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As Nets play Spurs in ‘bubble’ scrimmage, they’re (sorta) at full strength

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Donta Hall, the hyperathletic G League big is finally out of quarantine and in the gym with the Nets, joining the club Wednesday and taking to the court Thursday. And at this point, everyone appears healthy with only Jamal Crawford on the sidelines and that’s because of a planned rest.

Crawford didn’t play in the first scrimmage on Wednesday and won’t play on Saturday either. There’s no guarantee he even plays in the third scrimmage on Monday. Nothing’s wrong, he says.

“Just ramping up. Obviously not playing in 15 months, not playing 5-on-5 in four months, you don’t want to go right back at it,” Crawford told Howard Beck on his Full 48 podcast. “So we’re just being smart, picking our spots building up until the season gets started up. We’re being smart about how we approach it. I’ll be okay.”

Although Jacque Vaughn hasn’t said who he’ll be using vs. the Spurs in the 4:30 p.m. game at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, he’s hinted that in addition to Crawford and Hall, it’s possible Caris LeVert may not play. Two rotation players who didn’t play Wednesday are expected to join the fray: Joe Harris and Tyler Johnson. Expect Harris to play the 3 and maybe the 4, Johnson the 1 and the 2. In addition, Justin Anderson who joined practice earlier in the week will also get his first minutes.

“I feel really good,” said Johnson after a full week of practice. “The offense is actually very player-oriented. It allows you to get in spots and just play your game. Fortunately enough, it’s pretty easy to pick up the offense. Now it’s about getting the feel for how everyone plays in an actual game...

“I’m not looking to do too, too much,” said Johnson. “I’m trying to play within the confines of the offense. But really just bridge that gap — be able to put the ball in the bucket and then get guys involved. Play with high-intensity. I’m a two-way player, that’s how I’ve been my entire career. Help get stops and help some of the young guys and help them get to their spots and be where they’re supposed to be.”

Hall’s practice was the big news on Thursday. The 6’9” big who Detroit was grooming as a stretch 4 or 5, will finally give the Nets a second legitimate big to back up and perhaps at times complement Jarrett Allen.

The Alabama product was signed by the Nets as DeAndre Jordan’s “substitute.” He doesn’t have Jordan’s bulk but with a 7’5” wingspan and serious hops, he has the requisite athleticism.

“We’ll be able to see if we’re able to have some growth from him during this bubble period and he definitely should get some minutes to help us along with these games,” Vaughn said.

That would seem to indicate that depending on how he does —and how the Nets roster evolves during the off-season, Hall could have a shot with Brooklyn whenever preseason begins. Hall had been on his second two-way with the Pistons after dominating the G League when the NBA shut down in March. The league ruled that all eight players on 10-days automatically became free agents when teams resumed transactions in June and the Nets scooped him up. Hall, who will turn 23 in the “bubble,” is happy he’s getting a chance.

“Just do my part, bring the energy, get up and down the floor, block shots, just being that guy to bring the energy, doing the dirty work, what I always do, stuff like that,” Hall said, when asked how he can help Brooklyn.

He also noted that Detroit was trying to get him to take more 3-pointers both at Grand Rapids in the G League and with the big club.

“They gave me a lot of confidence to shoot the ball, gave me freedom to do what I wanted to do most of the time honestly,” he said. “But just having fun with the game, that confidence comes, just shooting the ball.”

Hall only attempted one 3-pointer in his four years under ex-Net coach Avery Johnson at Alabama but converted on 7 of his 27 attempts from three (26%) in his rookie year with the Grand Rapids Drive.

If he can improve that — and most shooters do improve when they join the Nets — it would help Vaughn run a five-out offense with Rodions Kurucs and Hall out on the perimeter. Chris Chiozza, who overlapped three years with Hall in SEC play then again this season in the G League, is a big fan of Hall’s potential.

“He’s so athletic, a great defender, rim protector and rebounder,” Chiozza told reporters earlier in the week. “His athleticism is off the charts. He has stuff you can’t teach. He has a great motor, and he has skills people don’t really know about. He can playmake a little bit. But his athleticism will be huge for us and his energy.”

One thing to watch for from the Spurs is any time Gregg Popovich spends in front of the camera. He’s permitting his assistant coaches to run the scrimmages while he sits with a face mask behind them. He’s sure to be asked about rumors that the Nets could offer him their head coaching job. Considering that Vaughn is his protege and friend, expect a Pop “moment.”

Meanwhile, Vaughn spoke with Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, noting how “disappointed” he was when Kenny Atkinson was dumped just before the COVID-19 shutdown.

“I wanted to see what we could do as a full roster together. But then I had to completely pivot quickly and not think about my scenario and what was next for me. I was totally focused on the organization and players,” he told Mannix.

Vaughn also spoke about how he’s changed since his time with Orlando. The Magic may have been rebuilding and that hurt, but he said he made mistakes, particularly with the younger players back then.

“I was young and I think at that time I wanted to make sure that everyone knew that I was capable of doing the job, of being a head coach,” Vaughn said.

“I might have at that time not opened up practice, maybe, because that’s the way I learned things. I might’ve not wanted a guy to comment on social media. Maybe not wanted a guy to shoot his warmup in a do-rag. That’s the way I was brought up. I’ve definitely transitioned and understand and have a better grasp of today’s player, today surroundings It’s just the maturation of being a young coach.”