The Nets-Bulls game in Chicago on Friday won’t just have implications on the Eastern Conference standings, it will also be the teams’ first game of the league’s inaugural In-Season Tournament.
Friday begins the group stage of the tournament that will conclude in Las Vegas next month, with all 30 teams participating.
All the games — other than the title game — will also count towards the NBA standings, but the league is hoping it brings some added excitement to the regular season.
“It’s a concept that, in my years of basketball, I haven’t seen,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said in Miami on Thursday. “It’s new to the players. I think they’ve embraced the idea of playing for something in the middle of the season.”
Each team will play four games in the tournament, with the top eight teams advancing to the knockout quarterfinal stage that will be played next month at NBA arenas before the semifinals and finals for the NBA Cup in Las Vegas on Dec. 7 and 9.
The Nets are in the East’s Group C, along with the Bulls, Magic, Raptors and Celtics.
“I think it’s good for our game, which I’m always excited about,’’ Vaughn said of the tournament. “I will mention it before [Friday’s] Chicago game, that this is an In-Season Tournament game. That there’s something to it, something on the line. There is a finish line to it.”
And though the results of the tournament won’t have a bearing on the playoffs, Vaughn believes there is something to be gained by having success there.
“You like being the best at what you do,” Vaughn said. “This opportunity to be the best at something. Let’s give it a go. So I am looking forward to see our players respond.”
Interestingly, when asked for his picks for the tournament, Suns forward and ex-Net Kevin Durant, picked his most recent former team to get out of the first round, noting in particular Ben Simmons’ presence.
“They’ve got so much length and athleticism over there, top to bottom,’’ Durant said. “Their point guard [Simmons] is like 6-foot-6.”
A year ago, only one team in the league was worse than the Nets when it came to rebounding, with the Mavericks finishing at 38.8 per game and the Nets 40.5.
Though it has been just four games, the Nets currently stand at ninth in the NBA with 47.5, and their second-half rebounding helped key their comeback win over Miami on Wednesday.
Certainly, the return to health by Simmons has been instrumental, with Simmons leading the team with 10.3 per game.
This story originally appeared on NYPost