In speaking with reporters on a Zoom call, Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn explained how the players are excited to get back on the court, playing against other NBA talent. He specifically mentioned Caris LeVert, who will be leading the charge.
“I think overall, he’s [LeVert] at a really good place in his life. I think this is a little bit of a litmus test for him to see where his game is, how he’s worked on it, and how it translates to the floor. Tonight, he’ll be without Jamal Crawford, without Tyler Johnson, without Joe Harris, without Justin Anderson. So, there’s a long list of us not on the floor tonight, but still he’ll take the challenge of leading this group tonight and competing.”
In addition to, Jamal Crawford, Tyler Johnson, Justin Anderson and Donta Hall, Vaughn announced that Joe Harris will not play. The Nets will have only nine active players. Harris will be on the bench.
The Nets are set to face off against a young and hungry New Orleans Pelicans team in a “scrimmage” game – the first for both teams. Zion Williamson is out, but Vaughn sees this as a good first test for his team.
“Extremely fast, athletic team. They have length – whether that’s Hayes and Favors at the rim – the ability for Ingram to bring the basketball up and push the pace, Jrue Holiday’s versatility, Redick’s ability to shoot the basketball. So, great challenge for us, and we know they’ll get out quick. Lonzo has the ability to play coast-to-coast, so can we challenge our transition defense but also offensive rebound on our end. So great challenge.”
Quarters will be 10 minutes each and of course, the teams will be playing in front of zero fans. Perhaps the scrimmages will be a good way to get everybody’s feet wet before the games officially begin on July 30.
“The NBA has done a great job of establishing what we’re trying to achieve, but also making adjustments as things come about. Right now, our first initial scrimmage, looking forward to the setup, where coaches will be sitting, the difference between where a coach is, where a player is. Some things we’ll just have to adapt and get used to. Nothing wrong with being flexible. Innovation is at the premium right now, so embrace this thing and let’s get this accomplished.”
Vaughn went on to explain that while there are major adjustments the team must get used to, it’s crucial to get back out there and find some sort of normalcy again.
This is a unique environment. For guys playing the game of basketball I think there’s always a little bit of nervousness that goes along with it, but when you get on the floor and you hear that ball bounce, they’ll settle into a comfort level.”
Still, at the end of the day, they’re human and obviously there is still a threat with the pandemic. Despite basketball serving as a distraction, there’s a major emphasis on sticking to the plan and doing whatever it takes to stay healthy, with the protocols the NBA has in place.
“Health is still a priority,” said Vaughn. “We see the effect it has had on our country and where we are, so I think it’s our responsibility to really not give into relaxing any of the standards put into place. The protocols have been established for a reason, extreme amount of research has gone into it and I think it’s on us to hold our end of the responsibility and hold those protocols into place.”
It’s been four months and 11 days since the NBA shut down.