The Nets’ top priority in the championship chase is clear

For many of the Nets, winning an NBA title is not just their stated goal, but an expectation.

When they open training camp, the collective health of their big three, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, will not only be the biggest concern, but also the second and third priorities.

“Our goal is to be the last team standing,” general manager Sean Marks said. “There are probably six, eight, 10 teams that have the same similar goal, and one realistic one.

“For us, it’s about owning that and not running away from it and doing everything possible … to try to achieve it. We also have to keep in mind that it is a long season. Anything can happen, as we have seen over the course of the past year ”.

Anything that could have happened in terms of health last season happened to the Nets. Their optimal lineup didn’t play a second together the entire regular season, and two-thirds of their big three, Durant and Irving, were injured in the second-round loss to Milwaukee.

The Nets are convinced that better health would have resulted in them, not the Bucks, lifting the trophy as NBA champions. But they also know that injuries cannot be an alibi this season, and that going through the 2020-21 experience has to serve as motivation.

The Nets’ Big 3
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“I hope so,” head coach Steve Nash said. “We are all competitors. We all look at the past year with disappointment. It is important for us to worry about what we could have controlled and done better in the past year, not to make excuses for the guys who got hurt. So it is important to be able to look critically at yourself, individually, collectively, what can I do in case we are in a similar situation to help this group move forward?

“As Sean says, we recognize that we want to win a championship. We own it. But it is a process. We have to try to win that process to be there at the end ”.

The Nets must continue to improve their defense and get Joe Harris to hit 3 again as best he can. But Durant’s thigh and hamstring injuries, Irving’s multiple absences and Harden’s hamstring injury limited the trio to playing just 202 minutes together in eight regular-season games. There were more than 64 in 130 minutes in six postseason games.

Thanks to injuries, they never got to play alongside Harris and center Blake Griffin until the postseason, when that five had more than 49 in 64 minutes. That is, until Harden’s right hamstring strain and Irving’s right ankle sprain led to a tough seventh game loss in overtime.

They are both now healthy and presumably soon to follow Durant in signing long-term extensions.

“It will be a work in progress as to how to proceed,” Marks said. “We have talked about it ad nauseam, which is routine. It is a marathon, it is not a sprint. But obviously we’re always trying to save those guys from themselves half the time. They feel good, they look great, so that’s a good thing. “

Durant’s summer, who signed an extension while dominating the Tokyo Olympics en route to a gold medal for the United States, was positive, as was center LaMarcus Aldridge who received the go-ahead to return from an irregular heartbeat. . Now, aside from improved health, the next upside the Nets will be looking for is locking up Harden and Irving.

“It always helps to do these things in person,” Marks said. “We are looking forward to sitting down with them over the next week, two weeks, and promoting those discussions.

“Those guys know exactly how we feel, and they have expressed their desire to be a part of this and build this together. We have the opportunity to build something special here for the foreseeable future. … They want to collaborate, they want to come here together, they want to build this together ”.

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