Like he was in January of last year, Kevin Durant is out with a sprained MCL, but this time it’s not quite the same thing. On the night when Durant was hurt, the Brooklyn Nets had a clear injury report this time. In the previous game, there were two rookies in the starting lineup and five injured players, including Kyrie Irving, who was unable to play at the Barclays Center because he was not immunised against the COVID-19 virus.
When Durant was hurt the last time, Brooklyn dropped 16 of its next 21 games. The coaching staff had to put together a fresh rotation almost every game before and after the James Harden-Ben Simmons blockbuster deal, which took place at that time. This time, the Nets are in a much less dangerous spot. After practice on Wednesday, Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn said that the same players who have been playing most of the minutes would continue to play the majority of the minutes. The ones who are on the periphery of the rotation may be given chances, but it will depend on the circumstances.
The train will continue to run, Vaughn assured.
The Nets aim to reduce fouls, restrict turnovers, and increase rebounds without Durant. We just need to become better at all the things that either improve or lower our margins, according to Vaughn. These were previously stressed areas, but now they’re much more crucial since Kevin can score for us and atone for some of our transgressions.
According to Vaughn, “there won’t be any significant philosophical shifts in how we’re going to handle this thing.” To compensate for Kevin’s midrange shooting, Brooklyn will probably play “a bit quicker and [take] a couple more 3s.” Naturally, there will be more touches given Durant’s average of 29.7 points and usage rate of 31.1 percent.
The Nets’ big man Nic Claxton stated, “The greatest player in the world is gone, but others have step up.” We have experienced this situation previously.
Irving will take over as the Nets’ top option for scoring. Simmons should naturally handle more of the playmaking duties given that his usage rate has fallen to 14.2 percent this season. The next stage 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 essential.
Vaughn used the matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday as an example. Early in the game, Simmons took CJ McCollum to full court and went for the basket over and over again.
Can you perform it at the 18-minute, 24-minute, and 40-minute marks now? Stated Vaughn. “However, that is the stage of development we are at, where it is still the same thing and you can perceive it, but can you do it consistently? Since Kevin is absent, we really need it.
Vaughn decided not to say who would be in the starting lineup instead of Durant. Cleaning The Glass says that T.J. Warren is the best fit for the offensive skill set because he has a midrange shooting percentage of 52%. Warren had been gone for two seasons before he came back in early December. In 16 games, he has played 19.9 minutes on average, and he has only gone over 27 minutes once. Warren won’t be playing 40 minutes, according to Vaughn, who said that the Nets’ first aim is to keep him healthy for the remainder of the year. However, it’s unclear if they believe that 30 to 35 is excessive.
Durant and other superstars simplify things. He poses a challenge for the defenders each time he emerges from a pindown, runs a pick-and-roll, or receives the ball in the post. When a halfcourt possession isn’t going well, he can make a shot for himself or draw a second defender to himself. He is also very responsible. All-Defense contender, and the Nets can’t just replace him with another player and expect him to have the same help defence at the rim, length, and switchability. It is hoped that they will be able to survive thanks to their combined playmaking, shooting, size, and adaptability (and that Durant won’t be away for too long).
Brooklyn’s success this season has been greatly attributed to Royce O’Neale, especially because Joe Harris is still getting used to the team. Claxton has improved as a finisher and might be selected to the All-NBA squad. The two finest value additions any side made last summer may have been Yuta Watanabe and Warren. Only the Boston Celtics have a better record in the NBA this year than the Brooklyn Nets, whose previous 20 games have seen them win 18 of them. In comparison to previous season, Claxton said that they are “absolutely” more prepared to handle Durant’s absence due to “our spirit, our energy, our vibes, and the way that we’ve been defending.”
Similar to Vaughn, who was upbeat, cited Brooklyn’s thrilling win on Sunday when Durant departed the game early and the team trailed by nine points in the fourth quarter. The most important thing for this group, according to Vaughn, is “no excuses.” He then began to say something about the squad from the previous season but stopped in the middle of it. I’ll simply state that I won’t accept any excuses from this gang.
Can Simmons-Claxton lineups be successful without Durant? Will the Nets be able to block enough shots without them? Who can provide the second unit with a scoring punch if Warren starts? If they want to find more offense, will they have to increase Seth Curry’s minutes? Will they give up their size and flexibility to play with Curry and Irving? In the coming weeks, Brooklyn must provide answers to these concerns, beginning with its home game against Boston on Thursday.
In this case, it is not the best opponent to have, but hey, things might be worse. Last year, when the Nets played the Celtics and Durant was out of town, Harden was still on the team’s roster, he sat on the bench after tip-off and would fly to Houston the following day as the rest of the team headed to Washington. Irving was prohibited from entering the venue. Patty Mills, Bruce Brown, DeAndre’ Bembry, Kessler Edwards, and Blake Griffin began for the Nets, who entered the game with an eight-game losing run. Off the bench, they added Jevon Carter, David Duke Jr., Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe, and James Johnson. Boston triumphed 126–91.