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Vaughn: T.J. Warren doing contact drills with coaches

T.J. Warren, who’s played only four games in the past two years with foot injuries, may finally be on the way back.

After noting earlier in the week that the 6’8” forward hasn’t had any “setbacks” in his recovery, Jacque Vaughn told media at Friday’s practice that Warren has begun contact drills with the team’s coaching staff.

“TJ is playing against coaches, so we’ll assess him in the next week or two,” said Vaughn Friday. “He’s going positively towards progressing. The read against players is not there yet. Coaches are a little slower than the players, and a little older.”

Our Chris Milholen caught a glance of the workouts...

After the team’s practice Friday, Royce O’Neale hinted that Warren is approaching five-on-five activity.

“I think he’s playing like almost five-on-five now,” said O’Neale. “He’s eager to play, so getting everybody back healthy is the main thing...

“Just how hard he works coming in every day. He’s working hard and taking rehab seriously, getting back on the court. Even if he’s not playing, he’s still talking to us and communicating so that’s the big thing. It takes everybody as a team to do that.”

Warren was signed to a one-year vets minimum deal in the summer, a low-risk, high reward move. Warren averaged 19.8 points in 2019-20, his last healthy year before foot surgery in January 2021. He also averaged 26.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 10 games in the 2020 NBA “bubble,” including a 53-point effort that included 9-of-12 shooting from deep.

As our Matt Brooks wrote in a pre-season film study:

Assuming he’s able to reprise at least some of what he brought to the table as a starter for the Pacers, T.J. Warren could be a massive steal for the Brooklyn Nets. He is the perfect ancillary piece next to the stars due to his ability to succeed away from the ball, and Brooklyn’s defensive scheme could prompt a titillating performance from Warren as an overall defender.

Warren has been traveling with the team on road trips including the four-gamer that opens Saturday in Los Angeles vs. the Clippers.

Meanwhile. the Nets new head coach believes Ben Simmons is taking the right steps to get back to his All-Star caliber play after his back surgery last May 4.

“He hasn’t played in a long time. And consecutively, four-in-five (games), six-in-nine so it tests your mental and physical (strength). And I think you’ve seen him start to progress,” said Vaughn. “Last game, more minutes in the game and some positive force that you saw from him. (The) tip dunk. And we’ll continue to see that the more he plays.

“Especially with the second group, I think he’s done a good job, and he finished the game with the first group,” Vaughn said. “He gives you the flexibility to be able to play fast, which you want to do, have space on the floor, still be big out there, rebound the basketball. We’re still learning each other, and the groups are still learning each other.”