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Nets players losing opportunities as NBA suspension continues

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson Chandler and Chris Chiozza have little in common. Chandler is a wily veteran in his 13th year; Chiozza is bench player in his second year. But both are hoping they can get back on the court. Otherwise, their futures, at least with the Nets, are in jeopardy.

Chandler is on a one-year vets minimum deal. Chiozza doesn’t even have that kind of job security. He’s on a two-way deal and unless the Nets can find a way to open a roster spot, he won’t be able to play in the post-season.

Now, with the season suspended because of the coronavirus, they won’t have a chance to show their skills, as Brian Lewis writes.

Chandler played his best basketball of the season right before the shutdown.

“He spaced the floor, made some good passes. But stuff like that doesn’t go on the stat sheet, the stuff he was doing, setting screens, running the floor hard,” Caris LeVert said. “He was huge for us.”

With Taurean Prince in a season-long shooting slump, Chandler finally started the last three games — Kenny Atkinson’s swan-song victory over the Spurs, and Jacque Vaughn-led wins against the Bulls and Lakers. Chandler was a plus-24 for his best three-game stretch of the season, much of it played alongside DeAndre Jordan.

“The combination of — analytically speaking — how [Jordan] and Wilson Chandler give us defensive rebounding, some presence at the rim, the combination of those two guys [helped],” Vaughn said.

As good as he was playing, there may not room for him next season with Kevin Durant returning and Nicolas Claxton developing. With the shutdown, he won’t have an opportunity to offer more than what he’s already shown.

“It wouldn’t be exactly right to say it feels like the offseason,” Chandler wrote in The Players’ Tribune. “It’s weird because … it’s like it’s the offseason, as far as our doing nothing. But mentally? It’s not the offseason because there’s so much going on with the virus.”

Like Chandler, Chiozza has played well, very well in fact. In the week before the suspension, he averaged 10.0 points and 2.6 assists in 19 minutes with a 56/53/100 in five games, four of which the Nets won. He may not be Fred Van Vleet, the similarly sized Raptors PG, but his performance suggests he was the missing piece for the Nets second unit.

Ask Vaughn

“Offensively, can we increase our pace? I talked about it with that second unit: Chiozza, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Caris LeVert,” Vaughn said after he moved DeAndre Jordan into the starting unit vs. Chicago. “Can they increase the pace? We have to get up the floor.”

The Nets rights to Chiozza end on June 30. And if the NBA doesn’t return to action, they’d have to waive someone to utilize his talents in the playoffs. If NBA ends the season, then the Nets will have a more leeway. Chiozza thinks he’s shown enough.

“I’ve [been here] a couple of months now. They know how I like to play, they know my strengths and I know theirs as well,” Chiozza said after the Nets’ big win in Los Angeles. “Play hard just go out there be a leader, just go out there and give it my all. Wherever the chips fall, they fall.”

The Nets will have to make other decisions in the off-season as well. The Nets already know what they have in Joe Harris. They signed Timothe’ Luwawu-Cabarrot to a vets minimum deal in early February (but they have until August to guarantee it even partially.)

Of course, the Nets have a lot of things to deal with before free agency ... starting with the coach.