The Nets had a day off Monday, a scheduled breather in their preparation for the start of scrimmages Wednesday and with the real resumption of the NBA schedule little more than a week away. That might have seemed like a normal part of a schedule for Jacque Vaughn as he prepared his team, but little else seems normal.
Vaughn, with just two games under his belt as the head coach of the Nets, has waited out the four-month suspension of the season and now has assembled a pieced-together roster to try to hang on to a playoff berth.
And this is what he must face with the franchise’s best talent back home as he sits in a bubble at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.
“I think overall we’re so used to game routine, having a night game, what shootaround looks like going into that game, even the night before, the day before’s practice looks like,” Vaughn said on a Zoom call Sunday night. “Now you’re going to have 2 o’clock, 2:30 games, afternoon games. So what does your shootaround look like? What does your breakfast meeting look like? What does your postgame look like?
“Those things are happening with some variability, also. It’s not like they’re going to all be 2:30 games. Some TV games. Some non-TV games. Where you’re warming up at might not be on the same court that you’re playing on. The time that you meet together as a team. All those pregame and postgames that you’re used to having a set schedule, we’ll have to challenge ourselves to definitely be flexible.”
The Nets just got Jamal Crawford, Tyler Johnson and Lance Thomas through quarantine and with the team this past week. Jeremiah Martin was added to practice and Justin Anderson will be in practice Tuesday with Donta Hall coming shortly. That means that one-third of the roster Vaughn will have at his disposal was not with the team when the season was suspended or throughout the shutdown.
Vaughn hopes to have the Nets on the same page, and for this new cast of characters to catch on it might have to be Page One of the playbook. A simplified system might actually be the easiest part for Vaughn, who has also had to balance, like all coaches, the fears of players worried about COVID-19, the quarantining away from family and friends and keeping an eye on the social justice reforms.
“It’s not just on JV and the coaches to bring everybody up to speed — Jamal, Tyler, Lance, Justin is going to join us at some point,” Joe Harris said. “But it’s not just on JV to get the new guys up to speed. A lot of it falls on the players and us being able to communicate with them, especially outside of the stuff on the court. Obviously, we have a lot of time to spend together within the bubble. A lot of it is making sure that everybody is on the same page, full understanding of JV’s concepts, philosophy, everything.”
Part of what Vaughn and Nets management must work through is what to do with the new players. While someone like the 19-year veteran Crawford has the talent to score anywhere, anytime, and Johnson and Thomas have the experience to help, the Nets are cautiously approaching how to use players who have just arrived — measuring not only their knowledge of the system but also their health and fitness.
“It’s going to be a challenging balance again,” Vaughn said. “We’re going to have to be adaptable with when do we want everyone to be available to play. With Jamal, with Tyler, with Lance, we’ll definitely be strategic in maybe they won’t play some of those scrimmages. Maybe we will gear towards looking for when they can be healthy. I think there’s going to be a race to see how many people can stay healthy throughout the course of this thing.”