Nets’ Jacque Vaughn Sends Strong Message on Mikal Bridges’ Future

Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets

Getty Mikal Bridges #1 of the Brooklyn Nets.

In his final postgame press conference of the season, Brooklyn Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn may have given insight into Mikal Bridges’ future in New York.

“We’re talking about a young man that’s growing in front of our eyes,” Vaughn said via YES Network on YouTube on April 22. “And we get a chance to see it and see what it’s like to be called upon in the fourth quarter and have to produce when you’re guarding the best player on the other team. A great learning experience that we can’t replicate unless he goes through it. And he’s going to grow from it, he’s going to be a better player from it.

“I’m going to be able to look back on this and talk to him about this summer what this felt like, what it looks like going forward because he’s a part of it.”

That last line is not insignificant.

Vaughn received a contract extension during the season so his job figured to be secure regardless of the outcome of this series. But the Nets have other, potentially costly questions to answer that could make this roster more expensive than warranted for a group not quite good enough to be in title contention.

Bridges is signed through the 2026 season on a four-year, $90.9 million contract he got via an extension from the Phoenix Suns.

But Brooklyn also rejected an offer of four first-round picks for the 26-year-old swingman after acquiring him from the Suns for Kevin Durant. The size of the offers was expected to grow given his post-trade explosion in a featured role.

Bridges led the Nets averaging 23.5 points on 42.9% shooting in the postseason including shooting 40% from downtown. He also added 5.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in his first postseason foray with his new team.

But he was also held to just 17 points on 33.3% shooting (2-for-6 3P) in the finale.

“He’ll embrace it, he’ll be better. And I look forward to watching him in this position again,” Vaughn said.

The Nets are going to undergo some level of change this offseason but just how much remains to be seen. Bridges has proven himself capable of carrying the load for an offense if not being a true No. 1 option on a playoff team. However, the Nets are still far from a title contender and would need some work to build around him.

Jacque Vaughn Laments Joel Emiid’s Absence

The Nets were unable to take advantage of Joel Embiid’s absence due to a back injury in Game 4, a point Vaughn elaborated on afterward.

“Tonight, when Joel doesn’t play…James [Harden] isn’t really a turnover-prone player in the sense of pick-on game, 1-on-1, [or] pick-and-roll game,” Vaughn noted. “So that took away our ability to get some transition opportunities. “

Brooklyn forced Embiid into 13 turnovers in Games 2 and 3.

Without Embiid in the lineup, the Sixers turned the ball over eight times total as a team for the entirety of Game 4.

Harden orchestrated things with 11 assists on top of 17 points as fellow Philly guards Tyrese Maxey (16 points, eight rebounds) and De’Anthony Melton (15pts in the 4Q) made clutch basket after clutch basket, putting tremendous pressure on the Nets’ defense.

Nets Need More ‘Downhill’ Options

Vaughn has been very high on this group, going so far as to predict All-Defensive accolades for select members. But, following his team’s elimination, he also readily presented a solution for them to take the next step whatever that step may be.

“I think for our group going forward, the ability for multiple people to get downhill and get to the paint and create opportunities, that’s a need for us; yes,” said Vaughn.

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