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How the Nets are preparing for their upcoming opponents in the Orlando bubble


On July 31, less than two weeks from now, the Nets will play their season re-opener against the Orlando Magic. No team has played a basketball game since March 11, when Rudy Gobert became the first of dozens of players to test positive for the coronavirus and the season was suspended.

How are teams preparing for their first opponent?

In Brooklyn — well, in Orlando — Jacque Vaughn’s coaching staff has already been thinking about it. Its schedule has been flipped onto its head.

A once-predictable slate of games normally tipping off around 7:30 pm has been blasted wide open. 

“Now you’re going to go into having 2:00, 2:30 games — afternoon games. So what you’re your shootaround look like? What does your breakfast meeting look like? What does your postgame look like? Those things that happen with some variability also,” Vaughn conceded. “Where you’re warming up at might not be on the same court that you’re playing on. The time that you meet together as a team. So all those pregame and postgames that you’re used to having a set schedule, we’ll have to challenge ourself to definitely be flexible.”

The Nets are doing what they can to prepare themselves. They’re simplifying the offense, reducing to only a handful of plays with more read-and-react scenarios so their new imports — Jamal Crawford, Tyler Johnson, Lance Thomas, Justin Anderson and Donta Hall — can integrate quickly. They’ve done copious amounts of conditioning work, and will continue to do so as Hall and Anderson work their way back from quarantine.

But sooner or later, the Nets are going to have to begin scouting their opponents. Vaughn says they’re going to have to do so without clear guidance from the NBA on what access to opposing teams’ scrimmages will look like.

“It’s a different process of going to advance scout teams. We’re already trying to compute how we’re going to send someone to see scrimmages, whether or not the scrimmages are going to be on TV and we can get information that way, so definitely begin to talk about it,” he said. I think the NBA is still working through how many people we’re going to be able to allow to go to a game, what that scouting situation looks like, how many games out. So still working through it, but definitely starting to process that.”

Without their full-strength roster, the Nets can’t afford a slump in the bubble. They are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference, but one too many losses in the eight-game conclusion to their regular season could knock them down to eighth send Brooklyn into a play-in tournament for its playoff livelihood. It’s unlikely — the Wizards will be without both Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans — but the Wizards only need to be within four games of the eighth seed to force a play-in tournament.

Brooklyn is currently six games ahead of Washington.

The Nets are 0-4 against both the Magic and Wizards this season and 4-6 overall against teams they’ll play in the Orlando bubble. They have yet to play the Los Angeles Clippers, a heavy favorite as a team that employs Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.

Vaughn is going to need every advantage he can if the Nets are going to come out victorious in the Orlando bubble. Even if it means sending a spy to secure intel from opponent scrimmages.