THE BROOKLYN NETS needed to refocus.
The East juggernaut trailed the Philadelphia 76ers by 12 points in a game that helped shape the top of the conference standings. But Kyrie Irving, who had scored 37 points as the only member of the Nets' trio of stars to play, was on the bench after checking out with most of the fourth quarter to unfold.
Kevin Durant remained sidelined with a hamstring injury. James Harden, too. Blake Griffin and the now-retired LaMarcus Aldridge, two of the league's most notable buyout acquisitions this season, were inactive.
"We've done this before," he told them. "Millions of times.
"But in practice."
Practices were the game reps for Brooklyn's "stay ready" group -- a collection of mostly end-of-the-rotation and bench players who need to keep their game sharp in the event they get called upon in a moment's notice.
Install a new out-of-bounds set? Stay ready. Work through a late-game scenario? Stay ready. Be aware of Brooklyn's ever-fluid active roster? Stay ready. It has evolved into a subculture within the Nets -- and boy, have they needed it.