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Derrick Coleman: ‘Sky’s the limit’ for Nets despite struggles

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Derrick Coleman is one of the most talented players ever to put on a Nets jersey, and he sees so much talent on the current squad he says the sky is the limit. Well, at least an NBA Finals is the limit, if the Nets can shore up that leaky defense.

“The potential is the sky’s the limit with that team,” Coleman said of a team featuring Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the latter currently under COVID-19 quarantine. “I just see the struggles right now just going to be better for you later on in the season. Just have to keep continuing to work.

“Kevin [Durant] is going to be one of the greatest scores we’ve ever seen play the game. To me right now, nobody can mess with Kyrie Irving; he comes from a lineage of point guards. When your godfather is Rod Strickland, I need not say any more about that. But we have to really concentrate and focus on the defensive end of the basketball court and talking.”

Throughout their NBA history, the Nets have only enjoyed two other eras with a pair of All-Stars in their primes together. Jason Kidd paired with Kenyon Martin (2004) and then Vince Carter (2007); and before that it was Coleman teaming up with Kenny Anderson (1994) in the Meadowlands.

Nets
Kyrie Irving wearing the Nets retro tie-dye uniform.
Nets/ Jennifer Pottheiser

Now, with the Nets finally embracing their New Jersey roots — donning a retro tie-dye jersey for Thursday’s game vs. the 76ers — the All-Star big man who made the original version look cool looks at the newest iteration of the team and says it can reach the franchise’s first Finals since 2002 and ’03.

“I can see us coming out of the East,” Coleman said. “I don’t know if we’re able to win the championship right now. But all that goes back to where you don’t have a real training camp, you got a brand-new coach, so listening to his philosophies about the game of basketball. Also, you got to create that chemistry.”

Coleman said he was proud of what Caris LeVert accomplished last season but has to adjust after having been the Nets’ leader in the bubble. He gushed over center Jarrett Allen and echoed much of the fan base, saying, “I love his energy. I love what he brings to the table. I don’t know why he’s not starting.”

With the Nets bringing back the tie-dye uniform first worn 30 years ago in 1990-91, Coleman said despite having initial reservations he came to love the look.

“When they first displayed those uniforms, the first words out of my mouth was everybody around the league is going to look at us as soft with the tie-dye uniform. But as the season progressed, we started getting a lot of feedback about how popular it really, really was,” said Coleman. “As we started to progress and we started to win a little bit more, they were like ‘yo, those uniforms are cool.’

“It was great man. Like I said, it became so popular. When we got away from it, I was really looking forward to wearing [them] the next year.”

Now Coleman will see Irving and the Nets wear them Thursday, and presumably Durant when he returns from quarantine. The throwbacks feature a sky blue-to-white gradient, with a tie-dye pattern running through both the shorts and the jersey, which rocks NETS across the chest.

“Everything goes full circle. Even before they came back, people would always ask me about them, like hey D, you got that tie-dye jersey?” Coleman laughed.

“So I knew eventually it will come back, the retrofit. Guys love it. It started out, I hated it because we’re going to be the laughing joke of the NBA. But it grew on us. Guys cracked jokes but it’s so popular now the retro, people inbox me all the time on social media like man, can I get one of those jerseys? Very popular.”

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