Jacque Vaughn

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.

Nets’ Vaughn, Pelicans’ Green Named Coaches Of The Month

The Nets Jacque Vaughn and Pelicans Willie Green were named as Coaches of the Month for their respective conferences, the league’s PR department tweets.

Vaughn earned Eastern Conference honors by guiding his club to a 12-1 record in December. Vaughn was named Brooklyn’s head coach on Nov. 9 after Steve Nash‘s early exit. Cleveland’s J.B. Bickerstaff, Indiana’s Rick Carlisle, Orlando’s Jamahl Mosley and Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers were the other nominees, the league’s PR department adds in a separate tweet.

Green, in his second season as head coach, took Western Conference honors by leading New Orleans to a 10-5 record last month. Memphis’ Taylor Jenkins, Dallas’ Jason Kidd and Denver’s Michael Malone were the other Western Conference nominees.

Nets Notes: Turnaround, Vaughn, Simmons, Harris

The drama that surrounded the Nets throughout the summer and in the early part of the season is a distant memory now that Brooklyn has reeled off 11 straight wins and is in the race for the best record in the league, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN.

The franchise was in constant turmoil last season, highlighted by Kyrie Irving‘s uncertain playing status due to his refusal to get the COVID vaccine, James Harden‘s desire to leave, and Ben Simmons‘ unavailability after being acquired. It continued after Brooklyn was swept in the first round of the playoffs, as the summer brought Kevin Durant‘s trade demand, Irving’s last-minute decision to exercise his player option and a general uncertainty heading into training camp about whether all the pieces could fit together.

“It was one of those years you reflect on and you see the turning points in the organization,” Durant said Saturday after his team ended 2022 with a victory in Charlotte. “We’ve seen different moments that brought us together as a group. You see, at this point now towards the end of the year, you start to see us come together and perform what we’ve been looking to do these last couple of years, which was a solid team that plays hard every night. So we went through a lot in this calendar year, but we’re looking for bigger and better things in 2023.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • The turnaround began with the decision to make Jacque Vaughn the new head coach after Steve Nash and the organization parted ways in early November, Friedell adds. Suspended Celtics coach Ime Udoka was originally considered the favorite for the job, but Brooklyn turned to Vaughn, who has brought stability to the team and appeals to players with a relaxed style that includes less time spent on practice and shootarounds. “He gives you an ease,” Irving said. “When you come into the locker room nothing’s forced, he’s not too high or too low. He’s just holding himself to a high standard, exemplifying what a leader should look like. So as our head coach, as our leader, I’ve been able to learn some things from him.”
  • Brooklyn is also benefiting from improved play by Simmons, who says he has learned how to handle the ups and downs of NBA life, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “It’s not getting too carried away knowing we have a long year and guys understand that,” Simmons said after battling through an illness to play Saturday night. “My experiences in Philly, we had a young team and we had guys who are not used to being in the league for that long, and not knowing how to win and not knowing it’s not easy to win. We have a lot of vets on the team, Ky, Kev, guys like that and understanding it’s game-by-game and not getting too carried away with the noise, which has been great.”
  • The Nets are optimistic that Joe Harris will be able to return Monday after missing the past four games with soreness in his left knee, Lewis adds.

Nets Notes: Irving, Harden, Durant, Vaughn, Curry

After being described by head coach Jacque Vaughn on Wednesday as “extremely engaged” as of late (link via Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post), Nets guard Kyrie Irving made the first game-winning buzzer beater of his career on Friday in Toronto, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN.

Although Irving’s game-winner improved the Nets’ record to 11-3 since he returned from an eight-game suspension, Alex Schiffer of The Athletic remains hesitant to call Brooklyn a legitimate contender, suggesting that next week’s games against Milwaukee and Cleveland should help create a clearer picture of where the team stands in the Eastern Conference hierarchy. Still, the Nets appear to be hitting their stride after a slow start to the season.

With the Nets on the rise and Irving’s future beyond this season uncertain, there’s a sense around the NBA that the club could be in the market for win-now upgrades prior to the February trade deadline, according to Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com. One league scout who spoke to Bulpett said that Brooklyn should be looking to add more frontcourt help.

“Their biggest problem is they can’t defend and can’t rebound,” the scout said. “They don’t have enough size. They just get beat on. They need somebody who can command the lane. In today’s game, they’re not letting you take hard fouls, so you’ve got to have someone who can block a shot.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Within a feature on James Harden, Yaron Weitzman of FoxSports.com cites multiple Nets sources who say that Harden and Kevin Durant “butted heads” last season when both players were in Brooklyn. According to Weitzman, Durant didn’t think Harden was in top physical shape and told him so, while Harden “struggled to adjust to an ecosystem where everything was no longer catered to him.” Harden also became frustrated with the approach the Nets training staff took to maintenance, rest, and recovery, and tells Weitzman he felt like there was “no structure” in Brooklyn.
  • Here’s more from Harden on his exit from Brooklyn, via Weitzman: “I just feel like, internally, things weren’t what I expected when I was trying to get traded there. I think everybody knows that. And I knew people were going to talk and say, ‘You quit’ and all that stuff, but then the following summer, the other superstar there (Durant) wanted to leave. So it’s like: Am I still the quitter?”
  • Vaughn, who has a 16-7 record since replacing Steve Nash as the Nets’ head coach, is winning over Durant, Sanchez writes for The New York Post. The superstar forward stated earlier in the week that Vaughn is doing a “great job” making in-game adjustments and has handled the team’s injury absences well. “I’ve liked the brand of basketball we’ve played on both ends of the floor,” Durant said. “Regardless of who is on the court, we still played our system.”
  • Nets guard Seth Curry received an MRI on his injured hamstring on Thursday before being cleared for Friday’s game in Toronto, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Vaughn suggested that the MRI was merely precautionary. “We MRI everything now, we do an MRI every time,” he said.
  • In a pair of features for NetsDaily, Matthew Brooks explained how the Nets are continuing to prioritize the development of their young players while contending for a title and took a closer look at Vaughn’s unique approach to practices and shootarounds.

Nets Notes: Warren, Sumner, Vaughn, Brown

Nets forward T.J. Warren played in an NBA game on Friday for the first time in nearly two years, making his Brooklyn debut after having been sidelined since December 2020 due to a series of foot issues. Warren couldn’t have asked for a much better return — he scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench as the Nets extended their winning streak to four games with a victory over Toronto.

“Man it was super, super, super … just a lot of nerves, excitement, a lot of emotions into it. Just definitely super excited just to be out there with a win,” Warren said, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “Teammates did a great job making the game easy, not so complicated for me. I’ve been out for a while, so it just kept me confident, kept me locked-in, excited on both ends of the floor. So definitely something to build on.

“I was telling somebody in the back it almost felt like a dream. Just like as soon as I checked in it kind of hit me, like, ‘This is real.’ Like I said, once I got up and down it was just like ‘All right, this is basketball.’ So it was just super fun to be out there competing with the guys.”

Warren figures to provide some scoring punch to a team that has leaned heavily on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for its offense so far this season. Besides Durant and Irving, only Nic Claxton (11.9 PPG) and now Warren have averaged double-digit points per game for Brooklyn in 2022/23.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Reserve guard Edmond Sumner left Friday’s win due to a right glute contusion, according to Lewis. “We’ll look at it (on Saturday),” head coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Hopefully it’s nothing serious and we can look on.”
  • In a subscriber-only story for The New York Post, Lewis checks in on Vaughn’s performance in his first month as Steve Nash‘s replacement and finds that the new Brooklyn head coach is earning strong reviews from his own players and opponents alike. Nets forward Joe Harris lauded Vaughn for holding everyone accountable, while Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said the team seems to have “more buy-in” under Vaughn. “They’ve done a terrific job; top 10 since Nov. 1 on both sides of the ball,” Unseld said. “Got to give Jacque and his staff a lot of credit. It shifted. They’re a different team.”
  • Bruce Brown, now a Nugget, was upset that he didn’t receive any attention from the Nets in free agency despite his old team initially telling him it wanted to re-sign him, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). “I was (hurt), but once I’d seen the Royce O’Neale trade, I was like, ‘I’m off their books, for sure,'” Brown said. “Because at first, they were talking about, they didn’t want to go into the tax or whatever, but then they said that I was a priority. … They wanted me back. They came down to see me in Miami when I was working out. And when I didn’t receive a phone call, I was like, ‘All right.'”

Kevin Durant Talks Offseason Trade Request, Nets, Legacy, More

The Nets have had an up-and-down first month of the 2022/23 season and are in the midst of another downturn right now, having given up 153 points to the Kings in a blowout loss on Tuesday.

Still, Kevin Durant tells Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report that he likes the energy new head coach Jacque Vaughn has brought to the team. According to Durant, the Nets have been “preparing ourselves well” for games, “playing as hard as we can,” and are starting to build real chemistry.

In Durant’s view, the way the Nets are readying themselves for games under Vaughn is how the team should have been approaching its preparation last season. That was the primary reason the star forward requested a trade in the summer, he told Haynes.

“It wasn’t difficult at all to request a trade because it was about ball,” Durant said. “I went to them and was like, ‘Yo, I don’t like how we are preparing. I don’t like shootarounds. I like practices. I need more. I want to work on more s–t. Hold me accountable. Get on my ass in film if that’s going to help you get on everybody else’s head. I want to do more closeouts. I want to work on more shell drills at practice.’

“This was the type of s–t I was coming at them with. It wasn’t like, ‘Yo, y’all need to make sure everybody around me can make my life easier.’ Hell nah, I want to make everybody else’s life easier. Ask Steve Nash, you can go call him right now. I would say, ‘Yo, I need more closeout drills. We need to practice more.’ That’s what I was on.

“I wasn’t feeling that, and nobody was on that same vibe with me. Jacque Vaughn is. I had some complaints in the summer, and my complaints were not about just me; it was about how we are moving as a unit. I want us to be respected out here in the basketball world. I don’t want players to look at us and say, ‘Oh man, these (expletive) are full of s–t. That’s not the type of team I want to be on.’ So when we’re all playing like s–t, you know the one person they’re going to look at. That’s why I requested a trade.”

Durant opened up to both Haynes and Marc J. Spears of Andscape on Tuesday about a number of topics beyond his offseason trade request. Both interviews are worth checking out in full, but here are some of the highlights from the former MVP:

On the Nets’ lineup with Kyrie Irving unavailable and Ben Simmons struggling to regain his old form:

“Look at our starting lineup. Edmond Sumner, Royce O’Neale, Joe Harris, (Nic) Claxton and me. It’s not disrespect, but what are you expecting from that group? You expect us to win because I’m out there. So if you’re watching from that lens, you’re expecting us to play well because No. 7 is out there.”

On the perception that he’s not a true leader:

“I’m not a leader? What the f–k does that mean? A lot of people say I’m not a leader because I didn’t tell Kyrie to get vaccinated. Come on. Or I didn’t condemn Kyrie for leaving the team, going out and living his life. I’m not about to tell a grown-ass man what he can and can’t do with his own life and dissect his views or how he thinks about s–t.

“… I don’t need to show or tell everybody what I’m doing with my teammates so y’all can pump me up and say, ‘Yeah, KD, you’re the boss, you’re the leader.’ These other (expletives) need that. I don’t. I don’t come to you and say, ‘Haynes, write this story about me.’ I don’t do that to nobody. But I come here and respect y’all. I talk to y’all like a real one, even after a blowout (loss).”

On whether he’s happy in Brooklyn:

I’m incredible. Loving life right now. I don’t think the world understands that. Maybe I need to get miked up more. Maybe I need to have more fluff pieces written about me. Smile more in pictures.

“What’s not to love about this life? I’m a great player. I get up to go hoop every day, work on my game. I make a s–t ton of money. I buy a lot of cool s–t. I don’t understand why there’s even a question on whether I’m happy or not. I just look at the big picture of things. Obviously, basketball, I want to do well, win every game and I want s–t to be perfect. But that doesn’t mean my whole life is f—ed up.”

On his legacy as a player:

“All that extra s–t like, ‘You got to win before you retire and make sure your legacy is straight,’ that’s bulls–t to me. My legacy is predicated on what Cam Thomas is learning from me and what he’ll take away to help him by the time he’s in his 10th year. That’s my legacy. What I did with Andre Roberson, the confidence I helped him build when he was in the league. That’s my legacy. Being able to play with Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry and Kyrie and still be me. Yeah, that’s my legacy. That’s who I am. That’s what I bring to the game.

“I can play with anybody, anywhere, at any time, and you know I’m going bring it every day. That should be my legacy.”

Nets Notes: Irving, Tsai, Vaughn, Durant

This afternoon’s game was the fifth that Kyrie Irving has missed since his suspension began, but Nets owner Joe Tsai told Brian Lewis of The New York Post that Irving “still has work to do” before he can resume playing. Irving is suspended indefinitely, but the team specified that he would miss at least five games when the penalty was announced. He has been given a list of six conditions that he must meet before reinstatement will be considered.

“He has to show people that he’s sorry,” Tsai said. “What’s important — and what people miss — is he only apologized after he was suspended.” 

Head coach Jacque Vaughn told reporters that he hasn’t been given an estimate of when Irving might return, other than saying that he won’t play in Sunday’s game against the Lakers. Irving has started to fulfill the requirements set by the Nets, including separate meetings this week with Tsai and with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

There’s more on the Nets:

  • Brooklyn has won four of its five games with Irving suspended as Vaughn has instilled a more aggressive attitude in the team since replacing Steve Nash, Lewis adds. Vaughn compares his philosophy to a boxer throwing the first punch and believes it’s sustainable once Irving returns. “For this group, we have to be that way,” Vaughn said. “A big part of that is you see the different lineups. We play small at times. We’ve had Kevin (Durant), we’ve had Yuta (Watanabe), we’ve had Markieff (Morris) at center at times. So in order to do that you have to be scrappy and understand it won’t look pretty all the time. But the results are what matter.” 
  • Speaking to reporters after today’s game, Durant said Irving is handling the suspension well, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. “His spirits is high,” Durant said. “Looking forward to playing the game, you know Ky, he’s a gamer, he loves to play. So hopefully all this stuff is over with, we can move past it, and get him back on the floor soon.”
  • The players are rallying around Vaughn after his official hiring was preceded by several days of rumors that Ime Udoka would be the next head coach, Lewis states in a separate story. “Yeah, you just never know in this business,” Nic Claxton said. “We all heard reports that we were supposed to be getting Ime within the next couple of days. But we’re excited that JV is our coach. He’s a really good coach. He’s inspiring and I’m ready to get things going.”

Nets Notes: Vaughn, Marks, Durant, Irving, Sumner, Curry

Under newly minted head coach Jacque Vaughn, the Nets have surged to a solid 3-2 record. Brooklyn seems to be thriving, at least in the short term, under the new leadership, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Vaughn had been a seven-year assistant with the Nets under various head coaches before he was promoted, first to interim head coach, and then to head coach in the wake of Steve Nash‘s dismissal earlier this year.

“I was excited for him,” Brooklyn All-Star Kevin Durant said. “I know the work that he puts in every day. I know how much he cares about the development of each player, and this team as a whole. Look forward to playing for him. All the guys have responded to how he wants us to play, so I’m looking forward to how we progress after this.”

The hiring of Vaughn marks a historic moment for the league at large, per Marc J. Spears of Andscape, as he is the 16th current Black head coach in the NBA, an all-time high. Spears notes that the NBA is comprised of 71.8% Black players, per Statistica.

Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports opines that the hiring of the player-friendly Vaughn represents an important move for Brooklyn’s future.

“You could see the way the guys gravitated towards Jacque and his coaching and teaching and charismatic attitude,” a Nets employee told Fischer, referring to his previous stint as an interim coach in 2020.

There’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • According to Ian Begley of SNY.tv, the Nets intend to see if Vaughn will be able to continue winning with the team’s current personnel before ultimately making a determination on how to move forward, be that trying to contend or attempting to retool the roster.
  • Nets team president Sean Marks indicated that he spoke with Durant prior to making the official decision to hire Vaughn for the long haul, but wasn’t necessarily soliciting his input, tweets Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News. “I update the players and the players knew ahead of time, but again, Kevin’s job here is to go and play basketball, and that’s what he wants to do,” Marks said. “So that decision was not up to Kevin.”
  • With point guard Kyrie Irving suspended indefinitely, the Nets have been significantly improved in every way, writes Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. The team has gone 3-1 since Irving was banished. Vaccaro adds that lately Brooklyn has been actively looking to share the ball and appears to have stepped up defensively.
  • Part of the reason Brooklyn has improved as of late has been depth. Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post notes that guards Edmond Sumner, starting for Irving, and Seth Curry have been key contributors recently. “He’ll continue to do that, set the tone,” Vaughn said of Sumner, who missed the entirety of the 2021/22 season following an Achilles tendon tear. “He just makes a difference. He’s engaged, he gets the rest of the group engaged.” Curry, meanwhile, is one of the league’s most lethal long-range specialists. “I still got a long ways to go physically, I’m still working my way back,” Curry noted. He has been recovering from a left ankle scope in May. “Just trying to keep a good mindset of work every day and come to the game bringing energy no matter what. I’m going to make shots, like I said, eventually.”

Atlantic Notes: Harris, Udoka, Irving, Vaughn, Achiuwa

Sixers forward Tobias Harris is seeing his role change again after a recent injury to James Harden, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. With Harden sidelined for about a month, Harris is being asked to carry more of the scoring load.

“Evolving into what the situation is when presented,” Harris said. “Sometimes that is going to be a space on the floor. And obviously at times, it’s limited play calls. But you just find other ways to adapt.”

Harris is averaging 15.0 PPG through 11 games this season, but that number has risen to 22.0 in the two games without Harden. He’s also taking on more play-making duties, setting up teammates for open three-point shots with drives to the basket.

“I’ve always prided myself on being a very good team basketball player in the half-court offense,” Harris said. “That’s something I was always able to do and be a part of.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets general manager Sean Marks refused to provide details when asked before tonight’s game why the team didn’t hire Ime Udoka, tweets Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Marks also said there’s no update on Kyrie Irving‘s suspension, adding that he hasn’t talked directly with Irving, only to his representatives. Jacque Vaughn also said he hasn’t spoken to Irving (Twitter link). Vaughn explained that he wasn’t sure about his role in the Irving scenario while he was an interim coach, but that could change now that he’s been officially hired.
  • Because he’s only signed through the 2023/24 season, Vaughn is effectively undergoing an “audition” for a longer-term role with the Nets, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link). Wojnarowski adds that if management is happy with the job Vaughn does, he could get an extension at the end of the season. Woj also addresses Irving’s suspension, saying “there’s still a lot in play” regarding when he might return.
  • Raptors coach Nick Nurse is emphasizing defense to Precious Achiuwa, tweets Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Nurse had a one-on-one film session with Achiuwa today, showing him defensive mistakes that he made. Nurse projected Achiuwa to play 25 to 30 minutes per night before the season began, but said he has to become more reliable defensively for that to happen.

Nets Notes: Udoka, Vaughn, Irving, Future

After the Nets parted ways with Steve Nash last week, top team officials spoke to Ime Udoka within the next 24-to-48 hours and he begin preparing to potentially take over the team’s head coaching job, multiple sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic. However, according to Charania, Brooklyn ultimately deviated from its plan to hire Udoka due to a handful of factors.

The Nets’ due diligence into Udoka and his suspension in Boston took longer than initially expected, and there was push-back from people inside and outside of the organization about the possible hiring, sources tell The Athletic. Charania also cites “short- and long-term question marks around the team’s ability to contend” due to Kyrie Irving‘s uncertain future as another factor.

According to Charania, the Nets have seen buy-in from the players under Jacque Vaughn, who has created “positive energy” inside a locker room that has already dealt with its share of drama this season. Additionally, while the sample size is small, Brooklyn’s defense seems to be improving under Vaughn, which is another reason why the team was comfortable removing his interim title and making him the permanent head coach, Charania adds.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • A veteran scout tells Brian Lewis of The New York Post that in the Nets’ October 29 game vs. Indiana, he counted 10 separate instances where Nash called a specific play and Irving ran something entirely different. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” the scout said. “Nash would call something, and he’d run the opposite. I’ve never seen anything like that.” A source close to the situation tells Lewis that the Nets “did whatever they wanted” under Nash, no matter what game plan he gave the team. “They were the most dysfunctional team I’ve seen (in years),” another scout said to Lewis.
  • Although Irving’s Tuesday meeting with NBA commissioner Adam Silver went well and could create a path to him rejoining the Nets, there are still some fences to mend, Shams Charania of The Athletic said during an appearance on The Rally (video link). “There is a bunch to sort through between Kyrie Irving and the Nets. There are relationships that need to be sorted out,” Charania said. “Not only between Kyrie Irving and management (and ownership), but also the locker room — he’s been away from the team for about a week now.”
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report considers whether the Nets should blow up their roster, noting that the upside to doing so is limited because they’ve already traded away several future draft picks and Irving and Ben Simmons don’t currently have any trade value.