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Can Nets mesh quickly enough in season where chemistry and continuity have been luxury items?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Just how big are the Nets chemistry and continuity challenges as the season winds down? Consider what Mark Sanchez of the Post noted Saturday:

Assuming Ben Simmons returns around March 18 vs. Portland, admittedly an optimistic projection — and there’s no change in the city’s private employer mandate, the new “Big Three” of Simmons, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will be able to play a maximum of three games together: March 23 at Memphis; March 25 at Miami and April 2 at Atlanta.

That’s it.

As surprising as that is, it’s typical of this season of illness, injury and vaccine mandates. Here’s some Nets numbers...

  • They started the season with 10 new players;
  • They lost more players to health and safety protocols (10) than any other NBA club;
  • They’ve had 35 different starting lineups, tops in the league;
  • A total of 24 players have worn the Nets uniform this year, not quite last year’s record 28, but close enough;
  • Four rookies have started a total of 37 games including 20 from a second rounder, Kessler Edwards;
  • In the last month alone, Brooklyn has added four new players in Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond, Seth Curry and Goran Dragic while losing four others including a certain Hall of Fame point guard;
  • Joe Harris, the most durable of the Nets (16 missed games in four previous years), is done for the season, having played only 14 before his ankle injury;
  • Of course, Irving has played only 15 games this season (5-10) because of his refusal to get vaccinated and the city’s refusal to pull a key vaccine mandate. It’s a standoff likely to last a while.

None of it, of course, is ideal for continuity and chemistry ... or contention. Sean Marks and the Nets front office are known for being aggressive and ultimately active but it can bear a price.

As Sanchez notes, Kevin Durant has played one game with Curry, Drummond and Dragic, zero with Simmons and three with Irving this season (when they’re 2-1). Assuming that March 18 return, Simmons will have 12 regular-season games to mesh with his teammates and only three with Irving.

“We are cutting it close. There’s under 20 games left in the season,” Durant said Thursday in what has to be seen now as an understatement. “We have to go out there and figure it out.”

“There are some units out there that haven’t really played together, and so that’s a part of this process,” said Jacque Vaughn, the Nets’ acting head coach. “We’ll get together and continue to put units together. We’ve got to figure this thing out quickly.”