Image source: The New York Times
Nets: While playing 11 games without Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons, the Brooklyn Nets also dropped four games without Kevin Durant.
With a record of 29-17, they are one game behind the Philadelphia 76ers in second place in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Nets had the second-best record in the NBA when it was revealed on January 9 that Durant had sprained his MCL.
After 18 victories in 20 games, they were just one game behind the league-leading Boston Celtics because of their potent offense and solid defense.
If the Nets had all of their players, they could win the championship with ease.
Durant, however, is not to blame for their predicament.
They should be pleased with a plan that really succeeded.
In the first round of the playoffs in May 2022, the Celtics beat the Nets in four intense games.
Later, team president Sean Marks said that they needed to strengthen, adapt, and empower their squad.
He underlined how important it was to have players that were eager to help the team succeed.
Due to their lack of resources, Kevin Durant requested a trade before signing with the Brooklyn Nets.
But given that the regular season is now halfway through, it is clear that their summer purchases were a series of steals.
A 23-year-old athlete who had made considerable improvements was re-signed.
The glue player, who cost them a first-round selection later in the draft, is adapting.
The Nets’ versatile forward, who they drafted, is now the NBA’s top three-point shooter.
The outlaw is getting back into the form he was in just before his surgery.
Nic Claxton is making the strides that many foresaw a year ago thanks to his increasing power as the foundation of the Net.
As a result, he is a candidate for the All-Defensive team.
Claxton has consistently neutralized threats in addition to deflecting more shots and fouling less.
“The more reps that I’ve gotten in the NBA, just guarding guys, picking up on tendencies, knowing where I need to be,” said Claxton of his refinement.
“It’s really taken my game to a different level on the defensive end.”
“I’m more confident,” he continued. “I’m not worried so much about just messing out there, so I’m just able to try more things and be more creative.”
“And I just have a better feel for the game, just with the experience that I’ve gotten.”
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The Nets signed Royce O’Neale because they were in dire need of a shooter who could also guard wings.
He was praised for his consistency in 3-and-D play.
His affinity for passing, attack on close-outs, and proficiency of pick-and-rolls and dribble-handoffs surprised them.
“It felt good,” said O’Neale. “I mean, I’ve always kind of been able to play with the ball more.”
“Just reading different situations, and then becoming more comfortable with it, confident.”
He wanted to do everything the Nets asked of him when he initially signed a new contract, including handling the ball.
Nic Claxton made extremely kind comments for his colleague.
“He just comes in every day, just works, plays his role, doesn’t have a huge ego,” said Claxton.
“He just wants to come out and play basketball at a high level and win basketball games.”
“It’s always good to have glue guys like that on the roster who can bring that every single night. And he plays extremely hard defensively, can knock down shots.”
O’Neale believes that he is capable of handling any duty in any situation, despite the fact that any side could recruit him.
“As long as I get to play basketball, I’m cool.”
Yuta Watanabe’s signing surprised everyone.
While playing for the Toronto Raptors, he struggled with uncertainty and constantly put pressure on himself to do better.
Watanabe injured his leg during a preseason training with the Raptors, and his playing time was limited while he was healing.
But Brooklyn had a positive development.
“At this point, it’s a mental game. No matter how bad or how good I shoot before the game or in practice or whatever, I’m always in the present,” he said.
“I always focus on the shot right in front of me. I think that’s the biggest difference between in Toronto and here.”
“Having an experience like that in Toronto is really helping me right now.”
Since joining the Nets, Yuta Watanabe has attempted 84 shots and made 41 of them, good for a three-point shooting percentage of 59.2%.
“I was kind of surprised how much I’ve changed. Nothing really changed, but like how I’m shooting now. This didn’t happen overnight or like over a day,” said Watanabe.
“This is a process of going to the gym every day, getting shots up every day, and it’s a process of years.”
When he scored 17 points in only 21 minutes during the December game in Toronto, his confidence reached a new high.
“Every time I catch the ball, I feel like my shots are going in.”
TJ Warren’s post-2020 campaign used to be a nightmare.
Despite a history of several surgeries and stress fractures, he chose to sign a one-year, veteran-minimum contract with the Nets.
Before being ill, Warren was a well-known shooter, but since joining the Nets, he has transformed into a reliable back-up.
Despite not being in the same shape as in the past, TJ Warren has shown to be an important part of the offensive.
“He’s going to be a big help for us,” said O’Neale. “As he already is.”
“I think just him being confident on both ends, knowing what he’s capable of doing, it’s going to help us in the long run.”
“Our depth that we got, he’s a big part of it.”