It’s a little hard to believe, but the Nets' season is only three games old. They’re only a week into this NBA season, and they’ve had a thrilling win and a gut-punch loss, lost players and gotten them back, and otherwise existed in a whirlwind that continued on Tuesday as they prepared for the return of two players and lost another for the foreseeable future.
Treveon Graham, the three-and-D player who has been a pleasant surprise early this season, will be down for at least two months with a left hamstring tear, according to The Athletic. And while the Nets wouldn’t confirm all of that — Kenny Atkinson said there is no timetable for his return, He also acknowledged that there will be some unconventional lineups in the team’s future. In addition, they face the Cavaliers on Wednesday, a game which also will herald the return of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, back from an adductor injury and paternity leave, and Shabazz Napier, who missed the preseason with a hamstring injury.
“We said strain — that’s our vernacular so [The Athletic] must have access to other information,” Atkinson said. “Still no timetable, but like I said the other day, I thought with Rondae out, he was our best versatile defender and that’s what kind of grade I give him. That’s how important I thought he was for our defense. And then, on offense he doesn’t need the ball, which is a compliment. He knows how to move it and it gives us a physicality. It’s a loss and we want to get him back as soon as possible.”
Strains and tears are not mutually exclusive — strains can include ligament tears — though a tear certainly is considered a more serious injury. The injury to Graham, who can play the two and the three, opens the door for more playing time for another surprising success story, second-round pick Rodions Kurucs, but he too is currently sidelined with an ankle injury. The Nets still don't know if he'll be available Wednesday.
“It's tough — it’s really hard, especially here early on, where we really don’t have a ton of healthy bodies,” said Joe Harris, who could see an uptick in his minutes. “It’s tough too because we’ve seen the amount of work that everybody has put in this offseason to get to this point. And then for it to kind of come to a halt and for these guys to psychologically have to battle back, get themselves healthy, back in shape, back in game rhythm . . . The guys that are here, that are playing, just have to step up and take advantage of those opportunities.”
It’s not all bad news, though. Hollis-Jefferson’s return means a substantial defensive boost, and Napier is coming off a career season with the Trail Blazers, averaging 8.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
“With Shabazz back, we’re going to throw in some lineups that no one has seen before, not even myself,” Atkinson said. “We’re just going to have to feel that and work it out and as guys come back from injury and guys are out and guys are in, we’ve got to figure that one out.”