T.J. Warren had waited so long for his hard-earned return to an NBA court that it felt like a dream.
After a two-year fight to come back from multiple stress fractures (a total of 703 days, to be exact), it basically was a dream return. Warren, making his Nets debut Friday night against the Raptors, finished with 10 points and four rebounds, while shooting 5-for-9 from the floor, in an easy 114-105 victory at Barclays Center.
“Man it was super, super, super … just a lot of nerves, excitement, a lot of emotions into it. Just definitely super excited just to be out there with a win,” Warren said. “Teammates did a great job making the game easy, not so complicated for me. I’ve been out for a while, so it just kept me confident, kept me locked-in, excited on both ends of the floor. So definitely something to build on.
“I was telling somebody in the back it almost felt like a dream. Just like as soon as I checked in it kind of hit me like this is real.Like I said, once I got up and down it was just like ‘All right, this is basketball.’ So it was just super fun to be out there competing with the guys.”
The last time Warren played an NBA game — Dec. 29, 2020 — Donald Trump was still in the White House. Episodes of Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek were still airing, nearly two months after his death. And COVID-19 vaccines had just begun being administered.
If you think it felt like a long two years to you, it felt like an eternity to Warren.
“It’s a huge hurdle,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “[F]or him to get back out here in a professional game against a pretty athletic and long team… and look and feel comfortable out there, not look out of place, I hope that reassures him that he’s done all the recovery.”
Warren, whose trek back was Odyssean after two surgeries for stress fractures he suffered while with the Pacers, checked in to applause with 4:14 left in the first quarter. Almost immediately, he pump-faked Chris Boucher and hit a 14-foot baseline jumper.
“I was interested in that first shot. What was it gonna look like? How long, how short was it gonna be? Was it gonna hit the rim? … That thing was beautiful to watch,” Vaughn said.
Warren capped a 15-0 run to put the Nets up 32-10. And fittingly he also padded the lead to 36, his put-back making it 67-31 with 5:25 left in the first half.
“You get anxiety before the ball is tipped just leading up to this moment. I’m sure he had his day circled for a while now,” said Kevin Durant, who missed a year following a ruptured Achilles. “Now that he’s out there, he got his feet wet a little bit, he can relax.”
Edmond Sumner left with a right glute contusion.
“We’ll look at it [Saturday],” Vaughn said. “Hopefully it’s nothing serious and we can look on.”
- Nets’ T.J. Warren impressive in first game in two years
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