On Sunday, Nets guard Bruce Brown realized from a reporter on a post-practice video convention name that his crew had added LaMarcus Aldridge, the seven-time All-Star heart.
Brown seemed off digital camera, muttered an expletive after which when it was his flip to talk, couldn’t include a smile.
“Uh, I imply, we’re actually good,” Brown mentioned.
He was proper. However he would have been proper even earlier than he was advised about Aldridge. Coming into Monday’s matchup with Minnesota, the Nets are 17-Three of their final 20 video games — largely with out Kevin Durant, who has been sidelined with a left hamstring harm. Kyrie Irving has missed six of these video games, too, and the Nets have gone 4-2 with out each Irving and Durant in that stretch. (Irving is anticipated to return in opposition to the Timberwolves, whereas Durant’s return date is unclear.)
Most groups would wrestle staying afloat with out two of their finest gamers. Take, for instance, the Los Angeles Lakers, in all probability the Nets’ greatest rival to contend for a championship. Since dropping LeBron James to an harm earlier this month and with Anthony Davis having not performed since Feb. 14, the Lakers have gone 2-4.
That is what makes the Aldridge signing much more exceptional for the Nets (31-15). Simply final season with the San Antonio Spurs, he averaged a productive 18.9 factors per sport on 49.Three p.c taking pictures together with 7.Four rebounds a sport. The addition comes weeks after the crew signed Blake Griffin, 32, who had been purchased out of his contract by the Detroit Pistons. Griffin and Aldridge made an All-Star crew as just lately as 2019.
“I can solely make a guess proper now the way it’ll play out, however we’re excited to have choices and depth and we’re in a greater place right this moment than yesterday as a result of we now have extra depth,” Nets Coach Steve Nash mentioned Sunday.
The Nets added the gamers to what’s already one of the crucial gifted groups in N.B.A. historical past due to their high three gamers — James Harden, Irving and Durant. Harden and Durant are former most useful gamers, and Harden, 31, is a contender to win one other one due to his elite play this season. In complete, with the Nets signing Aldridge, 35, Nets gamers have a mixed 41 All-Star appearances.
The embarrassment of riches has gone past that of the All-Stars. Brown, Jeff Inexperienced and Joe Harris aren’t the family names that their marquee teammates are, however every has had among the finest years in his profession. Nicolas Claxton, a second-year heart drafted by the Nets within the second spherical, has additionally turned out to be a discover.
The Nets aren’t assured to win this season’s N.B.A. championship. However at this level, the one purpose they might not is due to severe accidents, which is what occurred with the 2018-19 Warriors. They misplaced each Durant and Klay Thompson within the finals, and Golden State nonetheless managed to come back inside two video games of swiping the championship from the Toronto Raptors.
For the Nets, meshing all these gamers collectively is likely to be a problem in a shortened season. Possibly. Nevertheless it hasn’t been but, and there’s no purpose to imagine will probably be a problem. Over all, the Nets are 31-15 after a gradual begin to the season, putting them one sport again of Philadelphia for one of the best file within the East and three and a half again of the Utah Jazz for one of the best file within the league.
Veterans chasing a hoop — the apply of skilled gamers maneuvering to play with groups which can be championship contenders — has lengthy been a staple of the N.B.A. Some of the outstanding examples is when Gary Payton and Karl Malone signed with the Lakers earlier than the 2003-Four season. Payton was 35 in the beginning of the season and had simply come off making his ninth All-Star crew. Malone turned 40 shortly after signing with Los Angeles and was coming off a stable season with Utah.
The marketing campaign didn’t precisely go easily. Malone was hampered by accidents. Payton expressed unhappiness along with his function. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal overtly feuded with one another, as recounted in Coach Phil Jackson’s book, “The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul.” And even nonetheless, the Lakers made the finals earlier than being upset by the Detroit Pistons. Malone was hobbled within the finals due to a knee harm. If he wasn’t, the sequence may’ve ended otherwise.
Normally ring chasing is completed by veterans on the finish of their careers. Malone performed just one season in Los Angeles earlier than retiring. Payton signed with the Miami Warmth earlier than the 2005-6 season, got here off the bench for many of the season, and received his championship as a 37-year-old. Different examples embrace heart P.J. Brown, who got here out of retirement at 38 to signal with Boston in the course of the 2007-Eight season and helped the Celtics win a championship.
Aldridge and Griffin’s signings with the Nets aren’t your typical examples of ring chasing by veterans, however they may function an indicator of the place the league is headed, particularly as “superteams” — high stars partnering with one another — have turn into extra prevalent within the final decade. League observers noticed this in 2018, when Golden State added a 27-year-old DeMarcus Cousins to a loaded roaster of Durant, Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Inexperienced. The Warriors had already received two championships. (Cousins was injured a lot of the 12 months and playoff run, and didn’t play effectively within the finals.)
Typically ring chasing veterans work out — like Brown, who hit crucial shots in Game 7 of the Japanese Convention finals to get the Celtics to the finals. Typically they don’t, like Cousins, who after struggling an Achilles’ tendon harm with the New Orleans Pelicans earlier than becoming a member of Golden State hasn’t been the identical since and is presently not with a crew. However largely they’re not relied upon sufficient in a severe manner and infrequently make an enormous distinction. Within the case of the 2003-Four Lakers, they wanted extra manufacturing out of Malone and Payton.
The Nets have the posh of signing gamers of Griffin and Aldridge’s caliber with out really needing them to play an enormous function, or play a job interval. They have been doing nice with out them. They have been doing nice with out Kevin Durant. That’s how good the crew already was.
The query — if there may be one — is whether or not Griffin and Aldridge will likely be snug with not being wanted the way in which they have been with their earlier groups. Are they OK with not enjoying some video games if the matchup dictates it or sitting in fourth quarters?
Is there worth in ring chasing in case you are simply considered one of a number of cherries on high of an oversize, delicious cake? Properly, within the N.B.A., maybe there may be. In a league the place validation for stars is sort of totally — and unfairly — depending on the variety of rings they win, a championship is a championship. (In what number of TNT segments has Shaquille O’Neal introduced up the variety of championships he received — 4 — in contrast with that of his co-host, Charles Barkley, who by no means received one?)
For Griffin and Aldridge, two borderline Corridor of Famers, a championship is lacking from their résumés. It could be the distinction between making them slam-dunk picks for enshrinement or retaining them on the outskirts like Chris Webber, who’s not in currently regardless of having 5 All-Star appearances and being among the finest forwards within the league in his prime.
The Griffin signing has already paid off. In 20 minutes on Friday in opposition to the Pistons, he scored 17 factors, his third highest level complete of the season, incensing followers of his former crew who puzzled the place that production had been all season.
It’s unknown when Aldridge will be a part of the crew or what his function will likely be when he does. Like Griffin, he’s identified extra for his scoring than his protection or rebounding capacity. The Nets have one of the best offense within the N.B.A., so the two aren’t exactly filling a need.
However they don’t should. If the Nets ended up needing Griffin and Aldridge to present them important manufacturing, which means one thing has gone unsuitable. They’re stars signed to be insurance coverage insurance policies for the opposite stars. It’s good work if you may get it.