For four seasons, Brooklyn Nets star Mikal Bridges played against Quin Snyder’s Utah Jazz in the Western Conference 15 times as a member of the Phoenix Suns.
“Obviously the usage is so much higher because of the makeup of their team, and his role on their team,” Snyder said of Bridges’ surge since being traded via the Atlanta Hawks’ official YouTube channel. “He wasn’t the first or second option on that team. Clearly, he’s been working. He’s been efficient forever, he’s made those threes. He’s just…more aggressive right now because he has to be. And it’s a credit to him.”
Bridges finished the Nets’ 124-107 win over the Hawks with 42 points on 66.7% shooting including canning 5-of-8 threes. It’s the third time the 26-year-old swingman has scored 40 points or more in his career with all of them coming as a Net. The 6-foot-6 former Phoenix Sun is now averaging 20.1 points per game this season, breaking his old mark by nearly six points.
“I never really a guy to get 30 [points],” Bridges said of his initial surprise at his ability to score, via the YES Network. “I was always borderline – mid-20s, high-20s. I just could never get 30, honestly. But now it’s just, I don’t know, I think I’m just really trying to win. And so, every shot I take, I’m just trying to be aggressive and make every shot I shoot. Like I always say, yeah if I’m missing every shot, there’s a low chance of us winning. …Trust me I would care about none of this if we were losing.”
Snyder, now head coach of the Hawks, got a front-row seat to the new, empowered version of Bridges.
It’s a version that head coach Jacque Vaughn says they are encouraging.
Nets Pushing Mikal Bridges
“He becomes 1 or 2 on the opponents’ scouting report,” Vaughn said via YES Network’s channel on YouTube. So I think overall he gets more attention, and now what is he going to do with the attention? I think he’s shown the ability to score the basketball…I’m learning about him, and this has been a relationship where we’ve allowed him to just hoop. And he’s in positions that he wasn’t in a few months ago, and I think he’s really enjoyed having the burden…of scoring for us or being an offensive cog for us on a nightly basis. I think he’s learning how to do it when he’s guarded by a primary defender. So this is all part of his growth. He puts in the work. He’s present all the time, and he pours his soul into the team. And he deserves this, and we’re going to keep putting more on his plate to see if he can handle it.”
Bridges’ constant presence is becoming the stuff of legends. He has not missed a game since high school and shook off an injury scare where he could be seen flexing his wrist against the Orlando Magic on March 29.
He obviously did not wind up missing any time.
Mikal Bridges: ‘I Got Traded at The Right Time’
“Just trying to get to the line, just trying to be aggressive,” Bridges said via the YES Network on YouTube, after the Nets’ win over the Orlando Magic on March 26. “That’s just a big thing. Coming from Phoenix, being there, a lot of [Devin Booker] and [Chris Paul] and how they draw fouls and stuff, I’ve learned a lot.”
Bridges got a trial run on being the No. 1 option with Booker and Paul both dealing with injuries this season.
He says that prepared him for this.
“I always say I got traded at the right time,” Bridges noted. “I found a little groove towards the end because I was just having a lot of reps. It just helped to prepare me for this movement and I’m just trying to keep it going.”