Nets Notes: Warren, Durant, D. Smith, Watanabe

It didn’t take T.J. Warren long to prove he can still play at a high level, but the Nets are focused more on keeping him healthy for the playoffs than maximizing his contributions during the regular season, writes Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Warren missed nearly two full seasons due to foot injuries before returning to the court in early December.

“Every game, I’m feeling more and more like myself,” he said. “Two years is a long time, two calendar years going through multiple foot problems. But I feel great. Mentally, I’m in a good space. I just want to continue to get better and help this team win as much as I can.”

Through 17 games, Warren is averaging 10.5 points off the bench in 20.4 minutes per night. Coach Jacque Vaughn considered moving Warren into the starting lineup in the wake of Kevin Durant‘s injury, but opted for Joe Harris instead in an effort to control Warren’s workload.

“I’ve told him this message: That’s my No. 1 goal, that he’s healthy and hooping in the playoffs, showing his skills off to the rest of the world,” Vaughn said. “That would be the kind of guiding light. Will I be tempted at times (to push his minutes) if he’s rolling? For sure, every coach would be. But hopefully for his longevity, for the group, we’ll put him in a position to succeed the whole year.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Nets haven’t decided how involved Durant will be while he recovers from his sprained MCL, according to Alec Sturm of Nets Daily. Vaughn explained that Durant hasn’t been on the bench because the team doesn’t want to risk someone running into him during game action. It also hasn’t been determined how much Durant will travel with the team and whether he’ll consider playing in the All-Star Game, although Vaughn expressed hope that he’ll be fully recovered by the February 19 event.
  • Vaughn also offered some insight into Dru Smith, who signed a two-way contract with the Nets on Friday, Sturm adds. “A guard that has some athleticism, good size, competes, so areas that we really love,” Vaughn said at Saturday’s practice. “I think he has some upside to get better. So (we) look forward to him being a part of our group and getting him involved pretty quickly with (G League affiliate) Long Island. He just landed and went through his physical, so he’ll be around and there’s a possibility he’ll be with the rest of the group watching tomorrow.”
  • Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscription required) talks to Yuta Watanabe about the impact his success in Brooklyn is having in Japan.
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