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After missing nearly all of the last two seasons with foot injuries, Nets’ TJ Warren is making up for lost time, even if his time on the floor is still limited.

The Nets are playing the long game with Warren, continuing to monitor his minutes to make sure he can make an impact when the postseason begins. Meanwhile, he is making his first 17-game regular season appearance since the 2019-20 season and has made a strong impression when called upon.

“Every game I feel more and more like myself,” Warren said after the Nets’ practice in Brooklyn on Saturday. “Two years is a long time, two calendar years with a lot of foot problems. But I feel great. I’m in a good space mentally. I just want to keep getting better and help this team win as much as I can.”

Entering Sunday’s game against the Thunder at Barclays Center, Warren was averaging 10.5 points and 3.1 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per game off the bench.

TJ Warren has provided a huge boost for the Nets since his return.
Charles Wenzelberg

Warren’s improved play made him an interesting option to fill Kevin Durant’s starting spot after the former MVP was sidelined with an MCL injury. The Nets, however, opted to use Joe Harris in that spot to help manage Warren’s workload. Still, Warren was the first to come off the bench Thursday, entering at the eight-minute mark of the first quarter against the Celtics and scoring 20 points in 28 minutes.

“Just try to get where I fit in,” Warren said. “Try to be aggressive in my little rushes. It’s not easy to play with minute restrictions. You don’t want to overthink or try to figure out, for example, the clock is ticking. It’s like a countdown for you. Just know that it’s a bigger goal, and me being healthy at the end of the year is that goal. So far so good. I feel great.”

Warren’s 28 minutes Thursday night was his second of the season, trailing only the 31:28 he logged against the Hornets on New Year’s Eve. But even if Warren continues to play at a high level during his limited minutes, it won’t change the Nets’ plans for him.

Brooklyn Nets forward TJ Warren (1) drives around Golden State Warriors center James Wiseman (33) during the first half at Barclays Center, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022, in Brooklyn, New York.
The Nets are playing the long game with TJ Warren and hope he’s at his best when the postseason begins.
Corey Sipkin

“I told him this message. that’s my No. 1 goal is for him to be healthy and come out in the playoffs, show his skills to the rest of the world,” coach Jacques Vaughn said. “It will be a guiding light type.

“Will I be tempted at times? [to push his minutes] if he rolls. No doubt every coach would. But hopefully for his longevity, for the group, we’ll put him in a position to be successful all year.”

Warren played the first four games of the 2020-21 season before being sidelined and needing surgery to repair a minor stress fracture in his left navicular (a bone in the foot near the ankle) that cost him the rest of the year. He then missed the entire 2021-22 season with more foot problems.

Still, the Nets took advantage of Warren’s rise, signing him to a one-year, $2.6 million deal last offseason and then carefully developed him before making his season debut on Dec. 2, nearly two full years since his last game. NBA game.

Warren said he’s still working on his legs after a long layoff, but he thinks he’s playing better than people thought about a month and a half after the game. However, he only holds a prospect with the Nets halfway through the season.

“It can be frustrating at times, trying to fight the minutes limit and whatnot,” Warren said. “But you just have to look at the bigger picture of being healthy at the end of the season.”



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