Nets fans will have to wait till Friday to see Jamal Crawford. The 40-year-old who hasn’t played in 15 months is still not ready, said Jacque Vaughn. Instead, the Nets head coach plans on building up his core players in the team’s last scrimmage vs. the Jazz on Monday evening. The game is available live on FOX Sports Live at 5:30 p.m. and on tape delay following the Yankee game on YES.
“Health will be No. 1 priority, but also putting a package of minutes underneath guys belts a little bit more going forward,” he said in the Nets daily Zoom conference call Sunday. “Again, we’re still in the process of putting (Crawford) in the best position by building him up steadily, knowing that we have four or five days between when these games are for real.”
So expect Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen, the Nets core going into the “seeding” games, to get the bulk of minutes against a relatively healthy Utah squad. With Harris, Tyler Johnson and Justin Anderson joining the fray for the first time vs. the Spurs, the Nets are close to a full squad. Donta Hall, who began practicing with the team two days ago, also won’t be available Monday.
“It’s different being in shape and being in basketball shape,” said Crawford. “I think I’d be up to speed if it wasn’t for the pandemic, because I was on an NBA schedule still playing four times a week, 5-on-5 going against high-level guys. So that part kind of set the 5-on-5 part of it back, then it came back rather quickly being here with practice and practicing against the guys. I’ve been trying to get into a rhythm, a feeling.
“I’ve been at this level half my life now, so I’ve got that part down and the conditioning is coming, each and every day it’s getting better and better, so I’m excited to get out there.”
Crawford hasn’t played since April 9, 2019 and although he kept in shape by playing pick-up games in the months afterwards, that ended with the pandemic. As he told Howard Beck of Bleacher Report last week, “not playing 5-on-5 in four months, you don’t want to go right back at ti. So we’re just being smart, picking our spots.”
Also on the call, Tyler Johnson once again said he likes Vaughn’s offense, which by necessity is more free form.
“We’re not really out there calling plays to get one person the basketball,” said Johnson who scored eight points in the last two and a half minutes Saturday. “The plays are just to put us in a position to try and get the defense to react.
“There was just a couple times when I felt like just through the simplicity of the offense and having that spacing that I was able to create angles and get to my spot just throughout the flow of the offense, which is going to be very beneficial. Looking forward, we don’t have to have a call for one person. Everybody’s a threat.”
Personally, Johnson said the layoff had probably helped him.
“I probably felt better [on Saturday] than I did a good portion of the season, even before the coronavirus,” said Johnson who’s now 15 months beyond arthroscopic knee surgery. “A lot of just having a healthy body will allow [me] to have some big games.”
The simplicity of Vaughn’s offense —and Crawford’s experience— should make the 20-year vet’s transition easy as well.
“I think it’ll be a seamless fit when we get a chance to get out there in the regular season,” he said.
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