Returning from the NBA All-Star break, the Brooklyn Nets now embark on the last quarter of their season. It begins tonight at home against the Boston Celtics and moves on to Milwaukee Saturday night where they will face the Bucks. The Nets, who led the Eastern Conference six weeks ago, went into the break 31-28, losers of 12 of their past 14 games and the 8th seed in the East.
Nets head coach Steve Nash expressed optimism after his team’s final game before the break, a 117-103 loss to the Washington Wizards at the Barclays Center last Thursday.
“Hopefully, we have a good run of health where we can really build something in a short period of time and get a better seed,” he said.
With 23 regular season games remaining, 10 at home and 13 on the road, the Nets don’t have the luxury of time to develop chemistry with many new additions to the team. The 13 road games could have been key because New York City COVID vaccine restrictions still do not allow Kyrie Irving to play home games.
But Irving will not be allowed to play in two of those 13 games, March 1 in Toronto against the Raptors and April 6 against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Canada has nation wide regulations prohibiting unvaccinated players from performing.
Hampered by injuries for most of this season, the Nets will soon have the services of superstar Kevin Durant, who is close to returning from a sprained left MCL. The injury happened Jan. 15 in a 120-105 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant has been out for over a month. But they have reshaped their team after trading James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers at the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline. The Nets received Ben Simmons,
Andre Drummond and Seth Curry.
Then on Monday they signed 35-year-old veteran free-agent guard Goran Dragic, who agreed to a buyout with the San Antonio Spurs after being traded to them by the Raptors at the trade deadline.
Dragic has only played in five games this season, the last in November. He averaged 8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1 assist and 18 minutes per game. In the 50 games he played last season with the Miami Heat, Dragic averaged 13.4 points and 4.4 assists. Dragic reportedly was also pursued by several top contenders.
Dragic has history with Nash, serving as his back-up for four seasons with the Phoenix Suns when he first joined the league. He was also a teammate of former All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire with the Suns and Heat. Stoudemire is currently a Nets player development assistant.