Life on the road can do one of two things for a team, it can bring them closer together or become burdensome. For the Long Island Nets, a long six-game road trip in the middle of February helped set the stage for the current six-game winning streak they find themselves in after coming away with a win over the Eastern Conference-leading Motor City Cruise on Sunday.
The Long Island Nets have come a long way since the start of the NBA G League season, which began in January after a delayed start because of COVID outbreaks in the NBA. The Long Island Nets, like other G League teams, had to deal with roster fluctuation on a regular basis as they navigated the COVID hurdles as well players being called up to the NBA to fill gaps in their rosters.
Safe to say that doesn’t make for an easy environment to form cohesion among players, especially as new players made their way onto the roster. That included NBA journeyman Thon Maker, who signed with Long Island in January.
But it was the six-game trip that Nets coach Adam Caporn and Maker pointed to that has made the difference.
“It was timely for us because we had such a new team. A lot of changes,” Caporn said. “A difficult time and I thought our staff was really thoughtful about…how we were going to spend some time together. We had some fun and did some team building and that was going to be an important part of the investment. You could just feel it pay off at the time.”
Part of that meant just getting some of the newer players acclimated to the Nets systems and group around them. Long Island added three players in January, including Treveon Graham, Tyrone Wallace and Maker.
All three have seen minutes for the Long Island Nets, including Wallace who played nearly 42 minutes against Motor City and had 25 points while Maker put up 16 points in 24:56 off the bench.
The extended period away with his new teammates definitely played a role in Maker’s recent stretch with the Nets. Caporn called Sunday’s performance one of Maker’s best this season.
Maker explained that the time together helps build the chemistry as well as helps create a family-like bond among the group. That leads back to the on-court success.
“You understand who they are and where they come from,” Maker said. “Their upbringing and how to talk with them. When you’re on the court you know how a guy is going to talk to you and how you talk to them. Coach said today at the timeout, ‘it’s the message it’s not how it’s delivered.’ Now we’re starting to understand each other like that more. Like he said, we just getting together as a unit. It helps.”
The Long Island Nets have just 11 games left on their schedule before the G League playoffs begin. They’re a mere 1.5 games back of the top spot in the East, but still face a tough conference battle ahead. Four of their next five games will be against opponents either in playoff spots or battling to get into a playoff spot.
The Nets have come a long way from the whacky predicament they found themselves to start the season, but there was one thing that helped them get through it all.
“I think our togetherness as a team,” said Craig Randall II, the G League’s best story of the year. “We’re starting to find we’re clicking at the right time. I just like where we’re going. Early on it’s always tough, nobody played with each other. Nobody really knew each other, but I think now everybody is getting used to each other and it’s coming together.”