In only the Brooklyn Nets’ first preseason game of the year against Washington on Tuesday, it was hard not to notice the difference between this year’s team and last year’s. Sure, on the court, the ball movement was much better on offense, which was leading to very easy looks for Brook Lopez as well as other players. But the biggest difference may have been on the bench, where every player (and I mean every player, even the ones that will not make the roster) was getting excited about a meaningless game.
I don’t think the Nets necessarily had a chemistry problem last year or didn’t like each other; I just think that this year, the team appears to be much closer and willing to fight for one another. In the fourth quarter of preseason game #1, an injured Deron Williams was getting down and doing push ups for every 3-pointer the 13th man on the roster hit. There’s no doubt that this would have never happened last year.
It is no secret that Kevin Garnett is likely the reason for this culture change. He has been known as a great locker room guy throughout his NBA career, but especially now as a veteran, his teammates think of him as a legend and want to earn his approval by playing well and supporting each other.
Garnett has helped improve the Nets’ chemistry by constantly talking to his teammates, both on the court and on the bench. He calls out plays and offers words of encouragement from the bench. The Nets didn’t have a player like that last year.
But how far will improved chemistry take Brooklyn? It is hard to tell in the preseason how much of an impact Garnett will have once real games start, but it can only be an advantage for the Nets.