On Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets are going to get their first taste of a game day since March 10. It just won’t be like any game day they’ve had before.
The Nets are part of the first day of scrimmage games on the NBA Campus in Orlando in the run-up to the resumption of the NBA season on July 30. Brooklyn will face New Orleans at 7:00 p.m. with the game broadcast on YES Network and preceded by the Brooklyn Nets Restart Special at 6:30 p.m.
For the first of each team’s three scrimmages, quarters will be limited to 10 minutes and a 40-minute game. For the final two scrimmages — the Nets play the Spurs on Saturday, July 25 and the Jazz on Monday, July 27 — the regulation 48-minute game will be played.
The shorter minutes in the opener are a signal that after four months, everybody is cautious about the way they jump back into game action.
“Just being smart about using the opportunity to try to gain some rhythm, get guys back on the court and have a decent feel while at the same time not putting too much strain on your team,” said Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn. “So it bodes well for us, gets us back on the floor. We don’t have to play guys extended minutes, but we’ll get a chunk of time to be able to see where we are as a team.”
Vaughn said that Jamal Crawford, Tyler Johnson and Justin Anderson — Anderson practiced for the first time on Tuesday — will not play, but that some minutes for Lance Thomas were part of the plan. With Donta Hall yet to join the team for practice, that leaves 10 players available for Wednesday’s scrimmage.
If minutes are limited, Caris LeVert wants to make them count.
“Attack it as if it’s a real game,” said LeVert. “I think we’re going in with that mindset. Not knowing how many minutes guys are going to be playing and things like that, but just going in there and working on things offensively, getting into our sets, making sure we’re sharp, and just getting out of there injury free.”
That extends to the preparation. The Nets haven’t suited up for a game in four months. Wednesday’s scrimmage is the first step to rebuilding the rhythm and routine of what goes into a game day before they tip off their resumption of play against the Magic on July 31.
“We won't be as game formatted as we will be against Orlando, but guys will get a scouting report, they will get personnel to watch, and so creating the opportunity of accountability, of knowing who I might guard and creating habits that way,” said Vaughn. “That’s really been the task of us as a group, that we get into a routine of as much as we can make things easy for us, whether that is, I get on the court at a certain time, I’ve done my preparation at a certain time, because there’s a lot of variables that go into the situation we’re in.”
As for New Orleans, the Pelicans will be without rookie Zion Williamson, last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, who did not make his NBA debut until late January. Williamson left the NBA Campus on July 16 to attend to a family matter and is expected to return, but has not done so yet. Brandon Ingram averaged 24.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists over 56 games, while Lonzo Ball averaged 7.0 assists and Jrue Holiday averaged 6.9 assists and 19.6 points.
“They have a lot of guys who are capable of doing a lot of things,” said LeVert. “Obviously they have (Brandon Ingram) who was an All-Star this year. They have shooters, they have guys who can handle the ball. I think it’s more about us going out there and trying to execute what we want to do offensively and kind of work off some things defensively as well.”
After a week of workouts in Brooklyn, the Nets had 10 practices in 11 days after getting out of quarantine in Orlando. After a day off on Monday, Tuesday featured practice No. 11. That’s a lot of togetherness. A new opponent will be welcome.
“I think everybody's really excited,” said Joe Harris. “Obviously we're all excited to just get back to practicing. We compete against ourselves a lot but I think it's sort of similar to that training camp sort of buildup in the preseason where you love competing, being able to play, practice against each other but you know it's always more enjoyable when you can compete together, have your teammates, love everyone around you, get yourself in a game setting and compete against somebody else. So everyone's really excited to get these scrimmages going, sharpen some stuff up, clean some stuff up and hopefully get us in good position to compete when the games come around at the end of the month.”