The Nets agreed to give up a first-round pick in exchange for Royce O’Neale last summer on the same day that news of Kevin Durant‘s trade request broke. The timing created some confusion among NBA observers about why a Brooklyn team in flux would give up a valuable future asset for a veteran role player. Seven months later, it’s clear why the Nets felt O’Neale was worth investing in, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscription required).
“It’s the total confidence that he gives you, the effort and the care factor that he has on a nightly basis … going over the scouting report and looking to see who he might guard that night,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said. “His teammates get a chance to see him be extremely professional. Whether it’s the conversations that I have with him on an off day about how our group is, what’s important, how can we get better.
“To see the concern that he has of doing his part as a teammate, that goes a long ways when there’s been nights where maybe he didn’t have a great shooting night but he’s still finished the game for us. Or he’s in a position where he’s able to shoot a crucial three because he’s in the game. At the end of the day, the trust that he’s garnered amongst the coaching staff, his teammates, (is) because he shows up every single day. Every day, every practice and every game. And nearly every minute of those games.”
As Lewis notes, O’Neale’s availability has been one of his most valuable assets for the Nets this season. The forward has started 45 games – tied with Nic Claxton for the team high – and his 1,563 total minutes are easily the most on the team, ahead of No. 2 Kevin Durant (1,403).
Here’s more on the Nets:
- Already emerging as a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year contender, Claxton has taken his offensive game to a new level since Durant went down, having averaged 21.1 points per night on 77.5% shooting in his last seven games. Vaughn has been just as impressed with Claxton’s mindset and preparation between games as his production on the court, according to Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. “That professionalism, that maturity will go a long ways for Nic Claxton. It’s paying off for him,” Vaughn said. “The preparation, the dedication to your craft, to show up and be prepared to play every single night — there’s something to it, and he’s getting rewarded for it.”
- Ben Simmons (left knee soreness) and T.J. Warren (left shin contusion) both departed Thursday’s game vs. Detroit early. While both players could miss a little time, it doesn’t sound as if either injury should be a long-term issue. Joe Vardon of The Athletic indicated that Simmons wasn’t expected to undergo an MRI on his ailing knee, and the former No. 1 overall pick is listed as questionable for Saturday’s contest vs. New York. Warren is listed as doubtful.
- Alex Schiffer and John Hollinger of The Athletic check in on the state of the Nets and consider what the team will be looking for at the trade deadline and on the buyout market. Hollinger suggests that Brooklyn should keep an eye on big men like Damian Jones and Mason Plumlee, since the club could still use one more frontcourt player to help match up with bigger centers.