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Steve Nash is anxious to get to his first game as a coach. The Nets are anxious to see Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving back from injury and out on the court.
And they’re all excited to see how it all looks in Sunday’s preseason opener against the Wizards, in empty Barclays Center.
“We had 11 and 7 [Irving and Durant] sitting out for a lot of these games last year, and finally to have them back we’re ready to do big things with them, and we’re all excited,” Jarrett Allen said via Zoom.
“Two All-Stars, two most likely going to be Hall of Famers and watching them growing up, playing against them, playing with them and finally going to be on an actual NBA court it’s going to be an experience. I never thought I’d be in this position, but I’m ready to take advantage of it and soak it all in.”
There will be an actual Hall of Famer on the bench, with Nash making his coaching debut.
“I’m excited,” Nash said. “It’s a great experience for me to get my feet wet and understand the rhythm of coaching. It’s going to be a process for me, obviously, to be totally comfortable over there. So, it’s great to get one out of the way.”
It’s going to feel weird to many to be playing in cavernous arenas with no fans.
“That’s going to take an adjustment,” Allen admitted. “We’ve seen what the bubble looked like: We had four walls around us on every side, we felt enclosed, like we’re in a smaller practice gym. But going into one of those big arenas where you’re used to looking up and seeing people yelling and families having a good time, it’s going to be an adjustment.”
Albeit an easier adjustment for those who’ve spent time toiling in the G-League.
“If you’ve ever played in the G-League, you’ll be fine. There’s not many fans in those types of situations either,” said Taurean Prince, who spent five games at that level in the 2016-17 season. “That won’t really be a situation where we’re surprised. Think it’s going to be more like an open gym feel. Just being able to be locked-in and still focus on what needs to be done.”
During the preseason, the Nets need to shore up their defense, something Nash considers priority No. 1. They’ll also go with an extended rotation, limiting minutes and experimenting with myriad combinations.
“I don’t think we’ll keep it tight. We’ll try to get a lot of guys looks,” said Nash. “Maybe on the high end we’ll have some guys play 20-25 minutes, but we’ll try to spread it around, get everyone some looks, get people a chance to get comfortable, get acclimated to real basketball again.”
Because the Nets will play just two preseason tilts (four are allowed), Nash admitted they’ll still be in preseason mode “four or five games” into the regular season. That’s likely to include rotations, in which the Nets’ versatility is going to lead to different looks, including Durant handling the ball on pick-and-rolls.
“We’ve tried out so many different lineups, different people,” Prince said. “It can open up for us Kevin playing at the 1, 1-through-5, me 2, 3, 4, Joe [Harris] 2, 3, Kyrie 1-through-3, Caris [LeVert] 2-through-3, Jeff [Green] 3, 4.There’s a lot of versatility in this team. It gives us a lot of options.”
Nash agreed, saying Durant could pop up anywhere on the court in the Nets’ system.
“Kevin will offensively play all five positions,” Nash said. “I don’t know that we’ll see a ton of time with him at the 1, but he’s definitely a ballhandler, playmaker and can thrive in pick-and-roll situations. So he’ll play the 1 at times.
“We’re trending toward positionless basketball.”