Having the New York Islanders playing at Nassau Coliseum again has certainly given people nostalgia of the days when professional teams of major sports would play there on a permanent basis. But one team has been playing there since 2017 and they deserve your attention.
The Long Island Nets of the NBA G League, an affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets, recently clinched a first round bye in the playoffs. They are expected to play their first ever playoff game this Friday. First-year head coach Will Weaver says he has a lot to be proud of.
“The first thing that came to mind was just how gratified and happy I was for the returning players,” said Weaver. “The playoffs give you a chance to play with more people watching you. Anytime you are playing late in the year and there’s less teams competing, there’s more attention for our players who are all looking for opportunities to get jobs.”
The G League is the official minor league organization of the NBA, with 27 teams stacked with plenty of young, developmental prospects that could make the jump to the majors. If a player has shown enough growth and seems capable to play at that level, NBA franchises can at anytime pull a player from their affiliate G League team. For Weaver, it’s a different experience from other coaching jobs, but he doesn’t find it too difficult.
“It isn’t hard at all, in my view,” said Weaver. “If you go into it with a mindset of this being just another team, I could see where you would be disoriented. But my experience with players and coaching staffs have made it easier to see and appreciate the bigger picture. For us, it’s about helping players get better. Now, them performing well usually helps you win. But you won’t hear me talking about wins and you won’t hear players talking much about it.”
Wil Weaver began his work coaching at the high school level before he got his first big opportunity to work as an assistant at the University of Texas where he worked with the likes of Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin. He continued his assistant coach work at Sam Houston before going to Philadelphia to work under Brett Brown with the 76ers. Before taking the job with the Long Island Nets, he spent time with the Brooklyn Nets under Kenny Atkinson.
“My excitement in any job is getting the chance to be a part of a bigger team,” said Weaver. “In my second season with the Nets, I worked with our two-way players which was a new thing coming into the league and those kind of experiences had me paying attention to what was happening here on the island. So when the opportunity came about, I jumped at it. There’s nothing more exciting than working with young talent and trying to maximize their young potential.”
These two-way players who have worked under Weaver this season include Theo Pinson, Alan Willaims, Mitchell Creek and Tahjere McCall. The four players combined to play 23 games on the NBA level this year. Pinson is among the most notable players who Weaver has helped developed, playing the most games of the two-way players and drastically improving his shooting from his time at the University of North Carolina.
“I think our depth is what separates us from other clubs,” said Weaver. “That’s a credit to [Sean Marks] and his management team for getting all of these great players. Long Island is a place where they can grow, improve and create opportunities for themselves.”
As playoff basketball for Long Island draws closer, the focus will turn to keeping the season going for as long as possible. But for Weaver, his approach remains the same: developing these players and setting them up for success in the future.
“There is no difference in our approach [in the postseason],” said Weaver. “I think a lot of success in professional life across different careers is having a relentless process-oriented mindset. Our guys have that, but if there’s any kind of encouragement I’m going to give to them, it’s going to be what we were successful with in the regular season is going to be successful in a playoff environment.”