The Nets haven’t self-destructed.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have been out West for a month, Irving traded to the Dallas Mavericks and Durant to the Phoenix Suns. Both have already been sidelined by injuries. Irving is currently out with right foot soreness, and Durant is expected to be unavailable for at least another two weeks with an ankle sprain.
The Mavericks, with Luka Doncic missing his fourth straight game last night (Wednesday) with a left thigh strain, were under .500 at 34-35 before facing San Antonio and fighting to maintain a play-in tournament spot as the No. 9 seed. The Suns were No. 4 at 37-32, four games behind the 40-27 No. 3 Sacramento Kings and trailing the No. 1 seed Denver Nuggets (46-23) by nine games.
The Nets? They had a better record than both Irving’s and Durant’s new teams. The Nets are 39-30, the No. 6 seed in the East and only one game behind the 40-31 Knicks. The Nets are 5-3 in their last eight games heading into tonight’s matchup versus the Kings at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They ended a five-game, eight-day road trip on Tuesday that started on March 7, losing 121-107 to the young and talented Oklahoma City Thunder. Yet it was an uplifting week as the Nets went 3-2 away from home.
They have been steady and rapidly gaining cohesion under head coach Jacque Vaughn despite initially plummeting after Irving and Durant’s departures. From Feb. 6 when Irving was traded (Durant was gone three days later on Feb. 9) to March 1, the Nets went from being 11 games over .500 at 32-21 to 34-28, losing eight out of 10 games. But Vaughn kept his team together, working in new additions Mikal Bridges, Spencer Dimwiddie, and Dorian Finney-Smith. He has done so without Ben Simmons, who will miss his 12th straight game tonight with left knee soreness. Simmons continues to be a non-factor since coming to the Nets from the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 10 last year in a trade for James Harden. He has played in only 42 games this season.
Earlier this week, Vaughn gave an update on his status. “He’s still managing his back and knee soreness,” said Vaughn. “He’s back home in Brooklyn. We’ll get a chance to see where he’s at when we get back home after this trip.”
They have arrived, and are doing quite fine without Simmons. After the Kings, the Nets will play the Cleveland Cavaliers twice in a row, first at the Barclays next Tuesday and on the road next Thursday.