MILWAUKEE — Newly signed Nerlens Noel made the most of a makeshift lineup and a golden opportunity Thursday night in the Nets’ 118-113 win over the Bucks as Jacque Vaughn rested a host of starters.
The Nets played without starters Nic Claxton (right thumb sprain and left Achilles tendinopathy), Spencer Dinwiddie (rest) and Cam Johnson (sore right knee), as well as minutes leader Royce O’Neale.
Noel, who was signed Monday on a 10-day contract and made his Nets debut Tuesday, made his first start with his new team and fourth of the season.
“Yeah, so I thought you saw a little bit everything,” Vaughn said of Noel. “He continues to get himself in shape. The charge that he took was great, putting his body on the line, so that was great. A block was great. So those things we want to continue to see from him.
“He’ll continue to learn conceptually what we want to do on the defensive end, and we’re switching back and forth between defenses, you know, so you got to turn your brain on and off and back on again. So that challenge is what’s ahead of him.”
Noel went scoreless in 18:08, but had six rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.
He can provide much-needed veteran size backing up Claxton, but the Nets can only sign him to a second 10-day deal before they must decide whether to keep him.
“I don’t really look at the days of the contract,” Noel told The Post. “I just come here and hoop, prepare before I get here and everything else takes care of itself simply. I’m a 10-year veteran in this league, so I don’t really look at all the small things like that.
“I just look at the overall big picture that they need me to help, they need me in this backup five position to help them win, and I’m fully taking on that challenge and opportunity. It’s not my first time or my second time, so I take it all in and stay ready.”
Noel stepped in for Claxton at center and joined Seth Curry, Mikal Bridges, Joe Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith in the starting lineup. He got the starting nod over second-year pro Day’Ron Sharpe.
“[Noel’s] ability to still get to the rim, to screen and put some pressure on the rim is huge for us,” Vaughn said. “He has a good IQ of how to screen, how to get out of those situations. I’ll be interested to see if we can get him the ball in the pocket and he can spread it and find shooters. So still trying to figure out where he’s at, just how many minutes he can play.”
Ben Simmons missed an eighth straight game with knee and back woes. His inflammation clearly hasn’t subsided yet.
“A big piece of it is still the strengthening, to make sure that there’s no reoccurrence,” Vaughn said. “And then for a while we had to kind of press pause a little bit in order for the inflammation in the back to kind of settle down a little bit. So last few days, that’s what that’s look like.”
Asked if that inflammation had settled down yet, he said “It’s in the process of settling down.”