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“We played Brooklyn when they hated each other, and now everybody’s bought in” - Fred VanVleet recalls the differences he’s seen in the Brooklyn Nets’ turnaround

From dysfunction to domination, Fred VanVleet has seen it all with the Nets this season.
December 16, 2022; Kyrie Irving smiles with Fred VanVleet during the Brooklyn Nets road game vs. Toronto Raptors at the Scotiabank Arena

Kyrie Irving, Fred VanVleet

The Brooklyn Nets have turned their season around, and the Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet is one of many players taking notice.

A team reborn

Since the firing of head coach Steve Nash, the red-hot Nets have the best record in the NBA, and their resurgence has seen them shoot up the standings, currently sitting 2nd in the Eastern Conference.

It was less than two months ago that the franchise seemed on the brink of a premature rebuild following superstar forward Kevin Durant publicly calling out his teammates after formally requesting a trade this offseason.

In addition to Durant’s comments, there were concerns about Ben Simmons’ dedication to the team, and star point guard Kyrie Irving served a suspension following a controversial anti-Semitic social media post.

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VanVleet saw both sides of the coin

Despite their internal whirlwind, the Nets beat VanVleet and the Raptors in their first meeting of the season. Still, the 28-year-old point guard had an opportunity to witness first-hand the dysfunction they were battling under Nash.

Fast forward to December 16, the Nets faced the Raptors for the fourth time and swept the season series on an Irving buzzer-beater. But this time, VanVleet witnessed a reinvented Brooklyn squad. He talked about it during his appearance on the J.J Redick Podcast “The Old Man and the Three”.

“We played Brooklyn when it looked like they didn’t want to be there and they hated each other when Steve was there. You could tell it was messed up and then we played them recently and it was just like they’re on a rhythm, and they’re on the clock, and everybody’s bought in, and they’re flowing the right way. I think those are the best teams that are bought in completely to everything they have going on,” Fred said.

VanVleet is spot on with his assessment, as the Nets are clearly a completely different outfit from the team that started the campaign 2-5. Their cohesiveness, chemistry, and overall defensive application have been noticeable differences in their collective U-turn.

The Nets are in the driver's seat

Now, due to the parity in the East, they find themselves just one and a half games back from the 1st seed in the Conference, trailing only the Boston Celtics who themselves have shown inconsistent tendencies as of late by dropping some winnable games.

It's safe to say if the Nets’ upward trend continues, they could find themselves with a significant upper hand come playoff time by securing home-court advantage.

Either way, they have proved they are genuine championship contenders and have the ability to defeat any team in the league in a seven-game series. 

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