The bar has been lowered for the Nets.
But Mikal Bridges insists they can — and will — clear it, and exceed expectations.
Brooklyn had a losing record after the midseason trades that reshaped the team, and Bridges told The Post this season’s roster will essentially look the same.
It’s the results that will change.
While being pegged as a play-in team, no longer being hamstrung by having to mesh three different teams on the fly — and do it without a training camp — is why Bridges is convinced the Nets have more potential than they had a chance to show.
“I think people don’t maybe account for that,” Bridges said. “Which, they can think whatever, but that’s a big thing. And you don’t have training camp and no principles of everybody being on the same page. Everybody came from different principles and trying to mix it in there, and you’re playing in a game at a high level and you’ve been playing a certain way.
“Me and Cam [Johnson] have been playing a certain way for three years [in Phoenix] with coach Monty [Williams] there. And then Dorian [Finney-Smith] and Spencer [Dinwiddie] have been [in Dallas] for about a year-and-a-half. Do’ [Finney-Smith] had been there for a couple, a little bit longer than Spence was, so you have the [old muscle memory].
“It’s natural every single day. Maybe this coverage you always do this, and then you come to a different team in the game you go might go back as a habit. You’re going to go back to what you’ve been doing for a while, and you might do that. That’s exactly what it is. So it’s definitely tough.”
The trades of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving right before the Feb. 9 deadline shook up Brooklyn’s roster.
With Bridges and Johnson coming from Phoenix and Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith arriving from Dallas, the Nets were trying to get starters from three different squads to get on the same page.
With coach Jacque Vaughn — who’d begun the season as an assistant and didn’t take over until the firing of Steve Nash on Nov. 1 — not having had the benefit of a training camp, the results were middling.
Brooklyn went 12-15 after the makeover, including a regular-season finale when Bridges logged just a four-second cameo.
They finished just 11th in the Eastern Conference in that span, one-half game behind lowly Charlotte and 1 ½ behind Atlanta.
“I think we just did a good job,” Bridges said. “I think our biggest thing was just trying to just get out, stay out of that play, and at the time we keep trying to get better. But it’s tough coming into the second half of the season. Teams have been together for that half and their teams locked in and they’re making this push for the playoffs, the secondary push.
“We were like preseason. We’re like trying to make that beginning push. So the team that’s all the way down here trying to make their way up with teams that have been here and trying to hit that second jump, we’re just trying to make our first jump. So it definitely was tough, but we did as good as we can, and we’re just getting ready for this year.”
Entering the coming season, there is a clear separation of power in the Eastern Conference, and it appears less top-heavy than three years ago when Brooklyn had been vying with Milwaukee.
The Bucks, Celtics, Cavaliers, 76ers, Heat and possibly even Knicks have pulled away from the pack. Meanwhile, both FanDuel and DraftKings have the Hawks with the seventh-best projected win total in the East and Brooklyn sitting right behind them.
That puts the Nets firmly in play-in territory — a neighborhood Bridges is convinced a real camp will help them avoid.
The Long Island Nets acquired the returning player rights to D.J. Stewart Jr. from the Sioux Falls Skyforce in exchange for Alondes Williams., who was on a two-way for much of last year’s rookie season. Stewart, 6-6, 205, averaged 21.1 points in the G-League last year.
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