After the most successful season in franchise history including a trip to the NBA G League Finals last season, the defending Eastern Conference Champion Long Island Nets have gone through a few changes as they get set to start the 2019-20 season this weekend.
Make that a lot of changes…in fact a completely new roster and a new Head Coach!
The LI Nets begin their new season on Saturday night on the road against the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants and they will do so with a 12-man roster in which all of the players are new to the team…not one player is returning from last season. The wholesale changes certainly made for an interesting training camp as everybody had to get know everyone on the roster.
Including the new man in charge.
Now in his fourth season in the Brooklyn Nets organization, Shaun Fein takes over as Head Coach on Long Island. He spent the last two seasons as the organization’s Player Development Coordinator managing players who spent time shifting back and forth between Brooklyn and Long Island including two-way players Alan Williams, Dzanan Musa and Theo Pinson.
“I’m thankful to for the opportunity to be a Head Coach,” said Fein during Media Day on Wednesday. “I think for anybody that gets into this profession, that’s always the goal. Now I’m here and I have a little bit more pressure on me. When you’re an assistant, you can say I think I might have done this or I might have done that but now you’re making all of the decisions so it’s on you and I want that.”
At the G League level or in any minor league in professional sports, there’s always a balance that a coach has to manage in terms of developing the players in the system for the parent team as well as trying to win games and ultimately a championship. Fein is a big part of the new culture in the Brooklyn Nets organization as General Manager Sean Marks and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson try to bring an NBA Championship to Barclays Center.
Part of that culture is making sure that the players on Long Island buy into the system and are ready when the call comes to get on the Long Island Railroad to Atlantic Terminal and to be ready for a roster spot in Brooklyn.
“As an organization, we’re all about developing these guys and we think if we do that it will translate to wins and we’ll be successful,” said Fein who enjoyed a 13-year professional playing career in France. “If we do our job as coaches, we’re going to win some games. I like our team going into the season.”
The Long Island Nets has some talented players on last year’s roster and some of them went back and forth between the Nassau Coliseum and Brooklyn. But the Nets don’t want players to linger on the Long Island roster. The goal is to develop their game to the point where they can earn a spot with the Brooklyn Nets or sign with a professional team in Europe.
“We always think top priority and that’s the players getting better and developing these guys,” said Fein. “That’s what this league is for. We don’t want to have guys playing here five or six years. We want them here one or two years and then hopefully moving on to better things, hopefully the NBA.”
This year’s Long Island Nets opening night roster is comprised of four forwards, one swingman, one center, and six guards including former University of Buffalo star C.J. Massinburg. The 6-5 205-pound Affiliate Player was in training camp with the Brooklyn Nets and is part of this brand-new group that has been working hard to develop chemistry and in turn a winning team.
“You have to have guys that are willing to buy in to what we’re doing here as a program and what the coaches are telling us,” said Massinburg. “I feel like we have a really good group of guys.”
Among the other players joining Massingburg in the Long Island backcourt include former Princeton guard Devin Cannady, former SMU star Mahmal McMurray, and former N.C. State guard C.J. Williams who comes to Long Island as an Affiliate Player after participating in Brooklyn Nets training camp. He’s looking forward to calling NYCB Live, Home of The Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum his playground.
“It’s always great to play in a big coliseum where you have a lot of support and a lot of seats to fill,” said Williams. “It’s always fun to play in those environments and we’ll see how things go.”
The Long Island Nets are entering their 4th G League season and their third at the Nassau Coliseum. The home games are festive and fan friendly with a lot of families enjoying some terrific professional basketball without breaking the bank on tickets. There’s plenty of interaction with the fans during timeouts, an interactive game area behind one of the baskets, and a chance to get autographs from players after the game.
This Monday night November 11th is the home opener against the College Park Skyhawks and there are also some terrific promotional nights including a Kyrie Irving jersey giveaway to the first 1,000 fans who attend the Friday November 15th game against the Delaware Blue Coats and the Sunday November 17th game against the Windy City Bulls.
Last season, the Nets did a lot of winning on the Coliseum court and the plan is to do the same this year while also providing a fun evening out for the fans.
“I think it’s super important,” said Fein. “We want to get into the community as much as we can and hopefully the community will be involved in all of our games this year at Nassau Coliseum. It always gives us a little boost when we have more people there with a little bit more noise. It gets the guys jacked up a little bit so hopefully everybody will come out and support us.”
On the court, the 2018-19 Long Island Nets came within one game of a G League championship. Off the court, the franchise continued to make strides building a fan base and that included an electric atmosphere when the Nets won the Eastern Conference championship on a three-point buzzer beater that set off a raucous celebration at the Nassau Coliseum. And now this season, with a new Head Coach and a new group of players, they hope to add a championship banner to the rafters right next the New York Nets’ ABA banners.