Nets' Ending Came Quickly, Decisions About The Future Won't

Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker (17) fights through a pick set by Brooklyn Nets' Bruce Brown, top left, to defend against Kevin Durant, bottom left, during the first half of Game 7 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Saturday, June 19, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Milwaukee Bucks' P.J. Tucker (17) fights through a pick set by Brooklyn Nets' Bruce Brown, top left, to defend against Kevin Durant, bottom left, during the first half of Game 7 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Saturday, June 19, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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NEW YORK (AP) — The end for the Brooklyn Nets came quickly.

Changes to prevent it from happening again will not.

Two days after a team with title hopes went out in the second round of the playoffs, the Nets said they will take some time evaluating their players — and even the people responsible for keeping them healthy.

“I think you have to be very careful in the circumstances that we dealt with this year,” general manager Sean Marks said Monday. “No team has ever been through this before. You hope that next season looks vastly different from the protocols that were in place for COVID and so forth, so I don’t want to be too quick to judge anybody and there’s no rash decisions. We’ve never made rash decisions in five years since we’ve been here.”

The Nets were eliminated with a 115-111 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. James Harden missed all but 43 seconds of Games 1-4 with a hamstring injury, and Kyrie Irving sat out the final three games with a sprained right ankle.

Teams that fall so short of the NBA Finals often need some or even many moves in the offseason, but the Nets have a difficult task assessing a team they saw at full strength so infrequently.

“I don’t know how much you can look at widespread changes when we really just want to make sure all our guys are available and healthy,” coach Steve Nash said. “It’s hard to start talking about big adjustments or changes when you didn’t have the full complement of your team.”

Kevin Durant, Harden and Irving played only eight games together in the regular season, and Durant and Harden had lengthy absences in the second half because of hamstring injuries.

Despite those injuries, Marks said he would be OK with them playing this summer in the Olympics. Harden told the U.S. national team he is committed to playing a Tokyo, a person familiar with the decision said Monday.

Marks said he understands that playing for their country is a big opportunity for many players.

“So for them to have to turn that down, they’ve got to look at the big picture and say, ‘OK, am I not healthy’ and so forth,” Marks said.

Despite all the injuries, the Nets went 44-28 and were one of the league's best offensive teams. Veterans such as Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge — who was forced to retire because of a heart condition — signed with the Nets during the season in part to play with Brooklyn's Big Three.

“I think what you see out there is when they were healthy, that’s a very, very elite unit,” Marks said, “and I don’t see any shortage of people wanting to play with them, people wanting to play alongside them or them wanting to be a part of something here.”

But no matter what players are on the roster, the Nets need them to stay healthy. A normal season, with a regular training camp and usual time off between games, could help with that.

Beyond that, Marks knows there will have to be honest discussions about everything from the players' habits to the type of treatment the medical team is providing.

“I think it’s a big offseason for our players and the performance team,” Marks said. “We know we’ve got guys coming back and we’ve got to get them healthy.”

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