Nets understand need to build chemistry on the fly

As the games dwindle toward single digits for the Nets to get back Kyrie Irving on a full-time basis and Ben Simmons at all, four-time All-Star big man Andre Drummond believes they are going to need to adopt a “we got next “A mentality playground for the remainder of the regular season and once the playoffs begin.

“We’ve gotta treat this s–t like pickup,” the recently acquired Drummond said with a laugh after practice Sunday in Brooklyn. “We’ve gotta go out there, just take the best five and try to make it work, try to build chemistry while we’re out there.

“I think we have enough guys. I think the best thing about our team is we have guys that [are] Experienced, guys who’ve been in the league five, seven-plus years, so I think, with that, we’ll be able to figure it out. … We have 11 games left to do what it takes to put ourselves in position to get to the Finals.”

Kevin Durant, Andre Drummond, and Seth Curry.
NBAE via Getty Images

Simmons, acquired with Drummond and Seth Curry from Philadelphia in the James Harden blockbuster on Feb. 10, still is not practicing with the team and doesn’t appear close to making his team debut due to a back issue that required an epidural shot last week.

According to Nash, Simmons did “physio” work with the team’s practice rehabilitation therapist during Sunday’s.

“It is what it is. I wish I could tell you guys more. It’s all I got,” Nets coach Steve Nash said.

The Nets (37-34) are currently sitting in the No. 8 play-in position in the Eastern Conference with 11 games remaining, beginning with three stern tests this week against top teams: Utah on Monday at Barclays Center followed by trips to Memphis (Wednesday) and East-leading Miami (Friday).

“I think there’s a component of that for sure. We’re going to be really tested here this week playing excellent teams,” Nash said. “Really having a much smaller room for error, so that’s good. Being stretched and pushed and tested is good for our group to see how we respond and these are important tests for us so we get to a playoff environment.”

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant high-five during the first half of a game at the Amway Center.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant
Marty Jean-Louis/Sipa USA

Irving is eligible to play in the latter two games alongside fellow star Kevin Durant, albeit not Monday night due to New York’s ongoing vaccination mandates. After the Miami visit, the seven-time All-Star guard presently is slated to sit out all but one of the Nets’ final eight games — six at home and one at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Simmons will be available for any of those games, either, although Nash added that he’s still “fully expecting to have him this year.” The second-year coach also understood but didn’t totally subscribe to Drummond’s “pickup” ball theory.

“I wouldn’t go that far. Hopefully we are more purposeful than just a pickup game. But I do get what he’s saying. And I’ve talked to the team about this,” Nash said. “We don’t have time to give away days, shoot-arounds. I was disappointed we gave away the first half [of Friday’s comeback win against Portland] as much because it put us in a difficult position to win the game as it was that we wasted an opportunity to get better.

“So yeah, we’ve talked to the group a lot about 11 games we’re playing against teams with four, five, six years of corporate knowledge, where a lot of that end-of-game execution stuff is rote for them.” They’ve been through it before. We don’t have that. So I think that’s what Andre’s getting at. We’ve got to really work hard and be conscious of the little details of what’s going to be important for us to win games.”

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