time coaching job, so while you can draw hints from Nash’s playing days and the influences of coaches he played for, such as Mike D’Antoni and Don Nelson, there’s not much of a trail to indicate what a coach Nash would emphasize.
On Tuesday’s livestreamed Brooklyn Nets Town Hall with YES Network’s Ian Eagle, Nash offered some pieces of how Nets fans can expect the team to play.
“Defense is our No. 1 priority, protecting the paint and guarding the basket is going to be the bedrock of our defense and so, without sharing all the principles we’re building and all the things we’re designing right now, I can just assure you that we realize to win a championship we need to be a very strong defensive team, great cohesion, clear understanding of our principles and be able to execute them with variation every night because every team we play is going to be different,” said Nash. “So it’s a priority, it’s something we spent the bulk of our time working on in this period and we’re enjoying it, we feel good about it and we have to build something that is easily taught and attained by our players that can continue to grow on the foundations that we set.”
Of course, it was on the offensive end that Nash formed a dynamic pairing with Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas, then turned the league upside down while winning back-to-back MVP awards running the point for D’Antoni’s “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns.
“It’s all sort of to be determined and I definitely don’t want to come in with too many hard and fast concepts and designs,” said Nash. “I’d much rather come in with principles, with ideas that allow our players to collaborate with us and allow their personalities and the dynamic between them and the chemistry to have a role in how it evolves.”
That ability to let things grow and evolve, rather than sticking in place with a set notion, was something Nash took away from D’Antoni. Putting in too firm a structure can limit a player, or a team. But he does have some of those principles that will form a foundation for the Nets to build off.
“I want us to play fast, I want us to space the floor,” said Nash. “I want us to create opportunities to get downhill with our ballhandlers and make plays for one another. Attack closeouts. A lot of high-level philosophical thoughts, and of course we’ll design and have offensive sets and things that we think fit our group, but we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves with the offense. We want it to stay pretty high-level right now.”
While Nash and the Suns played a big role in changing the way teams looked at playing offense, the trends they set in motion have only picked up speed, particularly since he retired. In Nash’s first season back in Phoenix on 2004-05, the Suns averaged 24.7 3-pointers per game and played at a pace of 97.35, leading the league in both categories.
Last season, 29 of 30 NBA teams played at a faster pace than that. Meanwhile, all 30 teams took more threes, with Houston leading the league with 45.3 per game. The Nets were fifth with 38.1 3-pointers attempted per game last season.
“I would say analytics is probably the biggest change, but right there with it, the performance side of the sport has continually changed and evolved to where players are getting the best care, best preparation, prevention, best practices in how to become the best athlete and sustain the season,” said Nash. “That’s continually evolved, but I think analytics is at the heart of even the physical performance but also the way people are playing, the style they’re playing, how they’re defending, how they’re trying to create opportunities offensively, and obviously the value of the 3-point shot is a huge part of that data-driven area. But it’s the same with all the other departments in basketball. Analytics has grown so much that we’re able to break down and have data and create arguments and support arguments through the data what you’re seeing on the floor without necessarily knowing that it’s data driven.”