Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant is sidelined with a knee...

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant is sidelined with a knee injury. Credit: AP/John Minchillo

It is not unfamiliar terrain the Nets are about to navigate.

Which made Jacque Vaughn’s answer to the question if there are lessons the 2022-23 Nets can learn from last season’s edition, which lost 16 of 21 games without Kevin Durant, unflinchingly  honest.  

“No excuses,” Vaughn said during practice Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery Training Center. “Not giving this group a chance to make excuses. Here to play. Here to win. Here to compete. Doesn’t change.”

Beginning with Thursday night’s game against the Celtics at Barclays Center, the Nets will not have Durant for a minimum of two weeks as he recuperates from an isolated MCL sprain of the right knee, which he suffered in the Nets’ 102-101 win over the Heat in Miami Sunday.

With a little more than a minute remaining in the third quarter, Heat star Jimmy Butler inadvertently tumbled into Durant after having his shot blocked by Nic Claxton. Durant stayed on the court for the ensuing two possessions but left the game following a timeout and did not return.

The team announced in a statement Monday that Durant will be reevaluated in two weeks. The severity of the sprain is unknown, and Vaughn declined to answer a question about its grade.

With the caveat that there is never an ideal time for a team to lose a player of Durant’s caliber, the Nets are losing their franchise player in the midst of what could be a MVP season. Durant is sixth in the league in scoring (29.7 points per game), ninth in blocked shots (1.5), 12th in minutes (36), and his 93.4% free-throw shooting is best in the NBA. He is shooting 55.9% from the field, 37.6% from three, and is averaging 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists.

The Nets’ 27-13 record is third-best in the NBA and second-best in the Eastern Conference.

“It's unfortunate,” Claxton said. “You never want to see anybody get injured and you know the best player in the world, he's out. But guys got to step up. We've been in this position before, not this year but previous years, so guys got to step up and take on a bigger role.”

But exactly who will take that role is a question. When directly asked who will start against Boston, Vaughn said he would make that announcement during his pregame media availability.  

Vaughn has options, as he could start Joe Harris, who has been a starter in past seasons, or choose to go with T.J. Warren.

But, as he noted, the rotation will be determined by game situations.

“Just think about some of the things we might need throughout the course of the game,” Vaughn said. “There are times where [Kyrie Irving] is going to get double teamed and [Warren] is not scoring and we’re going to miss Kevin. Maybe we need a scorer. Maybe that’s Cam [Thomas]  . . .  So we’re in a position where we’re going to need everybody. Is it going to be a consistent eight or nine every single game? Not going to say it is. We’re going to do whatever it is to win that day’s game. So that doesn’t change. The philosophy’s the same.” 

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