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Injuries testing Nets depth ... again

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets went into Saturday’s game with Milwaukee minus six players. D’Angelo Russell and Ed Davis were resting and are expected back when the schedule resumes Wednesday, but Caris LeVert (ankle), Dzanan Musa (shoulder), Treveon Graham (hamstring) and Allen Crabbe (knee) are either uncertain or definitely out vs. New Orleans.

To make matters worse, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson hurt his right adductor (groin) and left the game and didn’t return. RHJ, of course, hurt his left adductor back in August while participating in a charity game in China. He didn’t fully recover for two months. This one is not as big a worry.

“It’s not a pull, it’s not a tear, [it’s] a strain. So that’s good news,” Kenny Atkinson said Monday after practice. “I can’t give you a timetable, but it’s not a huge, long process like he went through in the offseason. So I’d say the news is positive in that sense.”

Crabbe and Graham are the likely the first back. Crabbe has been practicing 5-on-5. And on Monday morning, the Nets assigned Graham to Long Island for a practice session. Hours later, he was recalled. On the other end of the spectrum, Greg Logan reports Monday that LeVert is “likely to be out until the All-Star break in February.” That would the Nets best player will miss three months of action.

The Nets, playing their third game in four days, lost on Saturday to the Bucks, who have the league’s best record, but two players who hadn’t been playing showed they can fill in. Kenneth Faried, filling in for Davis and RHJ, had his first 20/10 game in more than a year, scoring 23 and grabbing 10 rebounds. And Shabazz Napier tied his career high with a 32-point performance.

Moreover, undrafted rookie two-way Theo Pinson looked like an NBA player, putting up six points, seven rebounds and four assists in 27 minutes (less than a day after he had a triple double in the G League.)

“It says we have a solid group of guys 1 through 17,” Kenny Atkinson said after the Bucks game. “We can go deep into our roster and get contributions. That’s really helped us. Obviously, we’ve had a few surprises, both young and old, guys who didn’t think they were going to be playing this much and are. It’s great. I think we have more depth than we’ve had before.”

Of course, big numbers in blowout games can be deceiving. Still, as Napier and Faried said when interviewed by Logan, they’re veterans who know what their job is.

“You understand sometimes it may not be your number that the coach calls,” Napier said. “I understood that. I know how to play. Faried coming from the Denver Nuggets, he knows he knows how to play. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to be professional about it. If your number is called, you be ready. If it doesn’t get called, you support.”

“It’s very meaningful,” he said. “I love basketball. I haven’t played in a year, almost two years it feels like to me. The last time I played true meaningful minutes, I think, was 2017 with the Nuggets. For me, when I went out there, I felt relief. It felt good to be out there. My teammates were encouraging me. I love performing under them lights.”

Their numbers may get called again when the Nets return to court, depending on how their teammates are doing.

“We’re dealing with stuff,” Atkinson said. “I think at this time of the year, it happens. We have a deep enough roster to handle it. I think we’re deeper than in past years. Like tonight, I thought our bench did a good job covering for the guys that were out.”

It won’t be the first time, of course. But at least no one is out for the season like Jeremy Lin was last season or Greivis Vasquez (remember him) two seasons ago. Maybe everyone will be healthy for a playoff run.