Nets Notes: Durant, Warren, Trade Deadline, Claxton

With Nets All-NBA forward Kevin Durant now expected to be absent for around one month with an MCL sprain, Brian Lewis of The New York Post wonders if the club can weather life without him better than it did last year.

Lewis notes that Brooklyn went 5-16 in Durant’s absence with another sprained MCL last year. The Nets lost their first game following Durant’s injury this season, a 109-98 defeat on Thursday night against the Celtics.

“With K we know what we’re up against with him not being in lineup,” All-Star Brooklyn point guard Kyrie Irving said. “We can say it every single day, but we don’t have time for any excuses. We’ve just got to keep moving forward and stay mature about it.”

Nick Friedell of ESPN observes that the team does not want to view the Durant injury as a crutch this season.

I’m not giving this group a chance to make excuses,” head coach Jacque Vaughn noted Wednesday. “Here to play. Here to win. Here to compete. It doesn’t change. Love them.”

There’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • Though reserve Brooklyn forward T.J. Warren has been Durant’s primary backup when he’s been available this year, Vaughn does not intend to amp up Warren’s minutes much while Durant sits, per Peter Botte of The New York Post. “I said from the beginning, the thing is keeping T.J. healthy to the end of the year,” Vaughn said. “We’ll continue to see how we’re going to manage the rotations — who starts, who’s the first sub, what the second group looks like; all of that changes… But no, T.J. won’t be playing 40 minutes.” Botte notes that Yuta Watanabe, Cam Thomas and Markieff Morris could be getting more run to replace Durant by committee.
  • The Nets will be actively on the hunt for roster improvements at the February 9 trade deadline, particularly in the frontcourt, reveals Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (YouTube video). “What the Nets get to do now is evaluate their roster without Kevin Durant, who’s been such a dominant force for them,” Woj said. “So now for Brooklyn, they have some time to see how these players play before they make some decisions, probably closer to the trade deadline, on deals.”
  • Starting Brooklyn center Nic Claxton used the 2022 offseason as a springboard to improve this season, writes Net Income of Nets Daily. He re-signed with the Nets on a two-year, $20MM deal over the summer, and has developed nicely as a rim-rolling defender in 2022/23. Claxton is averaging a career-most 11.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.6 BPG and 1.5 APG. He is also connecting on a career-best 73.8% of his field goals.
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