The Nets' Trendon Watford, right, shoots against the Pacers' Pascal...

The Nets' Trendon Watford, right, shoots against the Pacers' Pascal Siakam during the first half of an NBA game Monday in Indianapolis. Credit: AP/Darron Cummings

Trendon Watford doesn’t always consider himself part of the Nets’ youth movement. As he often says, he’s not new to the league.

At 23, he’s a year older than fellow third-year vets Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe. His rookie season was Noah Clowney’s final year of high school in South Carolina and Jalen Wilson’s second year at Kansas.

But with the Nets’ season slipping out of postseason contention, Watford has taken advantage of more playing time like young players do. He’s scored in double figures in each of the last five games and had a season-high 21 points in Monday’s loss to the Pacers.

“Just take advantage of the work I've been putting in in the dark,” said Watford, who’s averaged 15.6 points and 5 rebounds during this stretch on 66.7% shooting. “I felt like even early in the year when I felt like I should have been playing, even when I wasn’t, I was still just putting in the work, knowing opportunities were going to come.

“I think now it's just showing and just trying to get wins on top of it.”

It’s the latest twist in a Nets season that started with him getting a one-year non-guaranteed contract last August. The contract was guaranteed in January.

Despite Watford’s combination of size at 6-9 and ballhandling ability, he didn’t get much playing time except when injuries created an opening. The same has happened now with Cam Johnson and Dennis Smith Jr. missing four of the last five games.

But when he wasn’t playing, Watford was often in the Nets' “stay ready” group at practices. That involved three-on-three half-court games with teammates not in the main rotation and members of the Nets’ support staff.

Interim coach Kevin Ollie praised Watford’s preparation as a reason for earning more minutes, along with his play. He also wanted to reward Watford for being vocal on the bench, something his teammates also noticed.

“He’s doing a great job,” Dennis Schroder said. “I always try to keep him engaged and tell him that he’s helping our team with his energy, effort, even with his verbal presence. I think he’s doing a great job of talking to guys and keeping people positive.”

The question is what this small sample size means for Watford’s future. As a free agent, he could seek a team where he could have a bigger role since the Nets have 10 players under contract next season. That doesn’t count Keita Bates-Diop with his player option or if the team re-signs Nic Claxton.

Watford, however, said he’ll worry about that once the season ends. He's focusing on producing for the Nets in the final six games.

While he may not feel young, he’s got the same goal of his fellow young players — maximizing his time on the court and building on that.

“I'm just trying to stay in the moment,” Watford said Monday. “Whatever happens after the season happens. So I'm just trying to take advantage of the opportunity I've been given and try to get wins on top of it.”

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