NEW JERSEY – Just like in January of last year, Kevin Durant is out with a sprained MCL, but this time it’s not precisely the same thing. This time, the Brooklyn Nets had a clear injury report the night that Durant was hurt. The previous game featured two rookies in the starting lineup and five players with injuries, including Kyrie Irving, who was unable to compete at the Barclays Center due to his lack of COVID-19 vaccination.
Prior to Durant’s injury, Brooklyn dropped 16 of its next 21 games. During that time, the coaching staff had to put together a fresh rotation almost every game before and after the James Harden-Ben Simmons blockbuster trade. The Nets’ situation is far less dicey this time. After practice on Wednesday, Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn noted that the same players who have been playing the majority of the minutes will continue to do so. The rotation’s outliers might be given opportunities, but it will depend on the circumstances.
The Nets’ top scoring option will be Irving. The playmaking job should naturally fall more on Simmons, whose usage rate has decreased to 14.2 percent this season. The next step for Simmons, according to Vaughn, is to “play every possession with force,” and he added that the tempo and simple shots he generates are now necessary.
Vaughn stayed mum regarding Durant’s replacement in the starting lineup. T.J. would be the clearest fit in terms of attacking skill set. and prior to his comeback in early December, Warren basically missed two seasons. In 16 games, he has played 19.9 minutes on average, going over 27 minutes just once. Warren won’t play 40 minutes, according to Vaughn since the Nets want to keep him healthy for the remainder of the year. However, it’s unclear whether they believe that 30 to 35 is excessive.
Superstars like Durant simplify everything. He creates difficulties for the defense each time he exits a pin down, runs a pick-and-roll, or catches the ball in the post. He can make a shot for himself or attract a second defender on his own when a halfcourt possession isn’t working. He is also a serious All-Defense candidate, and the Nets can’t just replace him with another player and expect him to have the same help defense at the rim, length, and switch ability. It is hoped that they will be able to stay afloat thanks to their combined playmaking, shooting, size, and adaptability (and that Durant won’t be away for too long).
Since Joe Harris is still getting used to the team, Royce O’Neale has been a key component of Brooklyn’s success this season. Claxton has improved as a finisher and may make an All-NBA team. Warren and Yuta Watanabe may have been the two best cheap additions any team made last summer. Only the Boston Celtics have a better record in the NBA this year than the Brooklyn Nets, who’s final 20 games saw them win 18 of them. Because of “our attitude, our energy, our vibes, and the way that we’ve been defending,” according to Claxton.
Like Vaughn, who was full of optimism, he cited Brooklyn’s thrilling victory on Sunday, when Durant departed the game early and the team trailed by nine points in the fourth quarter, as proof of the group’s fortitude. He then began to talk on the team from the previous season but abruptly ended it. I’ll just state that I won’t accept any excuses from this gang.
In this case, that is not the best opponent, but hey, it might be worse. Last year, despite not being on the roster, Harden sat on the bench when Brooklyn hosted the Celtics while Durant was out. He then took a flight to Houston the following day, leaving the rest of the team to travel to Washington. In the arena, Irving was not permitted. The Nets, who entered the game with an eight-game losing run, began Patty Mills, Bruce Brown, DeAndre’ Bembry, Kessler Edwards, and Blake Griffin. Off the bench, they added Jevon Carter, David Duke Jr., Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe, and James Johnson. Boston triumphed 126 to 91.