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Scouting in the time of COVID-19 ... not so normal

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As the Nets prepare for their first scrimmage —what we would call a preseason game if it were in October and not mid-season, they face daunting challenges, some unique to them, some shared by the other 21 teams in the “bubble”. One of the latter is scouting.

It’s not just looking at rosters and checking the latest injury reports. It’s hard to know who’s available ... are players en route, in quarantine, practicing or just shooting around, and who’s in condition and at what level? Will injured players, once thought to be out of the season, be ready? Not to mention chemistry!?!

For the Nets, the situation is critical. Making the playoffs could depend on it. Their situation is a bit precarious, compared to those above them in the East. Although they’re a half-game in seventh place over a (healthy) Magic squad, they could easily drop into eighth. If that happens and Washington, now six games behind Brooklyn, can get within four, there will be a “play-in tournament” between the two scheduled for August 15-16. The Nets would only have to win one game in the tournament to qualify for the playoffs ... and a first round match-up with the top-seeded Bucks. The Wizards would have to win two.

So scouting their opponents and analyzing all that data in a timely manner will be a top priority.

“It’s a different process of going to advance scout teams. We’re already trying to compute how we’re going to send someone to see scrimmages, whether or not the scrimmages are going to be on TV and we can get information that way, so definitely begin to talk about it,” said Vaughn, whose last job before joining the Nets was as a Spurs advance scout.

“I think the NBA is still working through how many people we’re going to be able to allow to go to a game, what that scouting situation looks like, how many games out. So still working through it, but definitely starting to process that.”

The NBA is providing a live feed of the scrimmages so a scout in Brooklyn or anywhere outside Orlando can take notes. Teams could unofficially share scouting reports as well. But it’s not as good as being there yourself as any scout will tell you.

The Nets’ scrimmages won’t help either. They’re against three Western Conference teams they won’t play in the seeding games. In the eight seeding games, they will face the Magic twice and the Wizards, neither of whom they’ve beaten this season. And they’ll play the Clippers twice. They’re a team that want to ensure they don’t drop out of the No. 2 seed in the West. They’re only a game and a half ahead of the Nuggets.

Then, there’s the issue of how game times, breakfast meetings post-game, etc. look like when you’re hot-courting around the “bubble?” As Kristian Winfield wrote: A once-predictable slate of games normally tipping off around 7:30 pm has been blasted wide open.

“Now you’re going to go into having 2:00, 2:30 games — afternoon games,” Vaughn pointed out. “So what does your shootaround look like? What does your breakfast meeting look like? What does your postgame look like? Those things that happen with some variability also,” Where you’re warming up at might not be on the same court that you’re playing on. The time that you meet together as a team. So all those pregame and postgames that you’re used to having a set schedule, we’ll have to challenge ourself to definitely be flexible.”

While all three Nets scrimmages start after 4:30 p.m., at least four of the eight seeding start before 3 p.m. (One game, the final seeding game vs. the Blazers on August 13, has yet to be scheduled.)

So, what happens if the unlikely event the Nets are out of the “bubble” on August 16? (Can’t say gone fishing anymore. Players are already doing that.) They’ll retain their own pick and be in the lottery which takes place nine days later. Stay tuned. You have to!