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The emergence of Yuta Watanabe at the heart of the Nets’ historic month

Currently on a series of twelve consecutive victories, the Nets come out of a thunderous month of December, with twelve wins and a defeat, perfectly in ambush (with one victory) behind the Celtics at the top of the East, but also of the League , 25 wins and 12 losses. This is quite simply the best month in franchise history!

At the heart of this rise, it is certainly Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving who bear the bulk of the burden, while Ben Simmons is also starting to show more convincing signs of progress.

“At the start of training camp, my objective was simply to integrate the team”

But we can also point out the emergence of several men from the shadows, including the Japanese winger, Yuta Watanabe (8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist), signed for a contract not guaranteed at least, at less than 2 million dollars per season, but who has become an essential pawn off the bench for Jacque Vaughn.

“No one really expected that, me first”concedes Watanabe during the docuseries, The Bridge. “At the start of training camp, my goal was just to get on the team. And as I gain confidence, to make myself a place in the workforce. I haven’t changed anything in my routine since I’ve been in the League, I work hard every day, like I have since day one. The coaching staff saw it and gave me their confidence. »

For his coach, Watanabe is a joy, a sponge that absorbs everything that is said to him. And especially a boy who is not the last to throw himself on the ground to tear off the leather or to put his buttocks on the ground to defend.

“He’s a guy who plays for the team. Whether it’s to take a shot, to provide energy or simply to be a good teammate. He’s 28 now, he’s married, he has life experiences, he knows what sacrifice is. He’s not the guy I coached in the summer league anymore. [en 2018 avec les Nets déjà]. When we see the efforts he makes to get there, we can only want his success when he plays for us. »

Author of several ultra clutch shots, whether against Memphis, his first club, or in Toronto against his former team (with 17 points at 6/7 on shots including 3/4 from afar), Watanabe has a sense of timing , and success with it. All his teammates sing his praises, he is simply the model teammate.

“Yuta does all the little things”, blows Kevin Durant. “He defends and can change at full back and inside with his length. He takes rebounds. It offers cuts towards the circle. When he takes in his outside shots, he can become an incredible player. »

“I had never experienced moments like that in the NBA”

For his part, Watanabe plays the card of modesty. But the versatile winger out of college George Washington (like Red Auerbach) is having his best career season by far. He has clearly passed a milestone, as the figures say with playing time and an average of points doubled (or almost) compared to last season.

“It’s easy to play when you have teammates like KD and Ky because the opposing defenses double up every time. So there is bound to be someone who is wide open. Then just take the shots. It’s basketball at its simplest! »

Do you still have to enter the said 3-points? What Watanabe achieves after a nice progression curve, he who went from 12% in his rookie season to 52% at 3-points this year!

Full of confidence during the month of November, during which he shot 12 points with 61% success on shots, including a pretty 58% from 3-pointers, Watanabe has found his place in a collective of the Nets which run on super. Confidence at its peak.

“When I got that last 3-point, it was indescribable. People were on their feet, they were clapping, they were chanting my name, I had never experienced moments like that in the NBA, it was an incredible feeling! »

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