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Hodgepodge Nets finally return to court against another team with scrimmage loss to Pelicans

Nets interim head coach Jacque Vaughn looks on

Nets interim head coach Jacque Vaughn looks on in the first half of an NBA game against the Bulls at Barclays Center on March 8. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The last time the Brooklyn Nets played a game it was March 10 in Los Angeles, a surprising win by the shorthanded team that provided a boost in spirits - a short-lived lift as the season was suspended a day later. 

The Nets took the court against the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday night for a scrimmage, their first game since that day and what seemed shorthanded in March is very different than what the Nets face as they resume the season.

And as they started up their scrimmage schedule even the roster fill-ins were mostly sidelined and it showed as they were easily outclassed, 99-68, before a crowd of, well, zero. 

Three of the starters from that last game - Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and Wilson Chandler - are not even with the team in Orlando now. Another starter, Joe Harris, was sitting this one out after practicing with the team all week. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant bowed out of the resumption of the season in the bubble-like campus at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. 

But no matter who they put on the court, nothing was going to be quite normal. In the background, the coronavirus COVID-19 loomed and the question as they started remained, would they get to the finish line. There were no fans in attendance. The coaches were distanced from each other and the players were assigned seats on the bench. And mostly as you watched this first day of scrimmages you could only hope that the latest round of tests showing no positives in the bubble was accurate because there were still high-fives and fist bumps as players went in and out of the game, players running into each other like any other game and only the rare sighting of a mask on the workers cleaning up sweat on the court.

“I think overall health still is a priority,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “We see the effect that it’s having on our country and where we are, So I think it’s our responsibility to really not give in to relaxing any of the standards that are put into place. The protocols have been established for a reason. An extreme amount of research has gone into it. It’s up to us to hold up our end of the responsibility and continue to hold those protocols in place.

“I think guys have settled into the fact that they will sweat on guys, you will have some physical contact. That’s part of our sport. I think their minds are eased — we get tested every single day. So that part of it has given guys the belief and credibility that if you  follow protocols to the best of your ability then we can get this thing accomplished.”

The Pelicans were missing Zion Williamson, who has left the bubble to tend to a family medical emergency, but other than that they were intact and it showed. Jamal Crawford, Tyler Johnson and Justin Anderson were held out as they acclimate to the new system and work their way back into NBA game shape. Anderson, who just practiced for the first time with the team, revealed that the long delay in getting on the court and officially on the roster was because of multiple positive tests for the coronavirus COVID-19, making him the ninth Nets player to test positive for the virus since testing began in March. 

“It’s something we wanted to try and keep in-house because we weren’t quite sure when we’d be able to pass the protocols,” Anderson said on a Zoom call Tuesday night. “Battling between negative and positive tests, battling between trying to make sure I got here in a car service rather than a plane to make sure I continue to follow protocol. It was just a long journey.”

Anderson briefly played with the Nets on a 10-day contract in January and then was with the team’s G League affiliate when the season was halted. He returned home to Atlanta during the suspension of the season and while working out he found himself dealing with mixed results of testing.

“That’s when I got the call that I’d quarantine there once I got tested in Atlanta,” Anderson said. “First positive, then a negative, then a positive, followed up with more back-and-forth results. Then I realized there were some positive tests and things before that. It was just a really weird and unfortunate situation. But credit to (Anderson’s agent) Mark Bartelstein: He kept me positive and optimistic and kept my mental really good to prepare me to get here. We worked together and I’m glad it finally happened.”

NOTES & QUOTES: The Nets would not comment on a report from that former MSG executive vice president John Abbamondi was hired as the team president.

New York Sports