Nets prove amid chaos they can still gut out wins

Brooklyn Nets forward Yuta Watanabe (18) reacts to a foul call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C.
AP Photo/Rusty Jones

Two games on the road didn’t fix what ailed the Nets, but it gave its beleaguered fanbase a little hope that all wasn’t lost after weeks of losing and drama. Kevin Durant, the team’s lone superstar, led the Nets to back-to-back wins over the weekend alongside a gritty group that did what it needed to. 

Those around Durant didn’t carry the same star power that Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons do, but they certainly got the job done. Durant headlined the efforts in both games over the weekend, but names like Cam Thomas, Yuta Watanabe, Nic Claxton and Royce O’Neale provided the needed backup for Brooklyn. 

“I think we have rallied around each other,” Durant told reporters in Charlotte. “It’s been a tough week for us and it’s good just to get back to the game. Once the ball is tipped (everything else) goes out the window. We were just waiting to get back to playing. We showed some pride.”

And that’s exactly what the Nets needed to show after everything that had occurred. Brooklyn needed to show that they hadn’t thrown in the towel and they wouldn’t let the distraction that is Irving and the absence of Simmons allow things to go completely off the rails. 

The Nets are a team outside of its Big 3 that can compete on its own. While it won’t be a team that gets the oddsmakers foaming at the mouth, their early contributions have shown just what the Nets can do. 

Claxton, for instance, has raised his game averaging 12.4 points per game, 8.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. He had 18 points in the Nets blowout win over the Wizards on Friday. 

Thomas has made the most of his opportunity with Irving currently suspended by the team. The young guard had 21 points in the comeback win over Charlotte and combined 38 points through the two games after he barely saw any playing time through the first eight games. 

“I’ve had some weeks — we’ve fired coaches before, guys got injured. It was just a tough week,” Durant told ESPN. “But yeah, I’ve been through some tough weeks before. I don’t want to act like this is some anomaly. There’s a lot of s— that goes on in the NBA. It’s a chaotic league. And we’re with each other every day, it’s a six-month, seven-month season. Something is going to happen.

“So it’s really all about how you bounce back, and I’m glad we were able to bounce back, get two wins. But we got to keep pushing, keep building. That’s the thing.”

The outside drama with the Nets isn’t likely to simmer down just yet, but the weekend’s slate gave some sign of hope that all isn’t lost just yet. 

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