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Nets relying increasingly on their bench as questions arise with ‘Big Three’

Denver Nuggets v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Michelle Farsi/Getty Images

Assuming everything short of Kyrie Irving getting vaccinated or New York modifying its mandates, the best bet for the number of games where the “Big Three” will play together is ... eight, maybe 10. If you want to add Joe Harris as a possibility? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Kevin Durant is out through the All-Star Break with a strained meniscus, although he will be re-evaluated next week. James Harden is expected to play on the Nets road trip but anytime we see “Harden” and “hamstring” in the same sentence, we get nervous. Not to mention the persistent trade rumors. Kyrie Irving, of course, can only play on the road unless those road games are in New York or Toronto. Then, he can’t play them, either. Distractions R Us.

So, eight it is. OK, maybe 10. That means that whatever championship hopes the Nets harbor will be sitting to the left and down from Steve Nash. The Nets bench is an odd mix of veterans on vets minimum or small deals, underrated Draft picks plus Patty Mills, who’s a bargain at the taxpayers MLE. They will be called on in those 26 other games, when the Nets have a “Big Three,” a “Big Two,” a “Big One,” or, as it was on Wednesday vs. Denver, a “Big None.”

They looked like they could do it the other night until the Nuggets showed who they are at the end. As Mills said post-game, it “felt like everyone was involved. Everyone made an impact, the guys that were out there and played on both ends of the floor.”

The “guys,” as Greg Joyce of the New York Post writes Friday, means everyone from LaMarcus Aldridge, quite possibly a future Hall of Famer, to Kessler Edwards, taken in the middle of the second round with a traded pick.

“You’re just trying to play the right basketball, and I think the flow that we had was the flow that we need, especially when our guys come back because it’s a team sport and being able to have so many guys be aggressive, it’s hard to try to coach and stop certain players when we’re just reacting and making the right plays each possession,” said DeAndre’ Bembry, himself a key part of that bench on both ends of the court.

Indeed, the Nets bench is among the league leaders in a number of categories. So it’s not just the eye test giving Steve Nash some confidence, but there are clear deficits like scoring beyond Mills and Aldridge. Still, as Joyce notes.

“The goal is to continue to move this thing forward,” Nash said. “Win or lose, are we learning more about ourselves, more about each other and refining our details? If we do, when we get bodies back we’ll be in a better place for it. We’ll have learned something about ourselves, and we’ll be able to say that this time was not wasted.”

The bench of course will change. Paul Millsap and the Nets have agreed to a parting of ways and there are rumors about Jevon Carter and Bruce Brown, their two medium sized deals, are being offered around. There are now 13 days left till the trade deadline.