Six of Jeremiah Martin’s nine games of NBA experience came last summer after the 2019-20 season resumed on the NBA Campus in Orlando. Signed to a two-way contract by the Brooklyn Nets in January, he spent most of the next two months in the G League with Long Island, until the resumption of the NBA season loosened limits on two-way players.
With the Brooklyn Nets in particular short-handed on the roster when workouts began on the campus last July, Martin took advantage of the opportunity to play a bigger role. He ended up putting up a pair of 20-point games, including a career-high 24 in a win over Orlando, and made a strong impact defensively when Brooklyn upset Milwaukee.
Long Island coach Bret Brielmaier was an assistant on the Brooklyn staff last summer, and said the opportunity to be fully immersed in an NBA environment for those two months offered a huge benefit.
“I think he experienced what it takes to be a pro, and that means more than just being on the court. It’s how he takes care of his body,” said Brielmaier. “It’s how he sleeps. It’s how he does his recovery work. He got really close with Caris LeVert, and Caris’ attention to all those things; the recovery, nutrition, taking care of himself, Jeremiah witnessed that firsthand, and he is now seeing the benefits of that, and through Caris’ eyes, he’s kind of embraced the importance of not only working on the court, but how am I going to improve off the court.”
Martin is one of three players on the roster who were in the NBA bubble last summer, along with BJ Johnson and Elie Okobo. Brielmaier was there as well, and said the league learned from experience, and it shows in the current setup. The smaller footprint of having fewer teams and individuals on the campus has made the operation easier to navigate as well.
“We talked to them definitely, just about how to approach the situation,” said Long Island guard Shannon Scott. “How to use your down time. I know a lot of guys said at first we get tired, you won’t see your family for a while. You’re only limited being on the court for a certain amount of time each day. So they just let us know how things went before we even got up here. They told us what we need to pack, what would be useful for us and all those things.”
FROM DALLAS TO LONG ISLAND … TO FLORIDA
With the Dallas Mavericks opting not to send their Texas Legends G League squad to the bubble, they have transferred their two-way players, Tyler Bey and Nate Hinton, to the Long Island Nets. That expands the Long Island roster to 13 players, including Brooklyn two-way Reggie Perry.
Both players are rookies, with Hinton having appeared in six games for the Mavericks and Bey in four. Hinton is considered a physical, aggressive guard, a strong rebounder for the position, while Bey was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year at Colorado last season.
“We’ve been in constant communication with Dallas and, understanding their development growth for these guys and what that trajectory looks like and what they’re really focusing on was a big piece before they added them,” said Bret Brielmaier. “You can obviously see why Dallas was excited about these guys; their defensive ability and just their size and the mentality they play with. But they’re a part of us. They are Long Island Nets, and we’re going to coach them with the same conviction and the same philosophies that we would anyone else. We’ve been given full autonomy to coach them the way we would any other player.”
REMEMBERING JO-JO WRIGHT
Jo-Jo Wright was a rising star in Long Island basketball right in the Nets’ backyard, starring at Uniondale High School and emerging as one of the area’s top players as a freshman last season in leading his team to the county championship game. On Jan. 27, the 15-year-old sophomore was killed in a car accident.
Long Island General Manager Matt Riccardi shared Wright’s story with the team.
“We actually had a powerful conversation about that,” said Bret Brielmaier. “Matt brought it up to the group, and the biggest takeaway was, value each and every day. Make the most of today. It really aligned with the way we’ve been approaching this season, and it’s such a stark reminder of how precious life really is, and how fortunate we all are to be playing this game and to be doing what we’re doing.”
“We know their family’s going through a lot right now,” said Shannon Scott, “but we definitely want to dedicate our season to the Wright family, to everybody at Uniondale High School, just knowing that we’re thinking about them every day and we’re going to play a little bit harder just for Jo-Jo.”
The sudden stoppage of the 2019-20 NBA and G League seasons, as well as the college basketball season, means many of the players on the Long Island roster have had an extended offseason, likely the first of their careers. But both Shannon Scott and CJ Massinburg said there was a small benefit, the opportunity for players to rest their bodies and get fully healthy heading into a new season.
“The uncertainty kind of was good for my situation, because this was a really big offseason for me,” said Massinburg. “Last year, I was dealing with a back injury in my lower back. It kind of slowed me down during the season. I started off doing really good, and then it made me take some steps back. So this offseason, I was really focused on getting my body right, and I would say today I’m 100 percent healthy. So with the offseason training, the more time I had was the better. I just took advantage of that opportunity, and then when they said we were going to do the bubble and gave us dates, I was able to ramp it up even more and get ready.”
With the G League schedule calling for 15 games in 25 days, staying healthy will be part of the emphasis going forward as well.
“Our performance team, both our athletic trainer and sports scientist, I wouldn’t be able to do this without them,” said Bret Brielmaier. “They’ve been such a great guiding voice, and their ability to help sculpt what practices should look like and entail, how to build these guys up knowing that some of them haven’t played basketball in eight to 10 months. So we’ve slowly built these guys up. We’ve been very cognizant of not putting too much load on them early, even not having contact the first couple days down here. Just getting them back in basketball movements and running up and down the floor. I think overall the approach has been pretty sound for the players’ health, as well as their development.”
The 18-team format for the G League season also includes the G League Team Ignite, playing in its first season. As part of the NBA’s development program, it features highly rated prospects who will be draft-eligible in 2021, including Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, and Daishen Nix. The group began practicing last summer under Brian Shaw, the former Denver Nuggets head coach and Los Angeles Lakers’ assistant.
The roster also features NBA veterans such as Jarrett Jack and Amir Johnson to help in the player development process. Long Island will play Team Ignite on Monday, Feb. 22.
“My thoughts on that team, it’s a great idea,” said CJ Massinburg. “We’re giving guys fresh out of high school the opportunity to play professionally. I feel like, just like with any other job, you should have a choice on when you can go and make money or whatever. I don’t know, I only know a couple players on the team. I don’t really know their whole schedule. I would think they kind of have a target, because they’re just young guys and they get a lot of attention, but it’s deserved. Those are some of the top prospects out of high school.”
BRIELMAIER FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Aside from a run as Cleveland’s Summer League head coach in 2015, it’s the first turn at the head of the bench for 35-year old Bret Brielmaier in his first season as Long Island’s head coach. CJ Massinburg went to training camp with Brooklyn in 2019 and worked with Brielmaier there before spending the season in the G League, and he’s returning with Long Island this season.
“The one thing that I really love about (Bret) is his passion; his energy and passion,” said Massinburg. “I played under Nate Oats in college, and he’s a guy that, if you’re energy isn’t right at the door, you might as well turn around and not even come to practice,” said Massinburg. “So he was big on energy, and at the professional level, I was hoping that I could get a coach with a lot of energy and passion, and that fits (Bret). He always has the energy. You never know when he’s having a bad day, because his energy is always through the roof, and it’s contagious. I feel like, one day, if I was to coach, I would be like that, have a lot of energy. That’s the thing that sticks out to me.”