Even Yuta Watanabe admitted that he was surprised about the impact he has had on the Nets’ play this season when he was out on the court. Having now missed eight straight games with a right hamstring strain, it has become even more apparent how important his shooting has become for the Nets.
Brooklyn will be happy when they can get him back out on the floor, which is expected to be sometime this weekend, but Watanabe’s play had been the talk of the league. Prior to the injury, he had been one of the best shooters in the NBA with 60.9% shooting from the field and 57.1% from three-point range in 14 games for the Nets.
The hot start has made the Japanese basketball star’s start in Brooklyn one that he won’t forget. Especially with the talent that he has around him.
“I’m always a happy guy no matter what. But definitely, playing some minutes,” he said about the season. “Playing with some greats. That’s definitely, I would say the happiest moment now.”
Watanabe has been on the floor in big moments for the Nets during his breakout year for him and head coach Jacque Vaughn has not been shy about praising the forward. Vaughn told reporters at HSS Training Center that Watanabe hadn’t suffered any setbacks during his recovery and that he played half-court with several coaches and players on Tuesday.
The Nets coach also noted that Watanabe’s shooting looked good.
Watanabe seemed to still be wrapping his head around the role he’s found with the Nets. He admitted that his mindset coming into training camp had been just to make the team.
“Then I was gonna slowly gain the confidence, the trust and getting a little bit more playing time,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to play this much since the beginning. So I really appreciate the coaching staff trusting me, teammates trusting me. So I can just go out there and play my game (comfortably).”
Nets have a “get what you need” day
The Nets gathered at their Sunset Park practice facility for what Vaughn described as a “get what you need” day for the players. The team didn’t practice, but the Nets coach said that whatever players needed, whether that was watching film or getting treatment, is what they did on Tuesday.
So some guys who haven’t been playing minutes, they might get a little three on three or two on two,” Vaughn said. “Or some dummy defense with some of the video guys and coaches. Whether it is a guy might get individual shots or a guy might come in and get a massage. So where are you at on your game minutes and what your body needs, it’s a great day for it.”
The Nets have limited the number of practices and shootarounds that they’ve held of late with their busy schedule.