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Nets bench going from liability to asset

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Sacramento Kings Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Times were tough for some of the Nets bench players not that long ago.

Landry Shamet couldn’t hit from deep and had three straight DNPs from January 23 to January 27. Tyler Johnson couldn’t get off the bench ... at all, playing only one game out of 12 between January 7 and January 27. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was up-and-down after looking like the Nets’ latest development success back in the “bubble.”

Lately though that’s changed, as Greg Joyce writes Saturday...

As the Nets continued their Western road swing with Thursday’s 109-98 win over the Lakers, they got boosts off the bench from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (15 points on 5-for-8 shooting from 3-point range) and Landry Shamet (10 points). That came a game after Tyler Johnson chipped in 17 points in a spot start. All in all, it gives coach Steve Nash important options beyond his regular starting group.

Shamet, who the Nets traded for in the big Draft Night trade that also produced Bruce Brown, has seen the biggest turnaround. In the month of February, Shamet is averaging 11.2 points off the bench. shooting 42.3 percent from three and 92.3 percent from the line, making him the best free throw shooter on a team with Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant. He’s hit at least two 3-pointers in seven of the last eight games.

TLC, who hit five three’s vs. the Lakers, is on a roll as well. He’s shooting 45.2 percent this month from three and 61.5 percent (8-of-13) the last three.

“They’ve all really played well. It makes our depth look a lot better,” said Nash before Friday’s day off. “The second unit’s been producing, holding or extending leads. Proud of all those guys for hanging in there, for finding their rhythm and their form and gaining a little connectivity out there. It’s really important to have a second unit in this league and our guys have stepped up lately.”

Of course, the Nets bench HAD to step up after the bigger four-team trade that produced James Harden. The Nets lost Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs, all but Kurucs rotation players, and received only Harden in return, giving Sean Marks three roster positions and moving players the Nets already had up in the rotation.

The three newest players on the roster — defensive specialists Andre Roberson and Iman Shumpert and back-up big Noah Vonleh — have yet to put in big minutes. Shumpert in fact has yet to play because of a hamstring strain and all three are on non-guaranteed deals that expire this week.

The Nets starters are grateful that their back-ups are ready now and will be ready later in the season, as injuries will mount.

“When we get down the road, we’re not always going to have a healthy roster,” Joe Harris said. “You never know who you’re going to need to step up and play valuable minutes. So right now, it’s a good opportunity for a lot of guys on the bench to have an opportunity to play more meaningful minutes. … We know we can rely on guys one through 15, which is what you need when you’re building a championship roster and a championship mentality.”