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Nets expecting key wings Yuta Watanabe, T.J. Warren back by end of week

The Nets are expected to get back injured forwards Yuta Watanabe and T.J. Warren by the end of this week, according to coach Jacque Vaughn.

“Hopefully. We’re trending in that direction,” Vaughn said Sunday. “Neither one has had a setback, so they’re still progressing. So hopefully, that does happen.”

When they’re both healthy, the Nets could have an enviable numbers crunch.

Watanabe sat out his fourth straight game with a tight right hamstring. He’d scored in double figures in a career-high four straight and is leading the league in corner 3-point percentage. His absence has forced Vaughn to overuse Royce O’Neale (more than 38 minutes in three of those four) and struggling Joe Harris.

But it’s the news on Warren that will arguably be more noteworthy — and could eventually siphon playing time from both Watanabe and Harris.

Warren, then with Indiana,  hasn’t played an NBA game since Dec. 29, 2020 and had foot surgery the next month. He’s essentially missed the past two seasons but is now working out against players and set to finally return to the court.

Yuta Watanabe #18 of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles the ball during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies on November 20, 2022 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Brooklyn Nets forward T.J. Warren (1) talks to the media during media day at HSS Training Center.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

While it will take Warren time to get up to speed, if he can recapture even a modicum of his form from the 2020 Orlando bubble, it would be a huge lift for the Nets.

The 6-foot-8, 222-pound Warren adds length and is a three-level scorer who averaged 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds while playing in the bubble.

Seth Curry’s 29 points Sunday were his most since joining the Nets last season, and his seven 3s tied his most as a Net. He missed the start of the season due to ankle surgery and hasn’t played a back-to-backs yet, but the Nets are hopeful he can play Monday versus Orlando.

“I’ll see [Monday],” Curry said. “I hope so.”

Seth Curry #30 of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles the ball during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on November 27, 2022 at Barclays Center Brooklyn, New York.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

“We’ll see. We’ll assess him after the game,” Vaughn said. “Increasing his minutes, which is good. Next stage, hopefully he’s playing back-to-backs. I’m hoping so.”

Harris’ struggles continued, shooting 1 of 6 overall (and from deep) in 16:13. He’s shooting 35.8 percent overall and 32.3 percent from behind the arc.

“Sooner or later, he’s going to have a stretch where he makes everything,” Curry said of Harris. “Just stick to your routines, don’t get down on yourself and keep being aggressive.”

Portland’s Damian Lillard sat out his fourth straight game, his ninth missed game out of the Trail Blazers’ 19.

The Trail Blazers used multiple zones to try to deal with the Nets.

“They did a good job of implementing it and slowing us down in the first half,” said Kevin Durant, who had 31 points. “But we were able to get some good looks there in the second half and pull away.”

David Duke Jr. (non-COVID illness) and Donovan Williams (G-League — two-way) were out for the Nets. The latter has been sidelined for Long Island with a right adductor strain.