As the Brooklyn Nets began individual workouts on Tuesday as they start to build up to team workouts on Sunday and the start of the 2020-21 season in just three weeks, Steve Nash got underway on his first season as an NBA head coach.
Nash took some time out on day one to take questions from the media, and here are five takeaways from the session.
ON STYLES AND SCHEMES
With Nash a first-time head coach, it’s an easy and obvious thing to be curious about: What will a Nash Nets team look like on the floor in terms of the way they play? Nash pointed to an up-tempo approach that gets Brooklyn moving in transition and the open court, and also makes quick decisions in the halfcourt. The Nets are deep in shooters and playmakers, and Nash also likes the ability of Brooklyn’s centers to attack the rim.
That leaves clear comparisons to the Phoenix Suns teams led by Nash on the court and by coach Mike D’Antoni, now a Nets assistant.
“I definitely think there'll be similarities,” said Nash, “but I also think clearly, the way we played in Phoenix is very common in today’s game. You look around the league, a lot of teams look in some ways similar to that. But we will have some similarities, but you also have to consider and blend with the personnel you have. So, some of that is strategic, some of that is organic. We’re going to let it grow and let those understandings and relationships form and try to create an offense that is heavily built on the personalities and skill sets of our players.”
On the other end of the floor, the Nets ranked 10th in the NBA last season in defensive rating. The top five defensive ratings in the league belonged to the top three teams in the Eastern Conference and the top two teams in the West.
“We realize that we’re trying to compete for a championship and we have to be excellent defensively,” said Nash. “It’s going to be a process. The defense last year changed in the bubble. Jacque (Vaughn) started to put his imprints and adjustments into the defense and the performances in the bubble. I think that many of them were similarly aligned with the way I see things. So, we’ve had a really enjoyable process of going through the film and looking around the league and figuring out what we think suits our team and the game the way it’s played nowadays. There will be some commonality with the roster and there will also be some differences and adjustments. But I think JV’s adjustments in the bubble were going toward where we’ve landed with it and at the same time it is a work in progress. It’s something we’re going to build all year.”
ON THE COACHING STAFF
Nash referenced Vaughn, who returns to the staff after stepping into the head coach role last March just before the season was suspended, and leading the Nets on the NBA Campus in Orlando. This will be the fifth season in Brooklyn for Vaughn, who previously was head coach of the Orlando Magic. Meanwhile, D’Antoni, who has been a head coach for 15 of the last 17 seasons, is among the additions to the Brooklyn staff. They’ll take lead roles in coordinating Brooklyn’s approach.
“Jacque Vaughn will lead the defense and Mike D'Antoni will lead the offense, but you know we really want it to be very collaborative,” said Nash. “We want everyone to have input on both sides of the ball. I think in some respects I've gone this direction more so because I'm a rookie coach and I want to be able to look to one person to say, 'What are we doing here, what's our adjustment, where are we in the context of our schemes,’ at either end. So perhaps if I had been doing this for a bunch of years we may be completely flat and we all are collaborating, but I think we want the spirit of collaboration but those two are going to lead each side of the ball.”
ON FIRST CAMP
Nash is beginning his coaching career at a time like no other. Traditional NBA offseason rhythms were disrupted by the interrupted and extended 2019-20 season. In anticipation of new season scheduled to start just more than two months after the NBA Finals, a wild week saw the opening of the transaction window, the NBA Draft, and the start of free agency.
Nash’s first training camp will be similarly compressed, with just two preseason games and a total of 16 days between Sunday’s first group workouts and the start of the season on Dec. 22. Hanging over everything is the possibility of further disruptions due to the coronavirus.
“I would say that we definitely come in saying we must be fluid and flexible because as you know any day things could change,” said Nash. “So, we have to be able to roll with it and be able to adjust and to adapt. You know, fortunately for me I'm confident I have an incredible staff. They’re making me confident and comfortable we’re building something together, it’s very collaborative. I’ve been able to lean on not only my experience but also their practical experience as head coaches or assistant coaches. So, we have almost always a consensus, we listen to everybody’s opinions and try to build that consensus in strategic way.”
ON OFFENSIVE DEPTH
In addition to All-NBA talents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets feature two guards that played at a high level last season in Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, one of the NBA’s top 3-point shooters in Joe Harris, and a pair of rim-running centers in Jarret Allen and DeAndre Jordan. And the roster goes deep in scoring options well past that.
“I feel really fortunate we have an unselfish group,” said Nash. “I think we have guys that enjoy playing the right way. You look at Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they're not only incredible basketball players with huge skill levels but their IQ and acumen is incredible, they’re instinctively very intelligent on the court. They take the lead there. But you take a look at the depth that we have, there isn't any ball stoppers really, so I feel really fortunate that, that is an asset and a strength of our team that we have depth, we have multiple guys that can shoot and playmake, we have centers that can go dive to the basket and be a threat. And so you have a lot of balance there and guys typically in this group that want to play the right way.”
ON ACCLIMATING TO HEAD COACHING
It’s been three months since Nash was hired as Brooklyn’s head coach. He brings the experience of an 18-year NBA career and a stint as Team Canada’s general manager, and also worked with the Golden State Warriors as a player development consultant the last few seasons.
Stepping into a head coaching role is new, and from assistant coaches to player development and performance team, an NBA staff is a sprawling enterprise. That’s something Nash is getting up to speed with.
“I would say just the amount of information and people there is to coordinate,” said Nash. “I think that’s been something that has been for sure an adaptation for me and a challenge but also incredibly welcome. It’s incredible how much support and how mature all our departments are, how well-staffed and how thoughtful and what a foundation we have here. So for me to slide into this position is very privileged because of all the work that’s been done to build our departments and staffs, and that’s been challenging to be able to survey all that information, to integrate it with the people the personalities, but it’s also been one of the most rewarding and enjoyable parts of the job.”