Nets coach Jacque Vaughn will continue to look for ways to alleviate Kevin Durant’s heavy workload and hopes that T.J. Warren’s return will eventually provide an opportunity to save a superstar who will be absolutely pivotal to any championship aspirations.
“We’ve had to play Kevin more minutes than we’ve wanted to,” said Vaughn of Durant, who has played in every game this season, and came into Friday averaging 36.7 minutes in his age 34 season. He averaged 37.2 minutes last season, though he played in only 55 games because of injury. Before that, Durant hadn’t averaged more than 35 minutes since 2015, when he was 27.
“That’s just kind of where we are,” Vaughn said of the necessity, especially as the team now navigates injuries to Ben Simmons and Yuta Watanabe. Durant “understands that, and I think as we continue to get people back into the fold, it really does give us some flexibility to play different lineups. So tonight, we’ll try T.J. with K and we’ll try him without him. But [Warren] will hopefully as he catches up to the speed of the game and everything, and [with] his conditioning, give us the ability to play him in a lineup where Kevin can rest.”
Durant scored a season-high 45 points against the Magic Monday and came into Friday having scored 30 points or more in four straight games, averaging 37.8 points in that span.
The Nets came into Friday having won the first three games of their seven-game homestand, putting them at over .500 for the first time this season.
“I think the first part is we’ve tried to take advantage of the guys just being at home, sleeping in your own bed and resting,” Vaughn said. “That’s how we manage our days off and I think that’s really helped us, so that piece of it. And then I think there’s a comfort of playing at home. The first thing we said was we weren’t going to take that for granted and try to use it as an advantage.”