Vaughn era begins with rout of Knicks
Durant makes history in new head coach's first game
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Jacque Vaughn was officially introduced as the Brooklyn Nets’ new head coach on Wednesday, removing the interim tag from his title.
Then, the long-time Brooklyn assistant watched as Kevin Durant rewrote NBA history.
Durant became the first player since Michael Jordan to score at least 25 points in his team’s first 12 games, amassing 29 to go with 12 rebounds and 12 assists as the Nets spanked the arch rival New York Knicks, 112-85, in front of 18,156 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“We don’t want this to be a honeymoon stage for us,” Durant insisted.
“We want to continue to keep pushing through, keep finding ways to get better, finding ways to turn those weaknesses to strengths and keep pushing from here.”
Vaughn, who was in his seventh campaign on the Brooklyn bench as either an assistant or an emergency interim head coach, improved to 3-2 since taking over for Steve Nash following the Nets’ dismal 2-5 start.
“Jacque’s basketball acumen, competitiveness and intimate knowledge of our team and organization make him the clear-cut best person to lead our group moving forward,” said Nets general manager Sean Marks, who looked into acquiring suspended Boston head coach Ime Udoka before hiring Vaughn.
“He has a proven cohesive, team-first style of basketball.”
That was evident Wednesday as Durant inched closer to Jordan’s all-time mark of 16 consecutive games of at least 25 points to begin the 1988-89 campaign.
With one of the world’s best players on his way to his 17th career triple-double, the rest of the Nets (5-7) found ways to contribute as well.
Seth Curry, sidelined by an injured ankle for most of the early season, poured in a season-high 23 points off the bench, and Edmond Sumner had 18 in his fourth straight start in place of suspended guard Kyrie Irving.
Nic Claxton finished with 12 points and eight rebounds and Joe Harris added 10 points for Brooklyn, which jumped out to a 24-8 lead in the opening quarter and never looked back.
“We’ve already taken a big jump last four games, (holding) teams under 100 points, which has been great. So definitely concerted effort,” said Vaughn after win No. 1 as Brooklyn’s head coach.
“So if we can focus on defensive rebounding, we can take a big jump on the defensive end,”
The former player and coaching sage also led the Nets to a 7-3 record at the NBA’s bubble site in Florida after the league restarted following an extended pause during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.
Brooklyn was eventually swept out of the opening round that postseason, but Vaughn didn’t have Durant or Irving on the roster.
With Irving’s date of return from his suspension still in doubt, Durant made sure to show Vaughn he was all in for Brooklyn, especially against New York.
The two-time Finals MVP improved to 20-3 career against the Knicks, winning the last 13 meetings in a row. The Nets have beaten their East River rivals eight straight times, three shy of their longest run of victories ever in the series.
Julius Randle had 24 points and 11 boards for the Knicks (5-6), who trailed by as many as 35 points en route to their fifth loss in seven games.
Brooklyn will kick off a four-game West Coast swing Saturday night in Los Angeles against the Clippers.
NOTHING BUT NET: After visiting the Clippers, the Nets will take on the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday before going to Sacramento on Tuesday and Portland Thursday. … Marks intimated pregame that he hadn’t been in any direct discussion with Irving, but that he had reached out to his representatives. Initially a five-game suspension, Irving is not eligible to return until he has met the six requirements given by the Nets, including a meeting with team owner Joe Tsai to demonstrate his understanding of the issues.
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