The Nets’ game against the Bulls on Friday in Chicago will not only have implications for the Eastern Conference standings, it will also be the teams’ first game in the league’s first in-season tournament.
The group stage of the tournament, which ends next month in Las Vegas and includes all 30 teams, begins on Friday.
All games – except the title game – will also count toward the NBA standings, but the league hopes this will add a little more excitement to the regular season.
“It’s a concept that I haven’t seen in my years of basketball,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said Thursday in Miami. “It’s new for the players. I think they embraced the idea of playing for something in the middle of the season.”
Each team will play four games in the tournament, with the top eight teams advancing to the knockout quarterfinals stage at NBA arenas next month before the semifinals on December 7th and 9th in Las Vegas the final of the NBA Cup will take place.
The Nets are in Group C of the East along with the Bulls, Magic, Raptors and Celtics.
“I think it’s good for our game, which I’m always happy about,” Vaughn said of the tournament. “I’ll mention it beforehand [Friday’s] Chicago game that this is an in-season tournament game. That there is something to it, something is at stake. There is a finish line.”
And while the results of the tournament won’t impact the playoffs, Vaughn believes success there will make a difference.
“You like being the best at what you do,” Vaughn said. “This opportunity to be the best at something. Let us try it. That’s why I’m looking forward to our players’ reaction.”
Interestingly, when asked about his favorites for the tournament, Suns forward and former netflier Kevin Durant picked his last former team to advance out of the first round, specifically citing the presence of Ben Simmons.
“They have so much length and athleticism there from top to bottom,” Durant said. “Your point guard [Simmons] is like 6-foot-6.”
A year ago, only one team in the league was worse than the Nets when it came to rebounds: the Mavericks finished with 38.8 per game and the Nets with 40.5.
Despite only being four games in, the Nets currently rank ninth in the NBA at 47.5, and their second-half rebounding contributed to their crucial comeback win over Miami on Wednesday.
Certainly, Simmons’ return to health was crucial, as Simmons led the team with 10.3 per game.