When it comes to figuring out how to replace Kyrie Irving’s production for as long as he remains in unvaccinated exile, the Nets have no shortage of answers. They have a roster loaded with ammunition to support stars Kevin Durant and James Harden in the form of former All-Stars Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap, not to mention two-time three-point shooting leader Joe Harris and super sub Patty Mills.
Of those, Griffin seems like a prime candidate for an expanded role. He averaged only 10.0 points per game in a secondary role last season but shot 38.3% from three-point range. But he’s not thinking in terms of what he might do to fill the void created by Irving’s absence.
"I think everybody’s role changes slightly, but you don’t ever put anything on yourself," Griffin said following practice on Saturday. "Even the best players can’t do it by themselves. So we’ve got to do it collectively as a team.
"We’ve got to do that by paying attention to our spacing, our pace, and guys have got to hit shots. Kevin is Kevin and James is James and Joe is Joe. But the guys who support them, myself included, we have to just do our job and do it better. But it’s not about really putting it on yourself."
Although he spent most of his career as a power forward, Griffin often has played a small-ball center in the Nets’ offense largely because of his perimeter shooting and ability to space the floor. In Saturday’s practice, coach Steve Nash experimented with a lineup that included Nic Claxton at center and Griffin at the four spot.
"We’re kind of positionless, and I was playing with Nic today," Griffin said. "Nic’s great at what he does. I know I can help him a little bit, and he helps me a little bit. I really enjoyed playing with Nic, so playing the four or the five doesn’t matter to me."
Griffin was rested in the final preseason game Thursday, but Nash moved Harris from small forward to shooting guard, slid Durant to small forward spot and started Millsap at the four with Claxton at the five. Certainly, it might make sense to put Harris in Irving’s guard spot and play three big men upfront.
"I think that is a lineup we’ll see, but that’s up to coach Nash," Griffin said. "I think there’s more than one way to go about it. There’s more than one lineup we can put out there, but that’s not a bad lineup."
The return of Aldridge, who briefly retired last season, and the addition of forwards Millsap, James Johnson and DeAndre’ Bembry gives Nash a lot of options in the frontcourt.
"Paul Millsap is a multiple-time All-Star, and LaMarcus is the same thing," Griffin said. "Nic is a very dynamic big, so we have guys who really know how to play. Nic’s like our young, get-up-and-down rim-roller guy, but Paul and LaMarcus can both hit shots, space the floor, post up and pass. Those two guys are really high IQ bigs, so we should lean on that in my opinion."