Steve Nash said he wanted to use the Nets’ preseason finale Friday against the Celtics to simulate the rotations that could be deployed to start the regular season this upcoming week.
And it appears the first-year coach has an idea of what he wants his second unit to look like.
In both preseason games, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Landry Shamet and Jeff Green were the first Nets to come off the bench. Though Caris LeVert missed the first preseason game against the Wizards with a minor knee issue, he was the sixth man on the floor Friday and provided the Nets with the spark they anticipated he could bring off the bench.
“We’ve got lots of depth, lots of options,” Nash said Friday in Boston. “[Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot] has been great in camp too. It’s hard to try to fit everyone in, lots of guys deserve to play but we feel pretty confident about our second unit. Whoever that is, it can change, it can be different guys, in different scenarios on different nights.
“We definitely feel like depth is a strength for us and those five guys who came in and relieved the first guys played very well.”
LeVert, in his fifth season with the Nets, is a starting-caliber player but has been tasked with captaining the second unit. After starting 31 of the 45 games he played in 2019-20, LeVert’s new role is a testament to how much deeper the Nets have become with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving expected to be in the lineup full-time.
The Nets received 52 points off the bench in their 113-89 rout of the Celtics on Friday. Nash seemingly settled into an 11-man rotation for a majority of the game, with Reggie Perry, Tyler Johnson and Bruce Brown receiving a few minutes each in the fourth quarter.
LeVert exploded for 18 points, which included going 2-for-3 from behind the arc, while Allen chipped in nine and Luwawu-Cabarrot recorded seven. Nash opted not to play Chris Chiozza, Rodions Kurucs and Jeremiah Martin. Chiozza and Kurucs saw a few minutes against the Wizards, but Martin has yet to play.
While Durant led all players on the floor with 25 points in 27 minutes, LeVert’s 18 points counted as the second most for Brooklyn. It’s widely expected that Durant and Irving will be the top scorers on the floor each and every night, but the Nets have made it clear that they expect the second unit’s contributions to be an X-factor.
It appears LeVert will be the unit’s anchor. Asked if his approach changes depending on who’s on the court with him, LeVert said he remains the same.
“For me, I just try to be in ‘Go’ mode all the time,” he said. “Attacking, whether that’s coming off a ball screen looking for guys, playing off the ball, being ready to catch and shoot or being ready to attack in transition. I’m always just aggressive and that’s going to be my role going forward, whether I’m starting or coming off the bench. I’m just aggressive trying to get guys involved, trying to get my own shot just trying to make winning plays out there.”
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