On Sunday, Nets guard Bruce Brown discovered from a reporter on a post-practice video convention name that his group had added LaMarcus Aldridge, the seven-time All-Star middle.
Brown appeared off digicam, 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. Getting into Monday’s matchup with Minnesota, the Nets are 17-Three of their final 20 video games — principally with out Kevin Durant, who has been sidelined with a left hamstring damage. 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 predicted 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 greatest 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 damage 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 outstanding 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 capturing together with 7.Four rebounds a sport. The addition comes weeks after the group signed Blake Griffin, 32, who had been purchased out of his contract by the Detroit Pistons. Griffin and Aldridge made an All-Star group as 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 vital proficient groups in N.B.A. historical past due to their prime three gamers — James Harden, Irving and Durant. Harden and Durant are former most respected 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 probably the greatest years in his profession. Nicolas Claxton, a second-year middle 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 cause they’d not is due to critical 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 return inside two video games of swiping the championship from the Toronto Raptors.
For the Nets, meshing all these gamers collectively may be a problem in a shortened season. Perhaps. Nevertheless it hasn’t been but, and there’s no cause to consider will probably be a difficulty. Over all, the Nets are 31-15 after a sluggish begin to the season, inserting them one sport again of Philadelphia for the very best report within the East and three and a half again of the Utah Jazz for the very best report within the league.
Veterans chasing a hoop — the apply of skilled gamers maneuvering to play with groups which might be championship contenders — has lengthy been a staple of the N.B.A. Probably the most distinguished examples is when Gary Payton and Karl Malone signed with the Lakers earlier than the 2003-Four season. Payton was 35 at first of the season and had simply come off making his ninth All-Star group. Malone turned 40 shortly after signing with Los Angeles and was coming off a strong 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 damage. If he wasn’t, the collection would possibly’ve ended otherwise.
Normally ring chasing is finished 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 a lot of the season, and gained his championship as a 37-year-old. Different examples embrace middle 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 are usually not your typical examples of ring chasing by veterans, however they might function an indicator of the place the league is headed, particularly as “superteams” — prime stars partnering with one another — have develop 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 gained two championships. (Cousins was injured a lot of the yr and playoff run, and didn’t play properly within the finals.)
Generally 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. Generally they don’t, like Cousins, who after struggling an Achilles’ tendon damage 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 group. However principally they’re not relied upon sufficient in a critical 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 luxurious of signing gamers of Griffin and Aldridge’s caliber with out truly needing them to play a giant function, or play a job interval. They have been doing positive with out them. They have been doing positive with out Kevin Durant. That’s how good the group already was.
The query — if there may be one — is whether or not Griffin and Aldridge will likely be comfy with not being wanted the best way 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 if you’re simply one in every of a number of cherries on prime of an oversize, delicious cake? Effectively, within the N.B.A., maybe there may be. In a league the place validation for stars is sort of solely — 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 gained — 4 — in contrast with that of his co-host, Charles Barkley, who by no means gained one?)
For Griffin and Aldridge, two borderline Corridor of Famers, a championship is lacking from their résumés. It might be the distinction between making them slam-dunk picks for enshrinement or holding them on the outskirts like Chris Webber, who’s not in currently regardless of having 5 All-Star appearances and being probably the greatest 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 group who puzzled the place that production had been all season.
It’s unknown when Aldridge will be part of the group or what his function will likely be when he does. Like Griffin, he’s recognized extra for his scoring than his protection or rebounding potential. The Nets have the very best offense within the N.B.A., so the two aren’t exactly filling a need.
However they don’t must. If the Nets ended up needing Griffin and Aldridge to provide them vital manufacturing, meaning 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 will get it.