Nets quietly having strong training camp despite Kyrie Irving drama



Kyrie Irving’s absence is the elephant in the room, overshadowing everything else about the Nets’ training camp. But buried deep in those Irving-shaped shadows is the fact that they’re happy with most of how camp has gone, especially having a huge head start on their defense compared to last year.

“I like that we get a full camp, a regular training camp,” said Kevin Durant, who felt that would pay dividends on the defensive end of the court. “Last year was pretty quick, but we get a full training camp with each other, we get some time to get used to each other out there on the floor and can work out the kinks in preseason, whereas last year we only had a couple of preseason games.

“That plays a huge part. When we can talk out schemes and philosophies the first day of camp we can build those habits from Day 1. That’s always a great thing. When James [Harden] came in, we switched our whole defense, offense, to cater to the players we had, because we had four, five guys go out so we had to adjust how we wanted to play. This year, having a versatile group from Day 1, we’re talking over different defenses, different schemes that we can use. That’s always good.”

With Harden’s arrival, the Nets doubled down on switching everything like he had for years in Houston. Defensive coordinator Jacque Vaughn will do more of the same this season, but with the advantage of more corporate knowledge.

Kevin Durant warms up before a Nets preseason game.
Kevin Durant warms up before a Nets preseason game.
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“Details, technique, communication, clarity, understanding — all those things,” coach Steve Nash said. “There’s a scheme to it. It’s not just that we switch everything. There’s the help, there’s rotations, there’s all sorts of things that you think are eliminated because you switched, but they’re not completely eradicated.

“There’s still many layers to it. So it’s making sure that guys understand the roles, the techniques, the schemes beyond just the switching side. There’s plenty to it just like in other defenses.”

With Irving not allowed to play or practice at home due to New York’s vaccine mandates — San Francisco has similar mandates, and Los Angeles may soon as well — Patty Mills could see increased time playing alongside Harden at home games. But the way Bruce Brown is shooting, he’s staking a claim for more minutes.

Kyrie Irving cheers from the bench during the Nets' preseason game against the Lakers
Kyrie Irving cheers from the bench during the Nets’ preseason game against the Lakers
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Brown is the Nets’ best perimeter defender. But after shooting 28.8 percent from deep last season and 28.9 for his career, his offseason work is evident. He went 2-for-2 in Sunday’s preseason opening rout of the Lakers and is clearly more confident.

“I’m very confident. I spent a lot of time all summer shooting the ball off the dribble. I’m not going to do that often, but catch-and-shoot. I’m super confident,” Brown said. “I’m making them in practice. Zeke [Chapman, video assistant] had an Over/Under [of] 2 ¹/₂ 3s and I hit two [in practice], so I’m pretty sick about that. Yeah, I’m really confident.”


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