As an interim head coach who basically is auditioning for the Nets’ full-time job when the NBA season restarts later this month, Jacque Vaughn hardly could have been dealt a worse hand.
When the season paused on March 11 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nets already were without injured stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but when they return, the Nets will be missing six other players who were active at the time, including three who started in their last game.
Many of the best-laid plans Vaughn developed during the down time must be scrapped as the Nets regroup in the NBA practice bubble in Orlando.
“We had to change a few items for sure,” Vaughn told reporters in a Zoom video chat following practice on Sunday. “As a coaching staff, we spent an extreme amount of time together orchestrating what we thought the roster was going to look like and building some concepts off that. I think the biggest adjustment we made was just streamlining things and making things more simple just because of the different bodies we’re going to have. The hiatus plan that we had wrapped up in a nice box, we won’t be able to unwrap and see all of that.”
The list of newcomers on the Nets’ current roster includes guards Tyler Johnson and Jamal Crawford and forwards Michael Beasley and Donta Hall. All currently are in quarantine at the Nets’ hotel at Disney World and Vaughn had no timetable for when they will be able to join practice. It also was reported by SNY on Sunday the Nets might be close to signing veteran forward Lance Thomas, who was with them in training camp before being waived.
Neither Crawford nor Beasley played earlier this season, and if they sign Thomas, the same will hold true for him. Considering what a young team they have, the Nets obviously felt the need for a strong veteran presence.
“Hopefully, they can kind of push up the entire group once we get everyone,” Vaughn said. “We’ll have a couple guys who four months ago weren’t playing competitive basketball in the NBA. Overall, we’ve liked those players at different stages in our organization, so this opportunity presented itself to get them around and (see) how they can help us.”
Through the first few practices, Vaughn has gone with a starting lineup that includes guards Caris LeVert and Chris Chiozza, forwards Joe Harris and Rodions Kurucs and center Jarrett Allen. In the meantime, Vaughn is trying to acclimate the new guys in quarantine.
“We’re using all levels of communication that we can to get information to those guys,” Vaughn said. “The majority of that is through video . . . We’re [trying] to at least get guys comfortable with seeing who they’re possibly playing with, get a little grasp on what players do and some of the concepts.”
Without a doubt, the Nets will play a “small-ball” style because Allen is the only true center on the roster.
“A lot of emphasis is going to be on playing fast, switching a lot more frequently, trying to pressure guys a little bit more defensively and just try to get ourselves in advantageous situations where we’re getting the ball and going in transition offensively,” Harris said.
“We’re implementing some new stuff that JV has been thinking about and even talked to us about when we were in Brooklyn leading up to playing. You look at our roster, and you’ve got to be realistic about the fact we’re not going to out-talent a lot of teams that we’re playing against. We are definitely limited, but one thing that we can control is not beating ourselves, make sure that everybody is mentally engaged, making the right decisions and, again, not beating ourselves.”