BOSTON — The Nets’ lineup has been a game of musical chairs all season.
Or make a medical chair.
Coach Jacque Vaughn has been dealing with star players being sidelined due to injury reports since the start of training camp.
Friday’s 121-107 loss at Boston was the Nets’ ninth game of the season, with starters Nic Claxton, Ben Simmons and Cam Johnson already missing a combined 18 games.
And with Johnson back on the floor and scoring 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting against the Celtics, current leading scorer Cam Thomas will be sidelined for the next few weeks.
“Yeah, that’s a credit to the JV and coaching staff. He was able to plug and play and get guys in and out of the lineup and keep the mojo going,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “We’re lucky to be able to weather the storm right now. It’s going to be great when we actually all get healthy.”
That could be a while, considering Thomas sprained his ankle in Wednesday’s win over the Clippers and won’t even get retested for two weeks.
Still, Brooklyn exceeded expectations with a 4-4 record, a bar lowered by a depleted roster and an open-ended lineup.
“We had a lot of fights on this team, and we weren’t going to back down,” Johnson said. “We had to put guys out a little bit and put them in different spots. A lot of different guys had a great night for us.”
It’s dizzying to keep track of, let alone scouts for other teams, or even Nets fans.
Here’s a primer on where they stand at the moment.
Johnson missed the preseason and injured his left calf in the opening game. He missed the next seven games before he returned Friday at TD Garden.
“It’s a process, but I feel really good about it,” Johnson said before the game, acknowledging that the final stage of his rehabilitation was mental. “One of the things you always have to do is respect the game, respect basketball, respect the level of the NBA. Rhythm is important in this league, so my goal is to get back as soon as possible and get it done. It’s about establishing it.”
Of the three sidelined starters, Thomas is the furthest away from returning.
Claxton also hasn’t played since spraining his ankle in the season opener, missing eight consecutive games. But he has clearly improved, cutting 3-on-3 with backup big man Harry Giles III and Nets coaches during Friday morning’s shootaround, moving laterally and playing live defense.
Simmons was initially listed as questionable, but was removed hours before tip-off and missed the second straight with a sore left hip.
Pain radiating to the lower back is often the result of a back injury, but Bourne and another official said it was the result of a play in the Nov. 4 game against Milwaukee and that Simmons suffered from a herniated disc. He said that it was not related to neurological disorders.
“I went to business school at the University of Kansas. I definitely didn’t go to medical school. And let me tell you, it was the hip play that came up in this game. That’s what made things worse. Before that play, Ben was good,” Vaughn said, later adding, “I don’t think there’s any point in us even walking down that avenue. For me, it’s a no-brainer.
“Other players missed games with ankle, shin and hamstring aggravations. It’s all in the same bucket. So, that’s the best thing about it. Ben, just like any other player, missed games. And then coming back and being a player and earning the right to try to get back on the floor. … I don’t think he’s any different than other players.”
On the other hand, only Thomas will not be able to play for a while.
“With us, you just keep juggling and rotating,” Dinwiddie said. “You can’t replace Cam Thomas with one guy. It has to be done by committee.”