The disappointment from their second-round playoff ouster by the Bucks last season remains, but the top-heavy Nets will arrive at training camp next week with the same goal for 2021-22 they had in 2020-21:
To win the first NBA championship in franchise history behind their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
“I think our goal is to be the last team standing,” general manager Sean Marks declared Tuesday. “There’s probably, my guess, six, eight, 10 teams that have that same similar goal and a realistic one.
“For us, it’s about owning that and not shying away from it and doing everything we possibly can putting people into place, whether it’s staff members, players, rounding out the roster, in order to try and accomplish that.”
Second-year head coach Steve Nash replied “I hope so” when asked if the veteran-laden team will use the disappointment of falling to the eventual NBA champion Bucks in seven games as motivation entering the new season.
Harden, who had a right hamstring strain, and Irving who had a right ankle sprain, missed multiple games apiece in the Milwaukee series. Durant also dealt with injuries throughout the regular season in his first season back from Achilles surgery.
“I think that all of us are competitors. I think all of us look at last year with disappointment,” Nash said. “It’s important for us to worry about what we could have controlled and done better last year, not make excuses for the guys that got hurt.
“So that is important to be able to look critically at yourself, individually, collectively. … One team wins every year and everyone else grows a bigger resolve and a deeper resolve to be better and to put themselves in a position to have a chance to win. … Like Sean says, we own that we’re out to win a championship. We own that. But it’s a process. We have to try to win that process to be there at the end.”
The Nets, who finished the regular season with a 48-24 record for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, added veterans Patty Mills and Paul Millsap in the offseason. They also brought back seven-time All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who has medically cleared to return after he had announced in April he was retiring from the NBA due to an irregular heartbeat.
“I thought [Aldridge] added a lot to our room, and unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of him on the floor. But he was an experienced, skilled, versatile big that … was adding a lot to our collective IQ and our experiences. So we’re excited to have him back,” Nash said. “Patty obviously is a championship player with the Spurs, been there for 10 years. I think he’s an incredible lift to our culture, just being the type of character he is, the personality he has and his ability to shoot and play with pace helps us immensely.
“And Paul Millsap’s a tough, intelligent, skilled big who’s seen it all. … So we added three veterans with high IQ and high character, and that’s always a really positive thing for the coaching staff.”