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Jacque Vaughn’s tryout to continue as Nets prepare for ‘bubble’ with depleted roster

Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Sean Marks has said that he won’t begin a search for a new head coach until after the season concludes ... and after he’s given interim coach Jacque Vaughn and his highly regarded assistant coach corps a shot. Of course, that was before the season got extended and extended and extended.

Vaughn will go into the resumed season this month with, at last count, 12 healthy players and a host of challenges.

The season-long injury bug took its latest toll last week when Nicolas Claxton’s season ended prematurely after shoulder surgery. Since then, the Nets have been devastated by two positive COVID-19 tests. DeAndre Jordan has already announced he’s not going to Orlando for “bubble” play while Spencer Dinwiddie says his situation is “unclear.” He has symptoms, he’s revealed, but he’s also said he’d like to play. And a day before those announcements, Wilson Chandler, citing family and health issues, opted out.

Moreover, the Nets had to shut down the HSS Training Center for several days in light of the positive tests. It reopened again Tuesday.

The Nets did get one reinforcement last week when they signed combo guard (and offer sheet prodigal) Tyler Johnson after waiving Theo Pinson. They’re likely to add a substitute for Jordan, perhaps as early as Wednesday. But none of the possibilities is likely to match Jordan’s rebounding, passing and sheer presence under the rim.

So, as Brian Lewis writes, Vaughn will have one hand tied behind his back. Vaughn, it’s been written, has a legitimate chance at what is the off-season’s best coaching job at least until the Rockets decide what to do with Mike Dantoni.

First things first, the Nets will have to go through the eight seeding games to determine playoff positioning. They are currently sitting in seven place, a half-game ahead of the Magic and six games ahead of the ninth place Wizards. The Magic are the opposite of the Nets in that 1) they won’t have to travel to the “bubble” and 2) a couple of their injured players, Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu could return to play. The Wizards on the other hand have already lost Davis Bertans. He’s opted out of the “bubble.”

If in the unlikely event Washington closes the gap and the Nets fall into eighth, the two teams will play in the “bubble’s” play-in tournament. The Nets could fall into the lottery, which would not be great for Vaughn’s prospects. They would, in that case, retain their own lottery protected draft pick and give Brooklyn two first rounders in what is seen as a mediocre and uncertain Draft.

Meanwhile, Marc Stein writes this morning in his newsletter than the Nets will be facing more than just physical issues over the course of their time in Orlando.

The Nets have thus emerged as the N.B.A.’s first known test case of a reunited team that must deal with the psychological effects, on top of all the health implications, of an outbreak in their camp.

How will teammates, coaches and team staffers react to the news that multiple players have to be quarantined after testing positive? As we’ve been discussing in this newsletter for months now, I’ve long believed that the answer to that question could only be ascertained in real time, when the situation actually materialized.

The surprise: The N.B.A. didn’t even make it to the bubble before a team had to face it.

We’ll know more about that this

Of course, the Nets have dealt with a lot of things since the season was suspended on March 11, nearly four months ago now. Brooklyn was the epicenter of a world pandemic, losing nearly 5,000 to the coronavirus. Many players went back home although about half stayed in the borough. More recently, their home has been an epicenter of another worldwide phenomenon, the Black Lives Matter protests.

As we wrote Tuesday night, Brooklyn Strong is no longer their marketing slogan. It’s a fact.