Nets get big lift from rookie trio

Injuries and a condensed schedule have forced the Nets to take a bigger look at a few of their rookies this week.

Day’Ron Sharpe and Kessler Edwards haven’t let the opportunity go to waste.

The duo started for a third straight game Saturday and, along with fellow rookie Cam Thomas, made it another encouraging night for the Nets’ 2021 draft class.

All three scored in double digits in the Nets’ 120-105 win over the Pelicans at Barclays Center. Thomas led the way with 20 points off the bench, Sharpe recorded his first-career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds (before fouling out) and Edwards added 16 points on 4-for-5 shooting from deep.

“They’ve been great,” coach Steve Nash said. “That’s why they’ve gotten an opportunity. We liked them in the preseason, but we felt like there was a process to them getting, to earning and to developing into an opportunity and it came.”

Thomas, Sharpe and Edwards became the first trio of Nets rookies to finish in double figures in the same game since Mirza Teletovic, Tyshawn Taylor and Toko Shengelia in 2013.

Cam Thomas, who scored 20 points, goes up for a shot in between Brandon Ingram (14) and Jonas Valanciunas.
Jason Szenes

While Thomas has played in the majority of the Nets’ games this season, Sharpe and Edwards have emerged more recently.

Before the past week, Sharpe had played a total of 12 NBA games for a total of 78 minutes. Then the Nets played five games in seven days and Sharpe appeared in all of them — starting the last three at center with Nic Claxton and LaMarcus Aldridge injured — tallying 104 more minutes while averaging 11.4 points and 7.2 rebounds.

“He’s got some natural gifts,” Nash said. “He has a nose for the ball around the basket and on the boards. He’s physical, he loves to throw his weight around underneath the basket, which is a positive for us.”

Edwards, meanwhile, continued to flash his potential as a 3-and-D wing.

“Natural defensive instincts,” Nash said. “He really knows his role. He’s played his role for a young guy in the opportunity very, very well.”

Claxton (left hamstring tightness) missed a third straight game while Aldridge (right foot soreness) also sat out a fifth straight game. Nash said he expected both to travel with the Nets on their four-game road trip that begins Monday in Cleveland.

“They’re both progressing well,” Nash said. “They’re not going to play tonight but they’re progressing day to day and we feel really positive about them returning soon.”

James Johnson also missed the game with a non-COVID illness.

The Nets entered halftime with a 69-41 lead, their largest halftime lead of the season and their second-largest halftime lead in Barclays Center history.

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