NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets coach Jacque Vaughn is always talking about staying in the moment, so here's the state of the team right now, ahead of Thursday's NBA trade deadline:
- Kyrie Irving is gone.
- Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith have nameplates on their lockers, where fresh jerseys (No. 26 for Dinwiddie, No. 28 for Finney-Smith) await their arrival.
- The status of Kevin Durant, who has been out since Jan. 8 with a sprained right MCL, is expected to be updated on Tuesday.
- Ben Simmons, who has missed the last five games with left knee soreness, is expected to return on Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns.
- Seth Curry, who strained his left adductor on Saturday, is out of the lineup and will be reevaluated at the end of the week.
- T.J. Warren, who missed four recent games with a left shin contusion, is back in the mix.
- Cam Thomas, who was completely out of the rotation two weeks ago, is coming off a 44-point game and a 47-point game.
- The front office is trying to upgrade the roster, and, according to Marc Stein, Brooklyn has looked into packaging picks with Dinwiddie in exchange for Fred VanVleet of the Toronto Raptors.
The Nets know that reinforcements are coming. They also know that deadline week is a particularly turbulent time to be an NBA player.
"The need for certainty is the greatest disease that the mind can ever face, for sure," Vaughn said Monday, before Brooklyn's 124-116 loss against the Los Angeles Clippers. "And guys who don't have certainty right now, we can try to keep it as simple as possible: Show up, be focused, be present. You have no control of what's going to happen tomorrow."
Less than a month ago, the Nets had the second-best record in the league and had won 18 of 20 games. Last Friday, Irving, unhappy with the terms of their contract-extension offer, demanded a trade. They beat the Washington Wizards without him the next day, and they agreed to trade him to the Dallas Mavericks the day after that.
"It's been a whirlwind that I've become all too familiar with, being here for four years," Brooklyn big man Nic Claxton said. "But you can't control it, and you gotta just keep rolling with it."
Irving is the third Nets star to ask for a trade in the last calendar year and the second to get his wish.
"I'm used to it at this point," Claxton said. "Stars leaving, players asking for trades, it's just kind of normal now. You still have to show up every single day and do our job. Sometimes it's easier said than done, especially now, but that's what we get paid to do."
Edmond Sumner, who signed with Brooklyn last summer, said that the rumor mill is more "chaotic" here than it was in Indiana. "Every time I turn on my phone," he said, he sees people talking about the Nets on social media. "I'm seeing all these rumors and I'm not even searching for it."
Sumner blamed the algorithms. "It's annoying," he said. "So I try to watch some shows, read some books, play games, just to get away from it. Especially right now. It's crazy."
As currently constructed, Brooklyn projects to improve defensively. Finney-Smith has established himself as one of the league's premier 3-and-D guys, and Dinwiddie's size makes him more switchable than Irving. "We're just longer, stronger and overall more athletic as a team," Vaughn said. Without multiple top-tier scorers, the Nets will have a different look. But with Claxton, Durant, Finney-Smith and Simmons on the roster, they can put together some big, imposing defensive lineups.
"We can be long, we can dictate things on that end of the floor," Vaughn said. "And then it's going to be a collective effort to get it done on the [offensive] end. Kevin still has the ability to knock down shots, we'll put the right spacing around him."
Joe Harris, by far Brooklyn's longest-tenured player, has already talked to Dinwiddie and welcomed him back. Claxton said that reintegrating the former Net will be seamless.
"My first year playing with Spence was good for me," Claxton said. "He really looked for me out there on the court and now I'm 10 times better than I was then, so I'm looking forward to playing with him."
"We're lucky to have a player like him come back," Harris said.
Thomas described Finney-Smith as a gritty defender and a glue guy. "Can put him anywhere: stretch 5, 4, 3," he said. "Guard the best player, whatever we need him to do."
If Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith, Simmons, Claxton and Royce O'Neale all stay put, one of them will need to come off the bench when Durant is healthy. Would Vaughn lean into size, strength and switchability by making Dinwiddie the sixth man? Would Simmons be better off as a reserve, separated from Claxton to minimize spacing issues? How many minutes have Thomas' scoring explosions earned him? The answers will become clear soon enough, unless the front office makes the questions moot.
"I'm intrigued with what we can do," Vaughn said. "The lineups are going to be mix-and-match a little bit, who we can put on the floor. I think that part of it, I'm very excited about."
Vaughn said he hopes Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith will be available to play against Phoenix on Tuesday. Beyond that, he is "not sure what's going to happen" and he is "not even concerned about it." Numerous players said that they'll miss Irving, that his trade request was unexpected and that they're trying not to get caught up in all of the deadline drama.
"We can't worry about who's gone, we just gotta worry about whoever's here in the locker room," Claxton said. "And the journey continues."