After weathering the devastating injury update on Ben Simmons, the streaking Brooklyn Nets are about to receive some boost.
TJ Warren, one of their low-risk, high-upside gambles in the offseason, is set to return from nearly two years of absence.
Warren had been officially removed from the Nets’ injury report entering Friday’s home game against the Toronto Raptors. Simmons will sit out his second straight game while Yuta Watanabe is remained sidelined with a right hamstring strain.
All eyes will be on Warren, who was on the rise when a stress fracture in his left foot robbed him of nearly two seasons of his career.
The 6-foot-8 Warren averaged a career-best 19.8 points on 53.6 percent shooting two seasons ago with Indiana, including a remarkable run in the Orlando Bubble. He was named to the All-Bubble First Team after averaging 31 points across the eight bubble-seeding games, highlighted by a career-high 53-point explosion against Joel Embiid and Simmons.
The big question now is can Warren recapture his old form after two surgeries and almost two years of layoff?
Nets superstar Kevin Durant would be happy to get that version of Warren to get some respite after averaging 30.4 points on 36.7 minutes in his first 23 games at 34. But he’s tempering expectations.
“We expect [Warren] to come out there and find his rhythm, get his legs up. You know, it’s gonna take a couple of weeks or take some time, however long it takes, we’re gonna support him. But having his presence out there, it’s gonna be huge. I’m happy for him. He’d been away from the game for so long, so I won’t put too much high expectations on him.”Kevin Durant postgame via NBA.com
Warren’s scoring pedigree should boost the Nets bench, who are in the bottom six with 31 points per game. He’s career 35.7 percent from deep and shot the lights out, hitting above 40 percent in the two seasons before his injury.
If Warren can at least provide keep the Nets from getting outscored during Durant’s customary breather, then it’s already a win for the Nets.
“I’m just excited for [Warren]. I’m pretty sure he could talk more about the journey it took to initially deal with that injury and then now two years later having an opportunity to get back out there. I can, for sure, say that when any of us gets injured, we sometimes get the game taken away from us very quickly, and it could get in a feeling of emotions or just taking advantage of it.
So for him, I’m just excited that he gets to prove himself to our fans, prove himself to himself most importantly, that he’s able to still be a top player in our league and help a winning team, especially one that’s trying to win a championship.”Kyrie Irving postgame via NBA.com
The Nets are looking to win their fifth straight game at Barclays Center, where they are 7-4 overall.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo