TORONTO — The Nets’ feel-good story of the season felt a lot less good Wednesday, as an MRI revealed that Yuta Watanabe’s tight right hamstring is actually a strain — ruling him out through at least Friday’s game in Indiana against the Pacers; he’ll be reevaluated when the team returns to Brooklyn, coach Jacque Vaughn said.
Watanabe, the non-guaranteed wing currently leading the league in three-point percentage, missed Tuesday’s game against the 76ers before undergoing imaging, Vaughn said. Watanabe is shooting 57.1% from three, with a 60.9 field goal percentage and 78.3 effective field goal percentage — the highest marks of his career by far, granting the small sample size of 14 games.
“Definitely miss him,” Vaughn said as the Nets were about to take on the Raptors in the second game of a back-to-back. "Losing him is “a little bit of strain, because he gives us the ability to play big and small. And there was a stretch where we just missed him, so we had to run Royce [O’Neale] a little bit longer. [O'Neale] ends up playing [about], 40 minutes [against the [76ers]. So, it puts a strain on the group overall.”
Watanabe has never played more than 50 games in a season but has quickly become a key cog of this Nets offense; he’d shown glimmers of that when he played with the Raptors, coach Nick Nurse said, but couldn’t stay healthy.
“He just kind of kept running into a roadblock with us,” Nurse said. “Very good team player and provides a lot of little things as a team.” He never, though, shot quite this well, even at his best, Nurse said, and Vaughn attributed much of that to mindset.
“He’s playing with joy,” Vaughn said. “Different guys have different stressors over the course of their careers — whether you’re trying to make a team, whether you’re on a partial contract. Sometimes those things get to you. I don’t think he’s been concerned about any of that. I think he’s just really enjoying playing the game of basketball and losing himself in that world.”
Warren progressing, Curry out
TJ Warren (left foot) has played three-on-three for the first time since his surgery, Vaughn said . . . Seth Curry (injury management) was out in the second game of a back-to-back; he’d played in eight of the Nets nine previous games.