It’s not the Christmas Day showdown everyone expected to see, but the Nets and their 13 available players are ready to take the stage. The Nets will enter Christmas Day in Los Angeles with no changes in player availabilities, Steve Nash said Saturday afternoon, but the loss of seven players — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, LaMarcus Aldridge, Day’Ron Sharpe, Cam Thomas, David Duke Jr., and Kessler Edwards — stings.
“I definitely think there’s an element that’s disappointing. I think everyone’s got a little COVID fatigue and it doesn’t make the Christmas Day game quite as ceremonious when you’re dealing with all this other stuff,” Nash said during his pregame media availability. “At the same time, we got to be grateful for all the things we do have and a chance to play basketball on Christmas Day. That’s a good place to be. We’re excited about the opportunity and for our group, it’s a chance to get back on the floor.”
The Nets head coach saidd that Bruce Brown and James Johnson, who cleared protocols Friday evening, are returning directly to play after clearing quarantine and haven’t been able to get any run with the team ahead of the Christmas showdown. Both players didn’t participate in Friday’s practice. Although there aren’t any changes in availability, Nash said the usage of the players fresh off the league’s health and safety protocols will be determined during pregame warmups.
“They’re all available, but that question is still to be determined on how they feel through their pregame work and how performance feels is right for them,” said Nash. “There’s a chance they’ll all play today instead of one or two of them don’t play. Those questions are to be determined.”
While Nash and the coaching staff, along with help from the performance team, will navigate the load of the players coming straight out of protocols, Brooklyn has four 10-day contract players to help keep the ship afloat — Langston Galloway, Shaq Harrison, James Ennis III and Wenyen Gabriel — even if in a limited capacity.
“We have a plan for those guys where they get time individually on the court or film to get them up to speed with what we do. That gives them an opportunity to not feel lost out there. Watching on film or walking through one-on-0 or even when they’re with the group is still not like playing.
“It’s a challenge for those guys to be up to speed and be able to learn our principles and fit in in short order. It’s a challenge for everybody, but they’ve been great. Those guys listened, learned, and fit in fairly well in the limited minutes they play.”
The Nets head coach hasn’t spoken to Durant about missing the nationally televised game against the Lakers. Nash added that it’s “too early to tell” if Durant will test out and rejoin the team for the second game of the short West Coast trip — Monday against the Clippers.
“I haven’t,” Nash said. “He just loves to play though so I know he’s bored out of his mind sitting at home not being able to play and get back with the team.”
“Too early to tell. We have no indication that he’s going to test out before that so for me to predict that would be unfair or a little premature,” Nash added. “We’ll see. Whenever he tests out, he’ll test out and it’ll be great to have him back whenever that is. Hopefully sooner than later.”
Durant isn’t the only Net facing a looming return. Brooklyn can expect Irving, Aldridge and Sharpe to test out in the coming days. Aldridge entered protocols and December 14, Durant, Irving and Sharpe on December 18. The rookie trio of Thomas, Duke Jr., and Edwards entered protocols after Saturday’s loss against the Magic.
Nash said Brooklyn doesn’t plan on seeing Aldridge or Irving in a game setting for some time. The Nets head coach said Aldridge will undergo a ramp-up and the team will not rush the 36-year-old back.
“I don’t think he’s having any issues. I think he’s out or about to be out. It’s just a matter of ramping him up accordingly,” said Nash on Aldridge. “It has been an extended absence and we just want to make sure that he’s right. We’re not in a rush with LA.”
For Irving, the plan remains the same. Once the Nets guard, who is only eligible to play in road contests (excluding New York and Toronto) will begin his ramp-up once he clears protocols. Irving’s ramp-up will be concentrated around regaining his fitness and getting in basketball condition.
“I’m not sure about the day-to-day and how he’s handling quarantine, but I know that once he comes out of protocols, he’ll definitely be able to start training, start ramping up and being available for road games,” said Nash on Irving. “It’s really waiting for him to clear and getting him into a program of regaining that fitness and basketball conditioning. He’s an incredible player and a quick adaptor if there is any. I think he’ll handle that pretty well.”