Nets will still learn plenty over final stretch even without playoff push

For the first time in six years, the Nets won’t be in the playoffs.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t be playing for anything.

These are still highly-paid competitors that need to show they have some competitiveness left.

Interim coach Kevin Ollie — and more important, general manager Sean Marks — will be looking to see who is fighting and who is quitting.

And even though the Nets didn’t reach the postseason, those that end up returning need to build some kind of positive vibe going into the offseason and next season.

Brooklyn Nets interim head coach Kevin Ollie
Brooklyn Nets interim head coach Kevin Ollie AP

“Yeah, you learn from it,” said Ollie, who will reassess his rotation down the stretch. “Through the process you learn from it and how you can do it better. And when you get in that opportunity again, you have valuable experience from it.”

There certainly will be plenty of hard lessons to be taken from a season this trying.

The Nets are 30-47 entering Saturday’s game against the visiting Pistons, eliminated from contention for the play-in Wednesday night.

It marks the first time they will have failed to make the playoffs since 2017-18.

Are they doing that learning organically as this disappointing campaign limps on, or will that be done over the summer as they look in the mirror in an organizational self-evaluation?

“Both,” Ollie answered. “Both. You can still grow in the season, you can still grow now. You can ask yourself what are you really made of? Because a lot of people will quit in this situation. But you can ask yourself what kind of man am I? What kind of team do we want [the] Brooklyn Nets to be? And these are the times — and the challenging times — when you really see your true character.

“So that’s the message I give them. Yeah, that goal, we wanted to make the playoffs. But we’ve still got great fans that are showing up and paying their money, and you’re getting paid handsomely. I’m getting paid. We need to come up and do our job. And tomorrow is not promised to nobody. And it’s not promised that we wake up tomorrow.”

The Nets will fall short of their goal and miss the postseason despite coming into Saturday having taken four of their last six.

This is the first time the Nets haven't made the playoffs since 2017-2018.
This is the first time the Nets haven’t made the playoffs since 2017-2018. Robert Sabo for NY Post

But with five dates left on the schedule, there is a value in at least trying to finish strong and salvage some momentum out of this season.

Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson were both on the 2019-20 Suns team that missed the playoffs but was the only undefeated squad in the Bubble and finished with eight straight wins.

Phoenix reached the NBA Finals the next season.

Granted, the Nets won’t have an incoming Chris Paul, but they can at least have some pride in their finish.

Bridges didn’t take the All-Star jump many had hoped, Johnson — doubtful vs. the Pistons — has dealt with a number of lower body injuries and Ben Simmons has been a costly non-factor.

But that’s not a license to capitulate.

“Life happens like that sometimes where you don’t get to where you want. But you don’t just stop playing, start quitting,” Bridges said. “You keep going until the end.

“[You] learn from it and get better. It’s not a rocket science thing. Just get better, learn what you have to get better at and attack that.”

Bridges and Johnson will be part of the core moving forward, as will Nic Claxton if the Nets can retain the free agent.

Dennis Schroder just arrived at the trade deadline, but he’s quickly ascertained what Brooklyn must do.

“When we come in, first off, team chemistry is always the biggest thing. Building that, we’ve got to set the tone,” Schroder said. “On the court, we’ve got to make sure we’re the most competitive group every single night. That gives you a chance to win a basketball game, especially in the NBA. That’s about it, just competing on the highest level defensively and offensively, and we’ll be good.”


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