The COVID-19 kings of the NBA may currently reside in Chicago, but the Brooklyn Nets appear to be giving the Bulls a run for their money. Less than 24 hours after it was reported that forward Paul Millsap had entered health and safety protocols, four more Nets players look to be joining him.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, big man LaMarcus Aldridge, forward James Johnson, wing DeAndre’ Bembry and guard Jevon Carter have all entered health and safety protocols as well.
As a result, all of the aforementioned will be forced to quarantine for at least the next 10 days unless they can return two negative PCR test results 24 hours apart.
Brooklyn’s latest brush with Covid comes at an inopportune time. Joe Harris continues to be out of commission as he recovers from ankle surgery and Kyrie Irving is still out amid his protest of New York City’s strict vaccine mandate. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant is questionable to play in the Nets’ Tuesday matchup with the Raptors due to right ankle soreness.
Nets’ Covid Woes Could Open the Door for More Blake Griffin
Although the outbreak is affecting multiple position groups, Brooklyn’s frontcourt has been hit particularly hard. Aldridge had been starting at center for weeks, while Millsap has split time between the four and the five and Johnson has spent nearly half of his minutes at power forward, per Basketball Reference’s position estimate.
With all of those players likely being out for a prolonged stretch — and Durant’s status being up in the air — one can’t help but wonder if Steve Nash might up the workload for Blake Griffin.
Since his shock benching in late November, the six-time All-Star has only appeared in two games for the Nets. He played well during a 13-minute stint in Houston on December 8, then saw nine uneventful minutes during the Nets’ latest win over the Pistons.
Griffin began the year as the team’s starting power forward after showing signs of life down the stretch of 2020-21. However, he has averaged just 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game this season while shooting 33% from the field and 15.8% from three-point range.
The latest Nets news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Nets newsletter here!
Griffin Took His Benching in Stride
When Griffin was demoted in favor of Aldridge, he understood the move. Aldridge had been solid as a rock in the sixth man role and he has been even better since joining the starting five. In eight games as a starter, the seven-time All-Star is putting up 15.1 points and 5.5 boards per contest while making 56.5% of his shots.
“I mean listen, [Aldridge] has been playing unbelievable,” Griffin said at the time, via Nets Daily. “So, I totally get starting him, especially Joe [Harris] has been out, and I totally get that.”
He was definitely surprised to find himself out of the rotation entirely but maintained that he would do what he could to execute Nash’s vision for the team.
“Being completely out of it, though, I didn’t necessarily see that coming. But that’s not my decision. As players it’s our job to do whatever coaches see best, so at this point, that’s what it is.”
Clearly, what’s best now is for Griffin to play. If he makes the most of the opportunity, he may just find himself in Nash’s rotation once again, and the Nets would be better for it. Even as he has struggled in 2021-22, the Nets have been 2.1 points per 100 possessions better when he has been on the court.