Yuta Watanabe continues to ‘do everything’ for the Nets

Yuta Watanabe closed 2022 with arguably the best defensive performance of his career. He woke up to start 2023 atop the NBA 3-point standings.

The Japanese forward had a career-high 11 points, five rebounds and five steals Saturday against Charlotte. It was the most steals in a game for any Net this season, and the first five-steal game for them from the bench since Caris LeVert on Feb. 8, 2019, against Chicago.

“He does a little [of] everything,” Jacque Vaughn said of Watanabe. “You see the ability of the guys to give him the ball and shoot him the basketball, which we have complete confidence in. And now he’s getting his hands on balls, whether it’s being in the paint and clogging the paint, coming back and flipping balls.

“Being around the basketball and being in a good position, great drive towards the rim, which was aggressive. So he grew up as a basketball player. He feels more comfortable knowing when he’s going to come into the game and who he’s going to play with, so I think that’s helped him as well.

Yuta Watanabe has been a stellar 3 and D addition for the Nets this season.
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Watanabe also qualified for the league standings again and regained the top spot with a 3-point percentage at 51.4%. The time he missed with a hamstring injury had knocked him out of the qualifying ranks, until his two 3-pointers again gave him the advantage over Phoenix’s Damion Lee (49 .3%).

Watanabe shoots 11 of 19 (57.9%) from the right corner, and a misprint 15 of 21 (71.4%) from the left. But on Saturday, his aggressive workouts bode well, as defenses now recognize his deep shooting prowess.

“Yeah obviously they’re starting to take my 3s away from me so I have to start finding other ways to finish and I think I’ve been improved in the sense that I can drive and then I can finish,” said Watanabe. “So I just have to keep working on it. And then I stopped doing that and I don’t think the defenders are going to know what I’m going to do. I’ll keep shooting 3s, all kinds of stuff. So it was good to see me back…finish around the edge.

Joe Harris has missed four straight games with knee pain but looks set to return at home against Spurs on Monday. After receiving treatment on Sunday, he was officially listed as probable.

“Good progress for Joe going forward, so looking forward to seeing him when we get back,” Vaughn said. “Yeah, I’m hopeful for San Antonio. … I texted him and he felt better.

Nic Claxton blocked six shots, a career high, for the second straight game. He is the first player to record six blocks in consecutive games since Brook Lopez in January 2020, and the first Net to do so since Shawn Bradley in November 1996.


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