Kevin Durant is out with another MCL sprain, but it’s a different story for the Nets this season

NEW YORK — Kevin Durant is sidelined with a sprained MCL, identical to he was final January, but it’s not precisely a same-story, different-year state of affairs. This time, on the night time that Durant received harm, the Brooklyn Nets had a clear harm report. Last time, there have been two rookies in the beginning lineup and 5 gamers on the harm report, together with Kyrie Irving, who was ineligible to play at Barclays Center as a result of he was not vaccinated towards COVID-19.

Last time, Brooklyn misplaced 16 of 21 video games after Durant’s harm. Before and after the James Harden-Ben Simmons blockbuster commerce, which occurred throughout that stretch, the teaching workers needed to cobble collectively a new rotation just about each sport. This time, the Nets are in a a lot much less precarious place. The identical guys who’ve been taking part in most of the minutes will proceed to play most of the minutes, Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn stated after follow Wednesday. The ones on the fringe of the rotation would possibly get alternatives, but that can stay situational.

“The practice will preserve shifting,” Vaughn stated.

Without Durant, the Nets need to lower down their fouls, restrict their turnovers and enhance their rebounding. “All the issues that enhance or lower your margins, we simply gotta be higher at,” Vaughn stated. “These have been already factors of emphasis, but they’re extra necessary “as a result of Kevin could make a shot for us and canopy up a few of our sins.”

There will likely be “no enormous modifications, philosophically, of how we will strategy this factor,” Vaughn stated. Brooklyn will seemingly play “a little sooner, in all probability [take] a few extra 3s to make up for Kevin’s midrange pictures.” Durant is averaging 29.7 factors and has a 31.1 % utilization price, so, naturally, there will likely be extra touches going round.

“The finest participant in the world, he is out, but guys gotta step up,” Nets huge man Nic Claxton stated. “We’ve been in this place earlier than.”

Irving will grow to be the Nets’ No. 1 scoring possibility. Simmons, whose utilization price has dropped to 14.2 % this season, ought to naturally tackle extra of the playmaking load. Vaughn stated that Simmons’ subsequent step is “to play each possession with energy,” including that the tempo and simple pictures he creates are requirements now.

Vaughn pointed to final Friday’s sport towards the New Orleans Pelicans for example. Early in the sport, Simmons picked up CJ McCollum full court docket and attacked the basket a number of instances.

“Now, are you able to do it at the 18-minute mark, the 24-minute mark, the 40-minute mark?” Vaughn stated. “But that is the development that we’re at, the place it’s nonetheless the identical factor and also you’re seeing it, but are you able to constantly see it? Because we undoubtedly want that with Kevin being out.”

Vaughn declined to say who would take Durant’s place in the beginning lineup. The cleanest match, by way of offensive ability set, could be TJ Warren, who has shot 52 % from midrange, per Cleaning The Glass. Warren primarily missed two seasons earlier than making his comeback in early December, although. He has averaged 19.9 minutes in 16 video games and has solely exceeded 27 minutes as soon as. Vaughn stated that the Nets’ precedence is to maintain Warren wholesome for the remainder of the season, so he won’t be taking part in 40 minutes. It is unclear, nonetheless, in the event that they suppose that 30 to 35 is an excessive amount of.

Superstars like Durant make all the things easier. Every time he comes off a pindown, runs a pick-and-roll or catches the ball in the submit, he presents a downside for the protection. When a halfcourt possession is not going wherever, he can create a shot for himself or draw a second defender on his personal. He is additionally a reputable All-Defense candidate, and the Nets cannot merely plug in another participant and duplicate his assist protection round the rim, his size and his switchability. The hope is that, collectively, they’ve sufficient playmaking, taking pictures, dimension and flexibility to remain afloat (and that Durant will not be out for too lengthy).

Royce O’Neale has been a essential a part of Brooklyn’s success this season, notably as a result of Joe Harris is nonetheless discovering his footing. Claxton would possibly make an All-NBA staff, and he has made strides as a finisher. Yuta Watanabe and Warren may need been the two finest cut price signings any staff made final summer time. The items match so effectively that the Nets have received 18 of their final 20 video games, and solely the Boston Celtics have a higher document in the NBA this season. Claxton stated that they are “undoubtedly” higher geared up to deal with Durant’s absence than they have been final season, due to “our spirit, our vitality, our vibes, the method that we have been defending.”

A equally optimistic Vaughn pointed to Brooklyn’s dramatic victory on Sunday, during which Durant left the sport early and trailed by 9 factors in the fourth quarter, as proof of the staff’s resolve. “No excuses, that is the largest factor for this group,” Vaughn stated. He then began to make a remark about final 12 months’s staff, then stopped mid-sentence. “I’ll simply say no excuses, I’m not giving this group a likelihood to make excuses.”

Can the Simmons-Claxton lineups work with out Durant in the image? Can the Nets get sufficient stops with out them? If Warren is beginning, who can present a scoring punch on the second unit? Will they should dial up Seth Curry’s minutes to search out extra offense? Will they sacrifice dimension and flexibility to play Curry and Irving collectively? Brooklyn has to reply these questions in the subsequent few weeks, beginning with a dwelling sport towards Boston on Thursday.

That is not an excellent opponent in this state of affairs, but hey, it might be worse. Last season, when Brooklyn hosted the Celtics throughout Durant’s absence, Harden was nonetheless technically on the roster but took his seat on the bench after tipoff and would fly to Houston the subsequent day whereas the remainder of the staff traveled to Washington. Irving was not allowed to be in the enviornment. The Nets, who got here in on an eight-game shedding streak, began Patty Mills, Bruce Brown, DeAndre’ Bembry, Kessler Edwards and Blake Griffin, they usually introduced Jevon Carter, David Duke Jr., Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe and James Johnson off the bench. Boston received 126-91.

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