Mikal Bridges

Mikal Bridges Says Brooklyn Fans Responded To Drama-Free Approach

Mikal Bridges believes Nets fans have accepted him not only because of his performance on the court, but also because he brought a culture change after years of drama involving Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant. In an interview with The Pivot podcast, hosted by former NFL players Channing Crowder, Fred Taylor and Ryan Clark, Bridges talks about the situation he entered when he was traded from Phoenix to Brooklyn in February (hat tip to Nets Daily).

“I think Brooklyn some had a lot going on. They had Kyrie, Harden and KD and then all that happening … and like Kyrie and stuff,” Bridges said. “I think (fans) were ready for a refresh, and I’m like the total opposite of them dudes. I’m just like, the quietest, chillest. I ain’t trippin’ off nothin’, so I’ll just (be) this happy all the time. So I was just like, I knew I was gonna be fine for sure.”

Bridges said he was thrilled that the trade gave him a chance to play in the New York City spotlight. He adds that the deal didn’t catch him off guard because he knew Phoenix was among Durant’s preferred destinations when he made his first trade request last June.

“Me, I always love New York,” Bridges said. “So when even when the whole situation happened in the summer when KD asked for a trade he wanted to come here. Me and Cam Johnson knew, ‘Well, obviously we’re going to be a part of that.’ Like we just knew KD wants to come here. We’re gonna so just make jokes like, ‘Oh, we’re going to Brooklyn’ but like, I love New York. I thought I was gonna get drafted No. 9 by the Knicks and I was prepared to not live in the city but I was prepared to be in the city. I was very excited about living in New York.”

Bridges touches on a few more topics during the podcast, including:

How he’s been able to improve his game throughout his five years in the NBA:

“Everybody will ask me like, well, like, ‘what’s the secret? How you get better?’ I’m like, ‘It’s just work out.’ I just work out every day, I just work out. I mean, I don’t kill myself, but I work out and I just get better. I think there’s no secret to it. I just, just work out and work on my game and try to get stronger and just keep trying to go up and I think that’s the easiest thing.”

How he was able to avoid the gun culture that has derailed Ja Morant‘s career:

“My mom don’t play none of that. If I bring somebody around my mom, she would be, ‘Nah.’ That’s just how it is. Like people are scared of my mom like she don’t play, know that, and as I got older now it’s funny because I feel like I’ll tell her all the time, ‘I’m really becoming you,’ ’cause she’s human resources, like she has to fire people all the time. She has to be that boss lady.”

His expectations for next season as the Nets’ new leader:

“I just think coming into the preseason to the team we’ll have– obviously, it might be a little bit different when the time comes, you never know, we got free agents and stuff like that. Just be the leader and come in and just know like, all I care about is winning. If I’m still one of the main guys trying to do everything, it ain’t about me.”

Nets Notes: Bridges, C. Jones, Kalkbrenner, Holmes, Bates

There has been speculation that Nets forward Mikal Bridges will be a target for the Trail Blazers if and when they shop the No. 3 overall pick, but John Hollinger of The Athletic is skeptical that a deal centered around that pick would appeal to Brooklyn.

As Hollinger points out, the Nets don’t control their own first-rounders in any of the next four drafts, so they have little incentive to take a step back in the short term. Plus, Bridges is signed to one of the NBA’s most team-friendly contracts through the 2025/26 season.

Alex Schiffer of The Athletic (Twitter link) says he has heard the same thing as Hollinger at the draft combine in Chicago. According to Schiffer, any rumors linking Bridges to Portland are “all talk,” since Brooklyn isn’t interested.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Many prospects in this year’s draft class have cited Bridges as a player they want to emulate at the NBA level, according to Schiffer. Iowa’s Kris Murray, Villanova’s Cam Whitmore, Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis, and Frenchman Rayan Rupert are among the prospects who likened themselves to Bridges. “I want to have the same trajectory and same process he did,” Rupert said. “Mikal Bridges is a big inspiration for me.”
  • Xavier guard Colby Jones told Schiffer that he’s scheduled to work out for the Nets in the coming weeks. Jones is the No. 28 prospect on ESPN’s big board, while Brooklyn owns the Nos. 21 and 22 picks in next month’s draft.
  • Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner and Dayton’s DaRon Holmes II are among the draft prospects who worked out for the Nets prior to the draft combine, Schiffer writes for The Athletic. Kalkbrenner, who has also auditioned for the Bulls, said that his session with Brooklyn went well, but Holmes wasn’t as positive about his workout in Brooklyn. “I didn’t do too well, I feel like, at the Nets,” Holmes said. “I feel like I could have stepped it up a bit, but it was good to learn. Great players there.”
  • Former five-star recruit Emoni Bates has been linked to the Nets and said he’ll work out for them at some point in the coming weeks, according to Schiffer. An Eastern Michigan forward, Bates added that he also has workouts lined up with the Thunder, Suns, Cavaliers, Blazers, and Pistons.
  • In case you missed it, Ben Simmons‘ agent said earlier this week that the former No. 1 overall pick is “progressing really well” in his injury rehab process. We have more details here.

NBA Announces 2022/23 All-Defensive Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-Defensive teams for the 2022/23 season.

A total of 100 media members vote on the All-Defensive awards, with players receiving two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote. This year’s All-Defensive teams are as follows:

First Team

Second Team

Unsurprisingly, Jackson – who was this season’s Defensive Player of the Year – received the most First Team votes (96) and showed up on the most overall ballots (99). Only one voter didn’t have Jackson on either All-Defensive team.

Milwaukee teammates Holiday (94) and Lopez (85) received the second- and third-most First Team votes. No other player earned more than 50.

While the Bucks have two players on the First Team, it’s a bit surprising to see former DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo miss out altogether. Antetokounmpo earned 16 First Team votes and 28 Second Team votes for a total of 60 points, the most of any player who didn’t earn All-Defensive honors. Although he received more total points than Brooks or Adebayo, Giannis didn’t make the cut because there were four forwards with more points than him.

Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (40 points), Celtics guard Marcus Smart (35), Nets guard Mikal Bridges (33), and Nets center Nic Claxton (25) would have joined Antetokounmpo on a hypothetical All-Defensive Third Team as the highest vote-getters who fell just short.

A total of 38 players showed up on at least one ballot — the full voting results can be viewed here.

Being named to an All-Defensive team will benefit a pair of players financially, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter). White earned a $250K bonus for his Second Team nod, while Holiday will receive $129,600 for making the First Team.

New York Notes: Randle, Brunson, Bridges, Simmons

After being sidelined for Game 1 of the Knicks‘ second-round series against Miami due to a left ankle sprain, forward Julius Randle said he had no intention of missing Game 2, writes Steve Popper of Newsday (subscriber link).

Yeah,” Randle said. “There was no way I was sitting out of that one.

It’s not really the pain, man. It’s just the getting back on the court. For me, it was not being able to do anything for a while. Getting my conditioning back … the recovery after, all while trying to nurse an injury. So mentally, it’ll take a toll on you. But my wife, my family, everybody in the organization — thankfully for me, I have a great supporting cast.”

Here are a few more notes out of New York:

  • Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson was limited in Thursday’s practice due to right ankle soreness. However, he told reporters on Friday, including Popper (subscriber link), that he’s “ready to go” for Saturday’s Game 3. Popper heard that Randle and Brunson would not be listed on New York’s injury report and that was indeed the case — both players will be available tomorrow afternoon (Twitter links).
  • Collin Helwig of NetsDaily.com takes a look at Mikal Bridges‘ chances of being selected to his first All-Star team in 2023/24, concluding that the Nets wing has a good shot to make it in as a reserve next season if he can continue his strong play from the second half of ’22/23.
  • Australian national team head coach Brian Goorjian is optimistic about Nets swingman Ben Simmons playing at this summer’s World Cup, which starts in late August, according to Seb Mottram of SEN.com.au. “I think his (Ben’s) mindset is getting healthy, getting in shape and getting ready to play in this (World Cup),” Goorjian told 1170 SEN Afternoons. “… As we sit now, I think there is a really strong chance (that he plays at the World Cup).”
  • ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports that Simmons would like to compete for the Boomers at the World Cup, though that will depend on how his back rehab is progressing. Sources tell Windhorst that Simmons’ injury recovery is “going well” thus far. The three-time All-Star last played for the Nets on February 15 due to a nerve impingement in his back (he was also dealing with left knee soreness).

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Fernandez, Bridges, Knicks

Scottie Barnes is the least likely Raptors player to be on the move this summer, Eric Koreen of The Athletic states in his latest mailbag. That’s hardly surprising, considering Barnes is still just 21 years old and has two years left on his rookie scale contract.

The 2021/22 Rookie of the Year had a somewhat uneven sophomore season in ’22/23, with both his two-point percentage (50.5%) and three-point percentage (28.1%) declining (from 54.3% and 30.1%, respectively). In order for Barnes to become a more well-rounded offensive player, he needs to improve his shooting and ball-handling, according to Koreen, who says the former No. 4 overall pick’s passing is ahead of those two other skills at the moment.

Koreen would like to see the Raptors hire a head coach who can find the difficult balance of being “fiery” while able to present as “calm in the heat of things” when dealing with officials, as the team became “dangerously whiny” under Nick Nurse in recent seasons.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernandez interviewed (via Zoom) for the Raptors‘ head coaching vacancy on Friday morning, reports Marc J. Spears of Andscape (Twitter link). Known as a defensive-minded coach, Fernandez just completed his first season with Sacramento after six years on Michael Malone‘s staff in Denver. Fernandez was one of several coaching candidates listed for the job last week.
  • Mikal Bridges was outstanding for the Nets after being acquired at the trade deadline, increasing his scoring average and efficiency. In order for him to take the next step and become an All-Star, he’ll need to improve his play-making and ability to punish double teams, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post (member-only link). “It’s just continuing to get better and work on things,” Bridges said. “…The thing about me is I’m just always trying to get better every year. I mean, that’s the biggest thing, and trying to be the best player I can be when it’s all said and done. There’s always room to grow, and this summer just learning things and adding more things to that routine.” Bridges hasn’t missed a game since his junior year of high school, Lewis notes, a welcome departure from the injury-plagued teams of the past few years.
  • One of the keys for the Knicks in their first-round victory over the Cavs was their incredible offensive rebounding, but they were unable to replicate that success in Sunday’s Game 1 loss to Miami, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. The Knicks averaged 18.2 second-chance points per game in five games against Cleveland, but only managed 11 yesterday, per Botte.

Nets Notes: Offseason Approach, Simmons, Bridges, Johnson, Draft Picks

Nets general manager Sean Marks says the changes he’ll make this offseason will be designed to make the roster bigger and meaner, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. The team ranked among the league’s worst in overall rebound percentage and defensive rebounding percentage.

“Without a doubt we need to make some changes in terms of adding some size. I think (coach Jacque Vaughn) said it (Saturday) night, add a little nastiness,” Marks said. “Without a doubt we need to make some changes. Add a little bit of the Brooklyn grit that we’ve talked about for sort of six years.”

We have more on the Nets:

  • In the same Lewis story, Marks remarked that he anticipates Ben Simmons to be 100 percent physically “probably by September 1st.” Marks has stated he doesn’t believe Simmons will require another back surgery. Marks also expressed confidence that Mikal Bridges can be the No. 1 scoring option going forward. “Regarding Mikal, I think he’s proven to a lot of people that his role can continue to get better and better and bigger and bigger, so I think I would be pretty silly to be up here and limit him and say he cannot be something,” Marks said. “I think that a few people have had their eyes opened to what he can do.”
  • Re-signing restricted free agent Cameron Johnson is a high priority for Marks, Lewis writes in a separate story. Johnson, who was acquired in the Kevin Durant blockbuster, is not only a crucial piece on the court but a popular locker room presence. “Everybody sees what he delivers on the court, but when you see him in the locker room, it’s certainly refreshing to be around, and hopefully he’s here,” Marks said. “But he’s going to have decisions to make, so at the right time, we will certainly be having those discussions with him and his agent, and we hope that Cam will be back. He’s a big priority for us, there’s no question.”
  • Thanks to dealing their superstars, the Nets have plenty of draft capital. Will they use it to pursue another star like Damian Lillard in a blockbuster deal? Perhaps, but Marks isn’t committed to that approach, Lewis writes. “That could happen, but at the same time, I don’t think we’re in any hurry. We’re not going to be pushed to make changes just for the sake of making changes.”
  • Speaking of those draft picks, the Nets own the 21st and 22nd selections in the first round this June but some of the future first-rounders they acquired could eventually land higher. That potential scenario entices Marks, Alex Schiffer of The Athletic notes. “That’s one of the exciting things for us going forward, knowing that there’s only three other teams in the league that have more first-round picks than us from now until 2030.” he said. “So, that’s part of the pathway, right? This group has shown an ability to to draft well, and the coaches have shown an ability to really develop players well. So for me, looking forward to that is exciting.”

Nets Notes: Finney-Smith, O’Neale, Lillard, Johnson, Bridges, Simmons

Several executives around the league expect the Nets to be at the forefront of the trade market this offseason, Marc Stein reports in his latest Substack notebook. They have a glut of wing players, led by Mikal Bridges. They also intend to match any offer for restricted free agent Cameron Johnson, Stein notes.

That means the Nets may seek suitors for Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale as they attempt to upgrade in other areas, Stein adds. Finney-Smith is signed through the 2025/26 season with the final year being a player option. O’Neale has one year left on his contract.

We have more on the Nets:

  • Speaking of being active on the trade market, multiple league executives expect the Nets to make a run at Damian Lillard if the perennial All-Star and Trail Blazers decide he’d be better off in another uniform, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reports. The Nets would likely have to add multiple first-rounders to include Ben Simmons in the trade. Alternatively, they could send the Blazers multiple players — including a quality young piece — and a couple of first-rounders.
  • What is Johnson’s market value? According to execs that Scotto spoke with, he could get a four-year contract worth approximately $90MM. He’ll have some numerous suitors, including the Rockets.
  • Bridges feels responsible for Brooklyn getting swept out of the postseason by Philadelphia, according to Ryan Dunleavy and Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Though he averaged 23.5 points in the series, he was held to 17 points in Game 4. “I feel like these past games, I’ve been letting my team down,” Bridges said. “I hate not [winning] a game for them. It hurts me as I’m just trying, but it’s part of it, man. I just own up to it and realize all you can do is just get better. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
  • General manager Sean Marks confirmed a report that Simmons probably won’t need a second back surgery, Lewis tweets. “He is checking the boxes and meeting these different markers along the way,” Marks said. “So at this point, he does not need surgery. That is the hope going forward, that he will not have to endure another surgery.”

Nets Notes: Offseason Needs, C. Johnson, Curry, Watanabe

The Nets may be encouraged by how they performed after trading Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, but they’ll need to add rebounders and shot creators to get past the first round of the playoffs, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn couldn’t muster a single win in its series against the Sixers, even with Joel Embiid sidelined today with a sprained right knee. Playing without its starting center, Philadelphia had a decisive 54-38 advantage on the glass.

“We’ve got to get bigger over the summer. We’ve got to get nasty over the summer,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “We’ve got to get guys who really love hitting, and take it personal when the other team gets a rebound. That’s what we’ll be looking for.”

Rebounding was only part of the problem. The Nets shot 9-of-37 from three-point range today and just 5-of-29 after the first quarter. Mikal Bridges appeared exhausted by the end of the series, Lewis observes, and would benefit from having at least one more teammate who can run the offense and attack the basket.

“For our group going forward, the ability for multiple people to get downhill and get to the paint and create opportunities, that’s a need for us, yes,” Vaughn said.

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Nets will almost certainly have to go over the luxury tax line to keep restricted free agent Cameron Johnson, according to Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. He notes that Johnson would be a good fit for virtually all the teams with cap space this summer, such as the Rockets, Magic, Jazz, Thunder and Spurs. Gozlan projects a four-year offer sheet for Johnson somewhere around $80-90MM.
  • Seth Curry could be headed elsewhere in free agency, Gozlan adds. The 32-year-old guard doesn’t appear to fit the Nets’ long-term plans and may find a better opportunity with another team. Re-signing Yuta Watanabe may be a higher priority, but Gozlan notes that Brooklyn only has non-Bird rights and would have to use part of its mid-level exception to give him a salary that’s very much above the minimum.
  • The Nets have offseason decisions to make on Royce O’Neale, who only has a $2.5MM guarantee for next season on his $9.5MM salary, and Edmond Sumner, whose $2.2MM contract for 2023/24 is non-guaranteed, per Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link). Marks also points out that Spencer Dinwiddie will become eligible for a four-year extension worth up to $128MM in August.

Atlantic Notes: Barnes, Knicks, McClung, Bridges

Second-year Raptors forward Scottie Barnes faces a critical summer following some minor regression in 2022/23, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. According to Lewenberg, there was a sense within the organization that Barnes, the 2022 Rookie of the Year, “could have worked harder and smarter” last offseason.

“I put my highest expectations on myself. I put a lot of [thought] into what I really want to become, what I really want to be,” Barnes said last week. “That’s how I look at things, how I see myself as a player. I know how I want to get better. I just want to consistently try to develop in each and every way and make it to the top of the league, be one of those better players in the league. It’s just going to take a different level of mindset, of work.”

This season, the 6’9″ forward out of Florida State averaged 15.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.1 SPG and 0.8 BPG across 77 games with the 41-41 Raptors.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Young Knicks role players RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes will have to contribute more in the ongoing playoff series against the Cavaliers if the team hopes to advance, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Braziller notes that Quickley, who has enjoyed a breakout 2022/23 season and was the Sixth Man of the Year runner-up, has been passive in the team’s first two playoff contests, and has logged as many made field goals as he has turnovers (four apiece). Barrett’s shooting and passing have been lackluster, while Grimes has struggled to score.
  • Despite wowing audiences in Utah en route to a Slam Dunk Contest championship in February, two-way Sixers point guard Mac McClung continues to work toward becoming an NBA rotation player, writes Howard Beck of GQ. McClung spent most of his time this year as the starter for Philadelphia’s NBAGL affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats. A scout tells Beck that, while McClung is a terrific athlete, he needs to refine his on-court skillset. “The cerebral aspects of the game are way more important,” the scout said. “He’s proven people wrong every step of the way… but I’d say he’s got a hill to climb.” In his 31 games for Delaware this season, McClung averaged 19.8 PPG, 4.9 APG, 2.7 RPG and 0.8 SPG.
  • Nets forward Mikal Bridges thrived with the Suns during his first few NBA seasons, but has taken on a major role as Brooklyn’s scorer since Phoenix flipped him as part of its blockbuster Kevin Durant trade. Though Bridges didn’t plan on such an outsized role on offense, he has embraced it so far, writes James Herbert of CBS Sports. “I’m not overcomplicating nothing,” Bridges said. “I didn’t drink nothing different, I didn’t eat nothing different, I didn’t change nothing. I just kept getting better and kept working. And I think that’s what people try to overthink. All you gotta do is just get better.” The 6’6″ swingman out of Villanova logged 26.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.0 SPG and 0.6 BPG in 27 contests for his new club this season.

Nets Notes: Bridges, Dragic, Claxton, Thomas

The Kevin Durant deal that shook up the NBA on the eve of the trade deadline never would have happened if the Suns hadn’t included Mikal Bridges, Nets general manager Sean Marks tells Nick Friedell of ESPN.

Marks had come to the realization that it was time to end the super-team experiment in Brooklyn that brought together Durant, Kyrie Irving and eventually James Harden. Durant was the last of the trio to be moved, and Marks wanted to create the foundation of a young team that could remain competitive while building for the future. The centerpiece of that was Bridges, who has become a star in Brooklyn, averaging 26.1 PPG in 27 games since the trade.

“We knew the end of an era was upon us,” Marks said. “When Kyrie had already moved, the discussions with Phoenix heated up and it became real, like, ‘All right, well, there’s a shift happening here, right? Are we resetting, retooling, rebuilding?’ We were able to come to terms with that knowing that the package we were getting back in return was something that has a clear pathway.

“We’ve never sort of had a group of young guys before that were under contract, proven, healthy and you can see a pathway of, ‘Hey, I can see what this may look like in two, three years from now.’ … Not just Mikal, but all of them, where do they all take their games to? Who’s the next person that takes that leap?”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • Veteran guard Goran Dragic is the latest player to indicate that there was significant behind-the-scenes turmoil with the Nets, per Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Dragic, who finished last season in Brooklyn, said he had an offer to stay but he chose to sign with the Bulls to get away from the drama. “I could have re-signed with Brooklyn, but I didn’t want to be in that situation, because it was a little bit crazy,” Dragic said. “I just tried to find a team that’s calmer and to be more stable. I thought that would be with Chicago.”
  • Facing Joel Embiid is a difficult matchup for Nic Claxton, so coach Jacque Vaughn wants him to use his speed to his advantage, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Claxton needs to find a way to get some easy baskets after being held scoreless Monday.
  • Vaughn wouldn’t commit to playing Cam Thomas in Game 3, Lewis tweets. The second-year guard wasn’t used at all in Game 2 after seeing four minutes in the series opener. “It’s always at the disposal of someone not getting minutes, and so who is that?” Vaughn asked. “Is that Spencer (Dinwiddie)? Is that Cam Johnson? Is that Mikal Bridges? Everyone is available to play it and in the wheelhouse to be prepared if their number is called.”