A three-game losing streak and missing their best player still isn’t enough to worry the Nets just yet. Brooklyn has been without its superstar Kevin Durant due to an MCL sprain that is starting to eerily bring back memories of last season.
However, the mood inside the Nets locker room is different, according to the players, and the belief that they can weather the storm without Durant remained significant. Part of that belief stems from the much more congenial atmosphere among the group than last year.
“It was kind of a toxic environment,” Nic Claxton told the New York Post. “We didn’t know if everybody wanted to be here at the time. This year there’s no divide between everybody that’s out there. We’re going to figure it out. … We’ve just got to figure out how to play with each other without having KD, Kyrie [Irving] out there on the court. It’s different lineups. But we’ll figure it out.”
Claxton was likely pointing to the chaos that engulfed the Nets season for nearly all of the year. The comment seemed to also point to James Harden’s displeasure with Brooklyn towards the end of his short tenure in Kings County.
The NBA star eventually forced a trade to Philadelphia with Ben Simmons coming to the Nets.
Prior to the injury to Durant, the Nets had been playing some of their best basketball and had been drama free for more than a month. They had just come off the best month of basketball they’ve had in some time and worked their way all the way back into the top of the Eastern Conference.
Realistically, the Nets are in a better spot than last season when Durant was injured, especially with Kyrie Irving in the lineup full-time. Irving did miss Tuesday’s loss with right calf soreness, but he was listed as probable for Thursday’s game in Phoenix.
Brooklyn also has a head coach in Jacque Vaughn who has instilled a new mentality into the group. And with Durant or anyone else out, he won’t accept any excuses if the team doesn’t play up to the standard he thinks they can play at.
“I’m going to continue to preach that to the group. Not looking for any excuses,” Vaughn said. “That’s just who we are. I don’t care about last year. I care about the now. (This) was the most important game. Now I’m trying to reload and be ready for Phoenix. But I’m not going to give them a chance to have excuses.”