The Nets’ depth took a serious hit when they traded for James Harden last month.
But the players that remain on the bench are beginning to round into form.
As the Nets continued their Western road swing with Thursday’s 109-98 win over the Lakers, they got boosts off the bench from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (15 points on 5-for-8 shooting from 3-point range) and Landry Shamet (10 points). That came a game after Tyler Johnson chipped in 17 points in a spot start. All in all, it gives coach Steve Nash important options beyond his regular starting group.
“They’ve all really played well. It makes our depth look a lot better,” Nash, whose team next plays at the Clippers on Sunday night, said before Friday’s day off. “The second unit’s been producing, holding or extending leads. Proud of all those guys for hanging in there, for finding their rhythm and their form and gaining a little connectivity out there. It’s really important to have a second unit in this league and our guys have stepped up lately.”
The Nets entered the season with plenty of depth, but it was quickly gutted after Spencer Dinwiddie tore his ACL and Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince were included in the blockbuster deal for Harden. The Nets have signed Iman Shumpert, Noah Vonleh and Andre Roberson to help fill out the roster since then, but it’s the bench players who have been in Brooklyn from the start of the season who have begun to make the biggest impact.
Luwawu-Cabarrot, who came through with a season-high five 3-pointers Thursday night, has been the steadiest of the bunch.
“I had open shots, I shot them with confidence and hard work pays off, always,” said Luwawu-Cabarrot, who added three assists, two steals and two rebounds.
Shamet, meanwhile, started the season off cold enough that he even fell out of the rotation late in January while shooting 28.6 percent from 3-point range. But since sitting three straight games, he has averaged 11.1 points (41.5 percent shooting from deep) to give the Nets a shot in the arm off the bench.
“When we get down the road, we’re not always going to have a healthy roster,” Joe Harris said. “You never know who you’re going to need to step up and play valuable minutes. So right now, it’s a good opportunity for a lot of guys on the bench to have an opportunity to play more meaningful minutes. … We know we can rely on guys one through 15, which is what you need when you’re building a championship roster and a championship mentality.”
Thursday’s Nets-Lakers showdown averaged 1.94 million viewers on TNT. It was the most-viewed NBA game on cable this season outside of opening week, Christmas Day or Martin Luther King Jr. Day.