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Nets should flip to youth motion for last video games of misplaced season

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The Nets know what the rating is — or extra precisely, what the standings are. They haven’t been eradicated but, however they’ve reached the purpose of this season the place they should begin planning for subsequent season.

It’s time to play the youngsters.

It simply so occurs that within the Nets’ case, taking part in the youngsters doesn’t should equal elevating the white flag. Or decreasing expectations.

That didn’t imply benching all their starters in Wednesday’s 122-119 extra time win in Washington, and it received’t imply tanking in a yr they don’t even have their very own first-round draft decide. Nevertheless it does imply a dose of teenager Trendon Watford, and a sprinkling of rookies Jalen Wilson and Noah Clowney.

And giving each the entrance workplace and interim coach Kevin Ollie — or whoever is accountable for this staff subsequent season — an opportunity to see what they’ve.

Or don’t have.

“Our younger guys, [we’ve] bought a vibrant future with our younger guys,” Ollie mentioned earlier than Wednesday’s win. “They’re developing, stepping up and taking part in very, very nicely with Noah and J-Will, and T-Wat performed very nicely the final recreation. And simply execution down the stretch was nice.

“So I’m simply gonna continue to learn about them and so they’re studying about me and the issues that I would like from this staff and it’s at all times a studying evolution with something, with life and in basketball. So, studying about them each day.”

Trendon Watford, celebrating after hitting a 3-pointer, scored 12 factors within the Nets’ 122-119 OT win over the Wizards. Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports activities

Sadly, this season has gone from successful to reconnoitering. However sure, the Nets — from Ollie to GM Sean Marks — completely must find out about their youth.

The Nets are nonetheless 5 ½ video games behind Atlanta for the final play-in spot with simply 9 dates left on their schedule, and a tragic quantity is down to 5. It’s clearly analysis time, admit it or not.

Main scorer Cam Thomas is simply 22. Beginning middle Nic Claxton is 24, however an unrestricted free agent.

Day’Ron Sharpe, 22, has confirmed a viable backup. However what’s Clowney, at simply 19?

Noah Clowney, who performed 11 minutes, defends Kyle Kuzma through the Nets’ win. AP

Clowney was a plus-6 — second-best on the staff — with 4 rebounds in opposition to the Wizards in simply 10:36. And two nights earlier he’d logged 9 minutes alongside Claxton in Toronto throughout which Brooklyn had a stellar 52.6 web score. The pair shot 11 of 15, grabbed 11 boards and outscored the Raptors by 13.

“It was nice that they trusted me with the minutes,” mentioned Clowney, who has spent a lot of the season within the G-League. “My first purpose is to protect. I don’t like when folks rating and I’m on the ground and I really feel like I may’ve helped it. So yeah, that was my first mindset, and offensively simply taking part in assured, free, not being nervous or scared. Simply hooping.

“I performed the 4 in faculty, so I’m in acquainted territory. Now, it has been some time since I’ve completed that, like navigating screens, issues like that; I ain’t completed that in a very long time. However so far as taking part in with them, it opened up quite a lot of totally different alternatives for me. … So, simply hooping.”

Jalen Wilson, driving up the courtroom throughout a recreation vs. the Raptors, performed simply eight minutes within the Nets’ win over the Wizards. Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports activities

Wilson bought simply his second begin Monday, with 12 factors and 5 boards in half-hour (plus-8). In these begins he averaged double-digit scoring and .429 capturing from deep. However each rookies are beneath contract for subsequent season; Watford isn’t.

Nonetheless simply 23, Watford is intriguing. He backed up seasons-highs of 19 factors and 7 boards in Toronto with a 12 factors on 5 of seven capturing Wednesday.

In eight video games logging no less than 20 minutes, he’s averaged 13.4 factors, 5.3 boards and .520/.400/.852 splits. A free agent on a minimal deal, Watford’s taking part in time has waxed and waned. Now needs to be extra of the previous.

“[I love] his vitality. He’s at all times in assault mode. Very assured basketball participant,” Ollie mentioned. “He’s extra like some extent ahead. I can play on that time, I can play him all around the courtroom which provides us quite a lot of choices.”

Choices the Nets must spend these last weeks weighing.

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Nets discovering defensive prowess could also be one thing to construct on

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One seemingly wouldn’t have occurred with out the opposite.

It’s arduous to not get misplaced within the Nets’ red-hot 3-point taking pictures throughout their 125-108 win over the Bulls on Friday night time.

They erupted for 25-for-44 taking pictures from 3-point vary, 18 of which got here within the second half — tied for essentially the most 3s made in any half within the NBA this season.

It additionally broke the staff’s franchise document of 16, which was set earlier this season.

Their 25 made 3s seemingly don’t characterize a sustainable mannequin going ahead, and interim coach Kevin Ollie admitted as a lot after the sport.

Nets middle Nic Claxton (33) blocks a shot taken by Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) within the third quarter on Friday. Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports activities

However what helped spark that taking pictures barrage — their defensive efficiency — might be.

“As soon as we received stops, we simply received confidence on the opposite finish,” Mikal Bridges stated after the sport. “We [were] searching for one another, sharing the ball. However yeah, it actually simply begins on protection, man, bringing this power. I believe we [were] missing power, after which at first of the third [quarter], we got here out and performed arduous.”

The Nets trailed 52-47 at halftime and gave up 85 factors by means of three quarters, however held the Bulls to simply 23 factors within the fourth quarter.

The Bulls shot a paltry 16.7 p.c from behind the arc within the quarter.

And the Nets’ offense subsequently got here alive, taking pictures 65.0 p.c from the sphere and 81.8 p.c from 3-point vary within the fourth quarter, pouring in 39 factors.

Although the defensive outcomes improved later within the recreation, Ollie thought his aspect’s effort on that finish of the court docket was constant.

“They type of stayed with their protection,” Ollie stated. “I believe we talked about at halftime type of getting again in transition a little bit bit. We gave up a pair possessions in transition. However I assumed our protection was strong just about the entire night time. After which the pictures went in after which we turned it on.

Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) appears to be like to drive previous Brooklyn Nets ahead Mikal Bridges on Friday night time. Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports activities

“However I didn’t suppose our protection waned a little bit bit. We had a pair errors on the market performing some totally different matchups, however I assumed our protection was fairly tight the entire recreation, after which when the pictures went, in fact they’re gonna get much more energized. However I didn’t suppose our protection was that unhealthy even once we [were] lacking pictures within the first half.”

The Nets’ protection has stood out greater than something throughout their three-game win streak, which has staved off elimination, for now, and delivered some uncommon good vibes after a six-game dropping skid and in any other case wildly disappointing season.

They recorded a 108.2 defensive score in these three video games — ninth-best within the NBA throughout that stretch.

Regardless of regression nearly throughout the board since Ollie took over for Jacque Vaughn throughout the All-Star break, protection has been one of many solely areas the Nets have truly improved below Ollie’s tutelage.

The Nets personal a 111.7 defensive score for the reason that All-Star break, good for Eleventh-best within the league.

Earlier than the All-Star break, it was 116.8 — twenty first within the NBA.

Nets ahead Dorian Finney-Smith (28) drives previous Chicago Bulls middle Nikola Vucevic on Friday. Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports activities

“It didn’t begin like that [defensively Friday night],” Bridges stated. “We [were] getting stops popping out of that third quarter, in addition to proper at the start. I believe all [those] pictures got here from confidence that we’ll get stops. I believe they scored 19 — or 23 — that fourth [quarter], however we had been simply taking part in good protection. I believe that’s what it was. After which we make the pictures and get stops, it’s gonna unfold out a little bit bit.”

In a misplaced season, maybe it’s one thing small to construct on.

“It’s simply one of many closest groups I’ve been on, it’s one of many higher groups so far as being collectively throughout powerful instances, being collectively,” Cam Thomas stated. “We [are] all simply sticking collectively. Clearly the wins haven’t resulted in that, however on the finish of day, we simply gotta maintain discovering options and simply attempt to win each recreation we are able to.”

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Mitchell Robinson’s Knicks return comes with new damage concern

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SAN ANTONIO — A aspect good thing about the Knicks’ foul points and drama Friday was an extended take a look at Mitchell Robinson, who performed all however 12 seconds of time beyond regulation and felt good concerning the efficiency. 

The draw back is that he additionally got here up with an damage, spraining his left ankle (not his surgically repaired one) after touchdown awkwardly on a dunk try.

The middle, who not too long ago returned from a 50-game damage absence, is listed as “questionable” for an Easter Sunday showdown towards the Thunder regardless of postgame assurances that he was bodily high-quality. 

“I believe I performed a stable recreation for my second recreation again,” Robinson mentioned. “What did I get, seven [points] and 12 [rebounds]? 

Mitchell Robinson returned to the Knicks after a 50-game absence. AP

“We’re getting proper again to the motion. Isn’t that what I averaged earlier than I went out? Yeah, come again like a champ.” 

Robinson’s 20 total minutes represented his longest look since Dec. 5, a span of almost 4 months that included his proper ankle surgical procedure.

His seven offensive boards introduced again recollections of Robinson’s All-Protection candidacy at first of this marketing campaign. 

However it was hardly excellent. 

Or easy. 

Mitchell Robinson is listed as questionable for Sunday’s Knicks recreation. Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports activities

Past the ankle sprain, Robinson, who performed the time beyond regulation as a result of Isaiah Hartenstein fouled out on the finish of regulation, missed six of his 9 shot makes an attempt, clearly bothered beneath the basket by Victor Wembanyama’s Elastic Man presence.

The Knicks had been outscored by 10 factors with Robinson, who’s now the clear backup, on the courtroom.

His web score was a tough minus-23 in comparison with Hartenstein’s plus-15.3. 

A part of that score is as a result of Robinson performed just a few ugly minutes within the fourth quarter with out Jalen Brunson, and the Knicks’ offense goes within the tank with out Brunson. 

As well as, a few Robinson’s missed discipline objectives had been unfair to depend since they had been ideas off offensive rebounds with out full possession. 

However he additionally understood rhythm was a difficulty. 

“Timing is off. It’s brutal,” Robinson mentioned. “I believe I used to be enjoying rather well [before the injury]. Then sitting out the 4 months, it throws … your entire timing off. However it’s what it’s. I’m not going to make use of that as an excuse. I will be higher. I’m a basketball participant. I’ve been on this six years.” 

It’s a course of.

Each with sustaining his well being and establishing a rhythm.

Mitchell Robinson performed some minutes Friday with out Jalen Brunson. AP

That’s why it was good for Robinson to return with a runway earlier than the playoffs — and why it’s extra in regards to the longer Julius Randle stays inactive.

In Robinson’s first recreation again from surgical procedure Wednesday towards the Raptors, the vibe was extra relaxed in a blowout victory. Friday’s environment in San Antonio was intense — like a playoff recreation. 

The Spurs (18-56), regardless of their draft lottery standing, performed as much as the depth of their crowd and gained their third straight. The Knicks (44-29) fell from third to fourth within the East. 

“First recreation, getting the vibe again of enjoying in entrance of an enormous crowd,” Robinson mentioned. “And the second recreation — do it with somewhat extra vitality.” 

Regardless of the newest tweak to his proper ankle, the 25-year-old mentioned the restoration from the stress fracture in his left ankle has been lots simpler than after the fractured proper foot sustained in 2021. 

“That one the bone simply snapped on the foot. The fifth metatarsal simply broke,” Robinson mentioned. “This one was similar to a hairline fracture. … This one is a complete lot simpler than the final one. Final one, I used to be out [about six months]. This one shouldn’t be so dangerous.” 

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Nets’ Cam Thomas must be thought-about for one NBA award

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Cam Thomas can nonetheless qualify for the NBA’s annual awards.

And if he does, Nets interim coach Kevin Ollie mentioned the rising younger guard warrants being within the Most Improved Participant dialog.

“He must be in there, positively, simply together with his physique of labor,” Ollie mentioned earlier than Thomas poured in a team-high 28 factors in Friday’s 125-108 win over Chicago. “I do know he has lots of guys he’s competing with as effectively. However together with his physique of labor, his consistency and him with the ability to rating the ball within the capability that he’s scoring is at all times nice.”

Cam Thomas, who scored a team-high 28 factors, drives previous Torrey Craig through the Nets’ 125-108 win over the Bulls. AP

Underneath new guidelines, gamers should log a minimum of 20 minutes in 65 video games to be eligible for awards. Which means Thomas can’t miss multiple of Brooklyn’s final eight video games.

Thomas has seen the largest enhance in scoring from final season to this 12 months of any participant within the league.

He entered the Bulls recreation main the Nets in scoring at 21.8 factors, a soar of 11.2 factors from his 10.6 common final season.

“However for us to have these guys rewarded we have now to win video games, too. That goes with it. That’s simply how the NBA is. You win, you get extra recognition,” Ollie mentioned. “In order that’s why we at all times maintain it a group sport, too, as a result of it’s a group sport. The higher we do as a group, the extra acknowledged we’re as people.”

The Nets did simply that Friday, incomes their third straight victory — and fourth in six dwelling video games for the reason that All-Star break — with the rout of Chicago.

Cam Thomas drives on Andre Drummond through the Nets’ victory. Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports activities

Brooklyn shot 18 of 24 from 3-point vary within the second half, tying an NBA report for 3s made in any half.


Nic Claxton had 11 factors, 13 boards and two blocks regardless of opening the sport with a custom-designed masks to guard his damaged nostril.

He discarded it late within the second quarter after being hit on a drive and having the masks slip down on his face, obscuring his view.

After struggling the damaged nostril whereas being hit within the face through the loss to the Knicks, Claxton performed with a off-the-rack masks however discovered it cumbersome and uncomfortable.

Nic Claxton blocks Coby White’s shot through the Nets’ 125-108 loss to the Bulls. Noah Ok. Murray / New York Publish

Noah Clowney was cleared and performed after having been possible with a again contusion suffered throughout a tough fall.

However Dennis Smith Jr. was a late scratch after being uncertain with a proper hip synovitis.

Cam Johnson missed a 3rd straight recreation with a sprained left large toe.

“CJ will see our docs [Friday night] or [Saturday]. We’ll get an replace on him,” Ollie mentioned. “Dennis Smith Jr. remains to be sort of working by that injection and look ahead to seeing him again on the courtroom. Hopefully quickly.”


Mikal Bridges entered Friday second within the league in complete minutes performed (2,586), trailing solely DeMar DeRozan (2,669).

He logged 37:56 whereas the Bulls standout performed 36:48.


After the Hornets pilfered each Jeff Peterson and Ryan Gisriel from Brooklyn’s entrance workplace, no different Nets are anticipated to observe in Charlotte’s remake, league sources instructed The Publish.

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