BOSTON — The Nets’ lineup has been a season-long game of musical chairs.
Or make that medical chairs.
Coach Jacque Vaughn has dealt with constant absences since the start of training camp, starters going on and off the injury report.
Friday’s 121-107 loss in Boston marked the Nets’ ninth game of the season, with starters Nic Claxton, Ben Simmons and Cam Johnson having missed a combined 18 games already.
And with Johnson back on the court, scoring 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting against the Celtics, now leading scorer Cam Thomas will miss the next couple of weeks.
“Yeah, it’s a credit to JV and the coaching staff. He’s been able to plug-and-play, throw guys in and out of the lineup and keep the mojo going,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “We’re fortunate enough to be able to weather the storm right now, and it’s going to be great when we actually get everybody healthy.”
That could be awhile, with Thomas having sprained his ankle in Wednesday’s win over the Clippers and not due to even be reassessed for two weeks.
Still, Brooklyn came in 4-4 and exceeding expectations and a bar lowered by their shorthanded roster and never-ending stream of lineups.
“A lot of fight in this team, and not willing to back down at all,” Johnson said. “We’ve had to pepper guys around a little, put them in different spots. Different guys have had big nights for us.”
It’s dizzying for other teams to scout, or even Nets fans to keep track of.
Here is a primer for where they stand as of right now:
Johnson missed the preseason, then strained his left calf on opening night. After missing the next seven games, he returned Friday at TD Garden.
“It’s a process. But I feel real good about it,” Johnson said before the loss, admitting the last stages of rehab are mental. “One thing you always have to do is respect the game, respect basketball, respect the NBA level. Rhythm is a big thing in this league, and my goal is to come back and establish that as quickly as possible.”
Of the trio of sidelined starters, Thomas is by far the furthest from returning.
Claxton also hasn’t played since spraining his ankle in the opener, missing his eighth straight. But he’s clearly making strides and was going 3-on-3 with backup big man Harry Giles III and Nets coaches at Friday morning’s shootaround, cutting, moving laterally and playing live defense.
Simmons sat out a second straight with left hip soreness, both after initially being listed as questionable only to be downgraded in the hours before tip-off.
While pain radiating down hips is often a product of back injuries, both Vaughn and a separate source said this is a result of a play in the Nov. 4 Milwaukee game and not related to the herniated disks and nerve impingements Simmons had.
“I went to business school at the University of Kansas; I definitely did not go to medical school. And I will tell you that the hip was the one play that we talked about in the game. That was the aggravation. Before that play, Ben was good,” said Vaughn, adding later, “I don’t think we have a point to even walk down that avenue. He aggravated his hip in the game the other night. For me, it’s just that simple.
“Other players have missed games from aggravation from ankles and shins and hamstrings. It’s all in the same bucket. So that’s been the best thing, is Ben has earned the right just like the other players to get hurt, come back, be a player, try to get back on the floor. … I don’t put him differently than any other player.”
Thomas, only the other hand, won’t play for awhile.
“With us, you just continue to juggle and rotate,” Dinwiddie said. “You can’t replace Cam Thomas with one guy: You have to do it by committee.”