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Veterans' presence should help depleted Nets for restart in NBA 'bubble' during pandemic

Michael Beasley #11 of the Los Angeles Lakers

Michael Beasley #11 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket against Quinn Cook #4 of the Golden State Warriors during their preseason game at T-Mobile Arena on October 10, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Credit: Getty Images/Ethan Miller

As they prepare to restart their season in the NBA “bubble” at Disney World in Orlando, the Nets are in scramble mode. They are missing three injured players and four others who either tested positive for COVID-19 or opted out.

So they must rely heavily for leadership on the veteran presence they have with Garrett Temple, who has been a powerful locker room voice all season, plus the recent additions of free agents Jamal Crawford, who will be in his 20th season, and Michael Beasley, who will be in his 12th season. Of course, as Temple noted Friday in a Zoom session with reporters, even the veterans are in uncharted waters.

“Everybody is in new circumstances,” Temple said. “This isn’t anything vets can talk about and say, ‘When we were in the bubble last time, this is what we did.’ This is all new to everybody. But having that veteran leadership, trying to be adaptable, trying to withstand and be resilient in times of adversity, I think that’s going to help.

“A guy like Jamal, who is very even-keeled, who keeps things light, as well as ‘Beas’ and myself, I think that’s going to help…But this is new to everybody, and we’re going to learn it as we go.”

Temple is especially tight with Crawford, a three-time winner of the NBA Sixth Man award who is viewed as a beloved veteran presence across the NBA.

“Great vet,” Temple said. “I talked to him Wednesday night, Tuesday night and then again [Thursday] night. One of the best vets to ever play the game. Obviously, he’s going to provide scoring punch, provide a voice in the locker room that’s been around for a long time, understands how to win games. Just a great guy as well, though.”

Nets interim coach Jacque Vaughn was an active NBA player for the first nine years of Crawford’s career, so he undoubtedly guarded Crawford many times. Pressed for his memory of those days, Vaughn said, “I do remember his game of being shifty, having an array of moves to get his shot off, a guy that you enjoy watching, very creative.

“Towards the latter part of his years, he’s become more of a ballhandler who can distribute, also. Always had the ability to make a shot. He’s a guy you could take to a playground across the world and he’ll feel comfortable playing on any floor. So that’s a special talent.”

In addition to the veterans they have added, the Nets on Friday announced the signing of Donta Hall, a 6-9 forward/center who averaged 15.4 points and 10.6 rebounds with the Pistons’ G League affiliate earlier this season. Since the Nets are without starting center DeAndre Jordan and power forward Taurean Prince, both of whom tested positive for COVID-19, Hall figures to play a major role backing up center Jarrett Allen, who has regained his starting status.

“Donta can play above the rim, and hopefully, he’ll get better while he’s here and be able to contribute, Vaughn said. "We’ll need to get him up to speed pretty quickly.”

At the same time, much will be expected of the 6-11 Allen, who was replaced by Jordan as the starter for the last two games the Nets played before the stoppage. He understands he has to be careful to avoid foul trouble because of the Nets’ lack of depth, but Allen insisted he doesn’t feel extra pressure.

“I’m not really a ‘feel pressure’ type of guy,” Allen said. “It gives me more freedom. All the options [at center] in front of me are sitting out. I really hope they get better, but all the health stuff aside, now is almost a time for me to go out and explore my game.”

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