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Kevin Durant’s injury raises several questions, which are addressed below.

Joe Harris will start in place of the injured Kevin Durant (MCL), Kyrie Irving’s role will not change while Durant is out for a month, and Ben Simmons’ role will not change, according to head coach Jacque Vaughn.

At least not offensively.

The Nets have returned to familiar territory. Last season, they went down this road and imploded after Durant missed a month and a half of action due to a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee. This time, it’s his right knee, and the Nets are hoping his injury isn’t as serious as the one that derailed his season last year.

However, the games must continue, and they must do so without the team captain.

There’s no way the Nets can find a comparable replacement for the league’s current most efficient 30-point scorer. For example, Vaughn stated ahead of Thursday’s game against the Celtics that he does not want any other players taking mid-range jump shots, that those shots are primarily reserved for Durant — and to a lesser extent, Irving, TJ Warren, and Seth Curry — because he is the most efficient mid-range shooter in the game.

Rather than relying on Durant’s scoring ability, the Nets will rely on a combination of factors.

The general consensus among Nets fans has been to replace Durant’s three-level scoring with another three-level scorer at his position: reserve forward Warren.

On the surface, the idea makes sense: Warren has previously carried heavier scoring loads with the Indiana Pacers. He’s also 6-8, a better defender than his teammates give him credit for, and capable of hitting shots and generating offence on his own.

Many of these are the reasons Vaughn chose Harris as the starter: Whereas Durant set the tone for Brooklyn by regularly playing all 12 minutes of the first quarter, Irving’s minutes will be similar with a substitution in the first quarter.

That’s where Warren comes in as an off-the-bench scorer — and based on Vaughn’s reasoning, it’s safe to assume spark plug Curry will also fill in during some of those first-period minutes.

“It’ll be a balance,” Vaughn said on Thursday. “You’ve gotta think about: Kai’s not going to play 12 minutes in a row like Kevin did in the first quarter, so you’ve gotta have someone who can score when Kai’s on the bench also. TJ is capable of doing so.”

Which brings us to Harris and the Nets’ new look with Durant out for a month. The Nets understand that without Durant’s automatic 30 points per game, half-court offence will be more difficult to generate. They also know they can’t expect Warren to shoulder a 35- or 40-minute load in his first season after missing two straight due to stress fractures in his left foot.

With Durant out of the lineup, more of the offence will go through Simmons.

Starting Harris is critical because, while he isn’t a walking bucket like Durant, it’s almost the same sin for an opponent to leave him open. Harris achieves ideal spacing. This season, he’s become a better defender, and he’s not afraid to put his body on the line scrambling for 50-50 loose balls.

He also provides Simmons with another transition option.

Vaughn stated that the Nets do not expect — or have not asked — Simmons to score more points in Durant’s absence. Instead, they want to play faster and to Simmons’ strengths, which include creating opportunities for himself and his teammates in fast break situations.

“You want Ben to be a facilitator, to push the pace for us,” Vaughn explained. “A big part of covering for Kevin’s shots is that we don’t want other people shooting the twos he was shooting. He’s just so good at it. So we’ll have to shoot more three-pointers. So, who gives us permission to shoot more threes? Ben pushing it in transition to a shooter should allow us to shoot more threes.

“Can he get Joe Harris three more? Can he get Seth two more threes? Can he get Yuta [Watanabe] another corner three-pointer to make up the difference without changing his game? So nothing has been added to his plate as well. We’ve talked about him playing with force, and that continued throughout the game. So no additional scoring for him, as I requested.”

With Durant out, Simmons’ defensive role will shift dramatically.

Durant is a sneaky elite defender whose length, experience, and overall IQ not only create matchup nightmares for opposing players, but also make the duo of Durant and Nic Claxton difficult to score on at the rim. With Durant out, Simmons will have to serve as both a lockdown perimeter defender and a weak side support for help if Claxton is fouled.

“I think we all know Ben can impact the game without scoring, and so it puts the onus on him to really produce each possession on both ends of the floor. “It’ll put more [onus] on him defensively,” Vaughn predicted. “I think that’s where you’re going to ask more of him, just because Kevin isn’t there, so he’s going to guard a perimeter guy, he’s going to have to come over and try to be vertical and contest a shot at the rim where he might not have a week or two ago, so that part defensively.

“I’m not going to ask him to score any more points than he has already. I believe he enjoys facilitating, which is beneficial to our group.”

Finally, Irving will need to score more points.

With Durant out of the lineup, the other superstar must pick up the slack. When Durant went down last year, Irving was ruled ineligible to play at Barclays Center due to New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Without him on a consistent basis, the Nets relied on a frustrated James Harden, who eventually requested a trade due to the turmoil in Brooklyn.

Irving is fully available this season — and perhaps fully motivated, given that he only has one year left on his contract.

All of the ball movement in the world means nothing if the supporting cast isn’t making shots. Vaughn stated that the Nets do not want to put more pressure on Irving than he did when Durant was healthy, but the pressure of an entire organisation naturally rests on Irving’s ability to be special when the team needs him the most.

“Kevin bailed us out a lot of times, and bad possessions turned out to be good possessions,” Vaughn explained. “So we’re going to have to be tighter on both ends of the floor, but no more pressure should be on eleven. His ability to create double teams, which will occur, and create for other guys, as well as his ability to play one on one at times for us, will be present. We didn’t change anything in the playbook yesterday to add to his workload.”

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