The start of the Andre Drummond era threatened to end the Nets’ center-by-committee era, and they committed to giving big minutes to their biggest big.
Their loss to the Heat on Thursday night, though, helped show why the juggling may continue.
The 6-foot-10, 279-pound Drummond has averaged 9.1 rebounds in 21.4 minutes with the Nets and been the bulldozing option he projected to be. But matched up Thursday against Miami’s Bam Adebayo, an agile and mobile new-age center, Drummond consistently was a step slow.
The Nets were outscored by 10 points when Drummond was on the court, the Heat repeatedly using pick-and-rolls to create mismatches and exploit the speed difference. Miami was up five with just under eight minutes remaining when coach Erik Spoelstra called for a handoff at the 3-point line from Adebayo to guard Tyler Herro. Herro took the ball, and Adebayo took off toward the hoop, easily outsprinting Drummond and catching an alley-oop for an and-one.
By the 6:58 mark of the fourth quarter, Drummond was on the bench, replaced by LaMarcus Aldridge for the rest of the loss.
Even Aldridge, though, struggled with the quicker Adebayo, who finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds. The Nets’ best matchup was Nic Claxton, who played well for six minutes — which was more than usual for the center, who has been buried since the James Harden trade.
The Nets also could have turned to Blake Griffin, who did not play. Acting head coach Jacque Vaughn mostly stuck with the bigger bodies, which backfired.
The Nets’ roster, as always, will continue to evolve, and perhaps the 6-foot-11 Ben Simmons even will get minutes underneath, if and when he returns this season. Drummond has started each game he has played with the Nets and figures to continue to eat up the most minutes. The Nets hope he can solve the rebounding issues they had before he arrived.
But against more dynamic centers — Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid looms, too — the Nets might have to do the same mixing and matching they have done for much of the campaign.
Though New York Mayor Eric Adams announced the end of the school mask mandates and vaccine passports across the city, there was no movement on the private business mandate that affects Kyrie Irving.
“As of now, under the existing rules, he cannot [play at Barclays Center],” Adams told reporters at a news conference in Times Square on Friday.
The Nets have been hoping the unvaccinated Irving, who now can attend home games as a fan, will be able to join them full time for the stretch run.
“We’re waiting, like everybody else, to see how these mandates — how they change, how they tweak,” general manager Sean Marks told YES Network on Thursday. “Over the next 24, 48 hours, hopefully there’s some news for us as to what that may look like, and Kyrie can get back out here.”
The Nets assigned center Day’Ron Sharpe to the Long Island Nets.