The Nets had hoped to be at full strength soon, minus Ben Simmons. But while Dennis Smith Jr. returned Saturday, Lonnie Walker IV sat out with a strained left hamstring.
The injury was more serious than expected, as coach Jacque Vaughn said he won’t play Wednesday against the Hawks and possibly on the team’s five-game road trip, which starts Monday.
“He will not travel with us to Atlanta,” Vaughn said Tuesday. “And all signs [are] pointing towards him not playing on the West Coast trip and having some information about that after we get back from the West Coast.”
Vaughn said the Nets did imaging on Walker’s hamstring on Saturday, which revealed the extent of the injury. Walker also will miss the Nets hosting the Wizards on Friday.
Walker has been a key asset on offense since the team signed him to a one-year deal in the summer. Although he’s come off the bench in every game he’s played, he’s fifth on the Nets in scoring at 14.6 points per game, while shooting 48.9% from the field.
Walker is also ninth in the NBA in three-point shooting at 46.3% and has shown ability to score at three levels, especially at the rim. He has five games with at least 20 points, tied for second most off the bench in the league behind Sacramento's Malik Monk, who has six.
When the Nets won on Nov. 12 against the Wizards, Walker briefly left the game in the first half with a knee injury. He returned to finish the second half but said afterwards that his knee had been bothering him since the second game of the season.
At the time, he said he’d play through it as long as he could walk.
“My leg’s not broke so I’m gonna keep playing,” Walker said. “My pops always used to say 'just keep drinking water', I don’t know how that equates to this injury but we’ll see how it goes.”
Saturday was the first game Walker missed this season due to injury. He was healthy for the season opener, but did not play.
It’s the latest blow for a Nets team that’s had bad injury luck through 19 games. According to Spotrac, 11 players have missed at least one game, second most in the league.
Ben Simmons has missed the last 12 games with a nerve impingement in his back and will be out at least through Dec. 16, per the Nets’ last update.
The good news, though, was Vaughn said Dorian Finney-Smith participated in practice after missing Saturday’s game with soreness in his right foot and knee.
The Nets will need all the help they can get returning to Atlanta, where they lost to the Hawks in overtime, 147-145, on Nov. 22. They’ll have reinforcements this time after losing that game with both Cam Thomas and Smith Jr. sidelined.
But as they’ve done all year, the Nets will have to adjust without another key player in their arsenal.
“I think we all have a next man up mentality and everybody does a good job of filling in for the guys that are out,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. "It's a credit to the collective group that everybody is able to adjust.”