WASHINGTON — The Nets have been the worst rebounding team in the league. But on Saturday, little-used Day’Ron Sharpe helped them to a performance on the boards that was dominant and damn-near historic.
With eight rotation players missing — including Nic Claxton and Ben Simmons, the only two Nets who’ve started at center all season — Sharpe had a career-high-tying 20 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, outplaying Indiana standout Myles Turner and leading the Nets to a 136-133 stunner.
As far as making a statement for playing time, that one was pretty hard to ignore.
“Yeah, what [Sharpe] is doing is — and I tell him — you just want to be on the minds of the coaches when they’re thinking about who we’re going to put in. You want to be in that sentence. And he’s there,” said Nets coach Jacque Vaughn, who expects to get seven of those eight players back Monday versus Washington.
“What he does — which is what helped him in this game — was the offensive rebounds compared to the fouling. So, he was in great position. [He] got a couple fouls called against him that were pretty tough, but he’s learning how to be in the right place. So that balance of him bringing his offensive rebounds, also protecting the rim and being an enforcer, a force on the defensive end of the floor. So good balance, but great growth from him.”
Sharpe had gone from getting limited playing time at the beginning of the season to no playing time, largely with G-League Long Island and unused by the Nets in six of the prior eight games with just brief cameos of 6:22 and 1:43. That is, before the perfect storm of missing eight players Saturday created an opportunity. Sharpe, the only traditionally sized center on the roster, cashed in on it.
“I got out at the beginning of the season,” Sharpe said. “But that was like a month long and I just kept working, been in the weight room, running, playing hard, played hard in the G-League games that I played in. I thought that all was preparation for [this]. So I just stayed ready, kept working.”
Staying ready has been a mantra for Vaughn, and while it can be tough on young players, the 21-year-old Sharpe has clearly done so.
“I’d say we already got the confidence; it’s all about opportunity, and just being ready,” Sharpe said. “[This] was all our opportunity. Just stay ready, show the Brooklyn team that even though guys do go down, you’ve still got the young guys who can come in and help out step up.”
While Turner has been a favorite of fan-concocted trade scenarios, Sharpe held him to 16 points, just three rebounds and a lone block.
The Nets had been last in the league in rebound percentage, but Sharpe’s dozen helped them batter Indiana 59-30 on the boards. His nine on the offensive end led the way for the Nets’ 29-7 domination on the offensive glass. That’s the most by any team this season, the most by the Nets since getting 30 on Jan. 30, 1998 against San Antonio.
And robbed of the scoring punch of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who make the hard baskets look easy, Sharpe’s hard work actually made easy baskets. The Nets’ 37 second-chance points were tied for the second-most since the stat has been tracked, one behind New Orleans versus Phoenix back in Nov. 19, 2009.
Durant, Irving, Claxton and Simmons are all expected back versus the Wizards; but Sharpe’s statement will still be on Vaughn’s mind.
“We challenged him to help in our paint, to come over and you saw him make plays at the rim, blocked shots, just be a deterrent, be vertical at the rim for us,” said Vaughn. “He’s a guy that can communicate and when you have a backline defender who can communicate that’s pretty impressive. He’s a young young dude, he’s still learning the speed and where to be. For us to throw different things at him and for him not to get flustered and have poise was great to see.”
- Nets’ Day’Ron Sharpe stating case for bigger role
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