NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges is on the verge of completing a statistically perfect season that makes analytics pushers shudder and teammates smile all at once.
Bridges, who started the 2022-23 NBA season with the Phoenix Suns before a midseason trade to the Nets, is on track to play 83 games this regular season, which would make him the first player to do so since Josh Smith in 2014-15 (Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets). It is an exceedingly rare accomplishment given the fact each team has only 82 games scheduled in a season, and doing so would require a player to be traded midseason to a team that has played one fewer game than his previous team.
"He's the iron man of the NBA," said Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who spoke with reverence for his new teammate's accomplishment.
Bridges' streak of consistency is even more impressive given it comes during a five-year NBA career in which he hasn't missed a game. The fact he is durable and has the ability to average nearly 20 points a game is one of many reasons the Nets were so insistent in acquiring Bridges in any deal for Kevin Durant during last month's trade deadline.
"You look at how he plays the game," Nets general manager Sean Marks said. "Obviously, when he was playing in Phoenix, even dating back to college days, the length, the reliability -- he's nearing 400 games played in a row, it's pretty unique in this day and age. And for somebody who actually wants to play at that clip is also certainly refreshing."
Aside from a redshirt year at Villanova, Bridges didn't miss a game in college, either. The last time he missed a game was when he was a student at Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
"In high school, I couldn't make a game -- I was sick," Bridges said. "Being the odd man out the next day. All your teammates are hanging out and they're talking about the game and you just weren't there for it and don't really know. It wasn't fun. But luckily I was sick so I had an excuse."
There have been 41 players to play 83 or more games in a regular season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, with Walt Bellamy playing in 88 regular-season games for the Pistons and New York Knicks during the 1968-69 season.
The difference, of course, is that in this era of the league, players are given more rest than ever before, given the science centered around rest and performance.
For his part, Bridges shies away from the idea that he's become the face of the anti-load management movement. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he doesn't "buy into" that players should simply be playing more, but the league has struggled in recent years with the narrative from fans that players don't value playing in the regular season the way they did in the past. In that regard, Bridges is a throwback to a different era because teammates and opponents alike trust that he'll be out there each night.
"I'm not so anti about [missing games]," he said. "Everybody has their reasons. And I think if it's reasonable where guys don't play or maybe coming off an injury or things like that, I'll understand. ... Everybody's body's different, that's the biggest thing. I could get kneed in the leg and be OK, but somebody else who's body swells up can't move the next day. It's just different because people don't know, they're not here. They're not that person, they'll never know."
What his teammates know is that the reliable Bridges has been crucial for the Nets as they maintain hold of the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and out of the play-in tournament.
"Availability is the best ability," Nets center Nic Claxton said. "... He's playing at an All-Star rate right now, so it's good having him out there, for sure."
The affable Bridges just takes it all in stride. Playing 83 games is a nice achievement, but it's all part of the job for a 26-year-old who is coming into his own in a league in which playing in all the regular-season games didn't used to be such an accomplishment.
"It's just funny," Bridges said. "Out of all the guys, me playing all the games, of course, I get an extra one. But I've been in the playoffs -- I've been 82-plus for a couple years now. ... It's like a little funny story."