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Nets to face Pelicans in first game (scrimmage) back

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Nets basketball is back. Well, sorta. The game will be played in a “bubble” —or “campus” if you prefer— more than a thousand miles south of Brooklyn in the middle of a pandemic. There will be no fans on hand, the team’s most recent additions won’’t play and the game will only run 40 minutes.

Still, the Nets will run and gun for the first time since March 11 and the YES crew will call the game (if only off a live feed in a New York area studio) starting at 7 p.m; And just like normal, pre-game starts a half hour before game time. The game will also be broadcast on NBA TV.

“I’m excited,” Vaughn said in the Nets Zoom call on Tuesday. “Now we get to officially tie our shoes up and set productive screens to get your teammate open. So the compete level I’m looking forward to seeing, the unselfishness I’m looking forward to seeing, and then just getting back on the basketball court and seeing guys compete together.”

Vaughn will only have 10 players available. Four of the five recent additions won’t play. Jamal Crawford, Tyler Johnson, Justin Anderson and Donta Hall will sit. Hall isn’t even with the team yet, finishing up his quarantine protocol. Anderson just joined practice Tuesday afternoon.

“We’ll have a variance of minutes. ... Those guys will not play because they’re catching up to speed,” he added. “Take a guy like Caris LeVert who will play, and try to create and sustain some timing. We’ll put a group out there that we’re just trying to get our conditioning to a decent level and a little bit of rhythm at the same time.

“I think we based it on an individual basis of where that guy is.”

In fact, Vaughn noted, that the game is more about the Nets than the Pelicans who will be without Zion Williamson who went home to deal with a family emergency. They will have Brandon Ingram, however, along with vets J.J. Redick, Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball.

“I think a big part of it is just creating routine for us,” Vaughn said. “So, creating the opportunity of accountability, of knowing who I might guard and creating habits that way. That’s really been the task of us as a group — that we get into a routine of as much as we can make things easy for us, whether that is ‘I get on the court at a certain time, I’ve done my preparating at a certain time,’ because there’s a lot of variables that go into the situation we’re in.”

LeVert, too, is excited about his first basketball since his incredible week when things went south with the corona virus. He had averaged 27.4 points, 6.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds in the five games prior to the stoppage, picking up his first triple-double and first 50-point game in a four-game stretch.

“They have a lot of guys who are capable of doing a lot of things,” LeVert said, sounding like he would have if there hadn’t been a suspension. “They have shooters, they have guys who can handle the ball. I think it’s more about us going out there and trying to execute what we want to do offensively and kind of work off some things defensively as well.”

With so many players down or out, and with so little time to prepare —the Nets arrived in Orlando on July 7 — Vaughn said he doesn’t expect the scrimmage will have all the accouterments of a regular season but it’s still a game.

“We won’t be as game formatted as we will be against Orlando, but guys will get a scouting report, they will get personnel to watch, and so creating the opportunity of accountability, of knowing who I might guard and creating habits that way,” said Vaughn.

“That’s really been the task of us as a group, that we get into a routine of as much as we can make things easy for us, whether that is, I get on the court at a certain time, I’ve done my preparation at a certain time, because there’s a lot of variables that go into the situation we’re in.”

Meanwhile, Anderson spoke about how he had tested positive for coronavirus —twice— during the lay-off which led to a different protocol for him. His admission means NINE Nets have tested for the potentially deadly virus that has taken more than 140,000 lives.

“It’s something we wanted to try and keep in-house because we weren’t quite sure when we’d be able to pass the protocols,” Anderson told reporters. “Battling between negative and positive tests, battling between trying to make sure I got here in a car service rather than a plane to make sure I continue to follow protocol. It was just a long journey.”

Anderson explained that after the G League shut down and Long Island Nets players quarantined, he returned to his home base in Atlanta and waited for a call to be ready. That’s when things got a bit crazy.

“First positive, then a negative, then a positive, followed up with more back-and-forth results.”

At no point was Anderson symptomatic, but there were plenty of times when he was anxious.

“Then I realized there were some positive tests and things before that,” Anderson said. “It was just a really weird and unfortunate situation. But credit to [agent] Mark Bartelstein: He kept me positive and optimistic and kept my mental really good to prepare me to get here. We worked together and I’m glad it finally happened.”

Anderson also spoke about how on arrival in Nets camp, Vaughn told him to prepare to play not just his normal role at the 3 but the 4 and even the 5. Anderson noted that during the G League season, he played a bit of the 5 when the team was down players.

His UVA teammate Joe Harris had kept him up-to-date on what was happening on the practice court and now, he like Harris is ready to go.

“I think everybody’s really excited,” said Joe Harris. “Obviously we’re all excited to just get back to practicing. We compete against ourselves a lot but I think it’s sort of similar to that training camp sort of buildup in the preseason where you love competing, being able to play, practice against each other but you know it’s always more enjoyable when you can compete together, have your teammates, love everyone around you, get yourself in a game setting and compete against somebody else.

“So everyone’s really excited to get these scrimmages going, sharpen some stuff up, clean some stuff up and hopefully get us in good position to compete when the games come around at the end of the month.”