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Nets open training camp in Industry City

Vaughn has roster healthy and ready to begin 2023-24 season

October 4, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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While the New York Liberty continue to gear up for start of the WNBA Finals this weekend in Las Vegas, Downtown Brooklyn’s other basketball squad opened training camp Tuesday afternoon in Industry City.

Head coach Jacque Vaughn put the Nets through their paces at the HSS Training Center, beginning the run-up to Monday’s preseason opener vs. the Los Angeles Lakers in Sin City.

“Great to just have the group together. Day one together, from the start,” said Vaughn. “To see our guys be able to compete, work with each other, sweat with each other and start this process, which is great.”

The Nets went 45-37 last season before bowing out in four straight games to Philadelphia in the opening round of the playoffs.

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The early postseason exit came after a tumultuous campaign that saw Vaughn replace Steve Nash at the helm by the start of November and superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving dealt away in February.

Vaughn, who is opening his first camp as head coach here in Brooklyn, is excited to have returnees like Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Nic Claxton, Spencer Dinwiddie and an eager Ben Simmons together and healthy to begin 5-on-5 practices.

“I think you get to build some chemistry early on. This is the time to do it, if you’re going to do it,” Vaughn noted.

“I think we’re all learning pretty fast,” added Bridges, who averaged a team-high 26.1 points per game during his 27-game stint here last season.

The Nets will be training here in Brooklyn with their 18-man roster until Friday before running practices in Vegas next weekend before their opener against the Lakers.

Brooklyn will play its preseason home opener on Oct. 12 vs. Maccabi Ra’anana of the Israeli National League. The Nets will host Philadelphia on Oct. 16 before closing out the exhibition slate on Oct. 18 at Miami.

Mikal Bridges hopes to have a big season in Brooklyn after arriving here last February in the deal that sent Kevin Durant to Phoenix. AP Photo by Derik Hamilton

Simmons, who spent the offseason rehabbing from a back injury that forced him to miss the Nets’ stretch run and the playoffs, insists that he is ready to go this year after logging just 42 games, including 33 starts, in 2022-23.

The enigmatic playmaker missed the entire 2021-22 campaign between Philadelphia and Brooklyn due to mental health concerns and knee and back issues.

“I’m playing. I’m playing,” Simmons insisted. “I’m back to 5-on-5 and I’m back on the court and playing.”

“Amazing, I can just do my job and that’s a blessing,” he added. “Every day, I don’t take for granted. I just come in here and do my job to the best of my ability. I’m grateful to be back, just on the court, playing and doing what I love.”

Vaughn was an assistant on Nash’s staff when camp opened last year. Now, he has a chance to run things his way from the start.

“Are there schemes that we can lean towards a little bit that last year, we were just a little bit handcuffed this is how we had to play?,” he pondered. “With a training camp, I’m going to put more things on the guys’ plate early in the year for us to try out.”

Training camp invitees like Harry Giles, Darius Bazley and Trendon Watford should be among the players battling for one of the final 15 roster spots as camp continues.

Marks indicated during media day that competition is a healthy thing among players pushing one another to perform at the NBA level. Even if the season opener vs. Cleveland is still three weeks away on Oct. 25 at Barclays Center.

“We wanted to acquire guys and keep guys that have a chip on their shoulder, something to prove. I think that’s what we’ve seen so far, just on their own, playing pickup games,” Marks revealed.

“You know, it’s been loud, it’s competitive. And I think that’s exactly fits with (Vaughn’s) model of what he’s wanting to achieve during training camp.”

Johnson, who came here from Phoenix along with Bridges in the deal that sent Durant to the Suns, put up 16.6 points per contest following his arrival.

He believes the Nets will only get better as a competitive unit with a full training camp and a group of players that haven’t been thrown together as they were at last year’s trade deadline.

“We have a roster of guys that are hungry,” he said. “We have a roster of guys that are willing to get better and a roster of guys, you know, a couple guys on the team definitely capable of taking bigger steps in their career, pushing forward.”

Courtesy of Brooklyn Nets

The Liberty will tip-off Game 1 of their best-of-five series with the Las Vegas Aces Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Michelob ULTRA Arena.

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