At least one thing was working for the Brooklyn Nets in their 109-105 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 21 — Mikal Bridges.
“Outside of me letting Mikal Bridges get downhill instead of being in help because I was still thinking about the dunk,” Cavs star Donovan Mitchell told reporters in a video posted to his team’s official YouTube channel. “[The dunk] really sparked us. I feel like it kind of gave us a bit of a boost.”
After Mitchell’s viral slam over Nets forward Yuta Watanabe, Bridges came right back down to hit a floater with the Cavs bench still standing in awe. Making matters worse, it was Watanabe’s bad pass that led to a turnover putting him in a 2-on-1 situation and in line for that dunk.
“Typically it’s getting my a** back on defense,” Mitchell said of his mindset after the dunk. “I didn’t do that today, they got a bucket…That’s really what it is. Yeah, I dunked on them. But I gave up the points right back. Whoever was on the ball did a great job. I wasn’t in my shift spot to deter Mikal from driving to the rim to get the floater. So, at the end of the day, it’s great to have a dunk but you got to get back
Bridges finished with 18 points on 9-of-21 shooting from the floor and went a striking 0-for-8 from beyond the arc. It snapped his streak of 20-plus-point performances at five, his second streak of at least that many games since joining the Nets via trade.
It also snapped his 18-game streak of games with at least one made three dating back to his last couple of games with the Phoenix Suns.
“Just got to keep shooting them,” Bridges said via the YES Network’s YouTube channel. “It’s part of life. You miss some, just got to keep shooting them.”
Brooklyn is shooting 31.8% from deep as a team over this skid.
Nets Couldn’t Get Donovan Mitchell Because of Ben Simmons
Before he was a Cavalier, Mitchell was in limbo with the Utah Jazz ahead of their imminent rebuild. The Nets were on his list of preferred destinations along with the New York Knicks and Miami Heat, per Tony Jones of The Athletic.
Whether or not the Nets were willing to give up what it took to land Mitchell – three players, three unprotected first-round picks, and a pair of pick swaps – or if Cleveland would have accepted their version are unclear.
Landing Mitchell was always going to be a long shot.
“Mitchell can’t be traded to the Nets as long as Ben Simmons is on the roster, which makes that destination unlikely,” Jones wrote referring to Simmons’ five-year, $177 million designated max rookie extension he received in 2019.
Mitchell’s five-year, $163 million pact is of the same variety.
“The Designated Rookie rule allows teams to sign players coming off of rookie contracts to a five-year extension rather than the typical four,” explained Sam Quinn of CBS Sports in July amid Kevin Durant’s first trade demand. “A team can designate up to two rookies for such contracts, but there’s a caveat: only one of them can be acquired by trade.”
With Simmons’ value in the tank after sitting out the entire 2021-22 season with back and mental health issues, the Nets were never going to be able to move that contract to any other team aside from Utah.
The Jazz instead came away with a package that included an All-Star in Lauri Markkanen.
Simmons has been sidelined since the All-Star break with knee and back issues and, even when he has played, has not been the All-Defensive-caliber player he is paid to be.
Finding Mikal Bridges a Co-Star
Bridges has been good about shouldering the blame for this ragtag group not performing up to expectations as times And as his star rises, the Nets might want to consider seeking out a suitable No. 1 (or at least 1A) scoring option to help ease his burden which already includes guarding the other team’s best perimeter player.
Someone like Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls may be too pricey to return the proper value if not off the market altogether.
But that is the kind of offensive dynamo they need and would have had with Mitchell in tow.