Mikal Bridges hints at 'different' Nets entering 2023-24

Feb 15, 2023; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) reacts after a three point basket against the Miami Heat during the second half at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Mikal Bridges' opening act with the Nets showed glimpses of a rising star, and Brooklyn's 26-year-old wing is hungry for more entering Year 2.

In a wide-ranging interview published Friday with The Pivot Podcast, he reflected on his trade, love for New York and hinted at how the Nets "might be a little bit different" when the 2023-24 season tips off this fall.

"Brooklyn had a lot going on," said Bridges, whom the Nets acquired Feb. 9 in a deal with the Suns that Kevin Durant and T.J. Warren to Phoenix for Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder, four unprotected first-round picks and a 2028 first-round pick swap. "They had Kyrie (Irving), (JamesHarden and KD, and then all that happening and Kyrie and all that stuff. I think they were just ready for, 'Refresh,' and I'm the total opposite of all them dudes. I'm just the quietest, the chillest -- I ain't really tripping off nothing, I'm just happy all the time. So I knew I was going to be fine, for sure. You're never going to catch me off camera doing some crazy s--t. I'm really calm and chill."

The overall transition has been seamless for Bridges, who averaged 26.1 points on 47.5% shooting in 27 regular-season games with the Nets.

"I always loved New York," said Bridges, whose rise began at Villanova (2015-18) before his hometown Philadelphia 76ers selected him with the 2018 NBA Draft's No. 10 overall pick and traded him to the Suns for Zhaire Smith and a 2021 first-rounder. "So when even the whole situation happened in the summer with KD asking for a trade, he wanted to come here, me and Cam Johnson knew, like, 'Well, obviously, we're going to be a part of that.' We just knew. 'KD wants to come here? We're going.' So we'd just make jokes, like, 'Oh, we're going to Brooklyn.' But I love New York. I thought I was going to get drafted nine by the Knicks. And I was prepared to not live in the city but I was prepared to be in the city -- I was very excited about living in New York.

"So once I got the opportunity and I got traded here, I'm just like, 'S--t.' You think about all the negatives like missing your people and stuff, but then you start adding all the positives. Me, personally, all the positives (were) like, 'OK, you get more touches. You get more opportunities. Whatever. It'll be a bigger market.' Things like that. Another thing for me was like, 'I'm in New York City.' That was another part that I love. ... New York is just different. It's another spot that I always wanted to live in, and now I have the opportunity to.

"And I just think things just come back full circle sometimes because it never left me. (With the Suns), we go play the Knicks and we play Brooklyn every year -- we go back to the city every year. Every time we come back, I'm always just like, 'Damn, it must be nice living in the city.' And then we go back. ... It's definitely different, but I'm definitely the type of guy (to embrace New York)."

The sixth-seeded Nets (45-37) ultimately went 13-15 after the trade and got swept in the first round of the playoffs by the third-seeded Sixers, but a team-first Bridges sees Brooklyn -- which could look "different" as Damian Lillard trade rumors rumble and offseason decisions loom -- eager to meeting the winning expectations.

"I just think, coming into the preseason, to the team we're going to have -- obviously, might be a little bit different when time comes," Bridges said. "You never know. We got free agents and stuff like that. Just be the leader and come in and just know all I care about is winning -- you know what I'm saying? If I'm still one of the main guys to do it, try to do everything. It ain't about me, you know?

"And I think, sometimes, that gets to a lot of guys. And it's funny, because I was just a role player. So coming in and being like the star, you feel that star treatment -- you know what I'm saying? I kind of don't like it, because I'm like, 'Hold up, hold up, I was just down there with them guys a couple months ago, OK? I don't like all this s--t.' Just winning and being so selfless, not trying to make everything about me.

"... Coming into next year, it's just like -- be that leader and, from the jump, just show how we should win and all this s--t about this year is winning."