Nets interim coach Jacque Vaughn faces an enormous challenge in his bid to earn the job he inherited in March after Kenny Atkinson was fired. He won the only two games he coached before the NBA season paused on March 11 for the COVID-19 outbreak, but he will be heading a badly depleted team when the season resumes July 31 in Orlando.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving previously were out with injuries when Vaughn took over. Nic Claxton since has been lost for shoulder surgery. DeAndre Jordan tested positive for the coronavirus and has opted out of Orlando. Wilson Chandler opted out of Orlando for personal reasons. Leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie tested positive and is showing symptoms but currently remains part of the traveling party.
“It definitely makes it challenging, and I think that’s the part you have to embrace,” Vaughn said Wednesday in a video conference with reporters. “There’s no playbook, no handbook for this scenario. [We’re] looking at all the options and exhausting all those options.
“We’re still diagnosing that to see what the roster looks like going forward. The buildup to this has not been typical. We’re still in one-on-one [workout] phases, and you have to see what guys look like once we get into the bubble, what kind of shape they’re in.”
When general manager Sean Marks was asked how he will evaluate Vaughn’s candidacy for the head job under such difficult circumstances, he said, “I think it’s completely unfair to say it’s going to be about wins and losses. Jacque has been a prominent part of this organization the last four years. We know what Jacque is about and the type of person he is and the character and leader that he is…He and I have a very close relationship and we have a very honest and open relationship, too.”
The Nets recently acquired free-agent guard Tyler Johnson, and Vaughn must blend him into the rotation. But in general, Vaughn is hoping to recapture the formula the Nets used in their last game on March 10 when they upset the Lakers and LeBron James in Los Angeles.
“The last game we played together as a team, there was an extreme amount of unselfishness, an extreme amount of pride for the Brooklyn Nets, an extreme amount of joy playing in the Laker game,” Vaughn said. “We’re trying to get back to that position, replicate that. It won’t be easy, but that is going to be the challenge for us is to galvanize the group.”