Nets’ Royce O’Neale has successful Utah homecoming

SALT LAKE CITY — The Nets’ game Friday against the Jazz was a homecoming of sorts. Both Royce O’Neale and coach Jacque Vaughn started their playing careers with Utah. O’Neale, who was traded to the Nets this past offseason, even got a tribute video right before pregame introductions.

Then O’Neale went out and scored 13 points as his new team beat his old one, 117-106. O’Neal scored nine quick points in the first quarter as the Nets took a 24-11 lead.

“It’s a great feeling, all the love they showed. I was here for five years, had a lot of great memories here and to feel that welcome back meant a lot,” said O’Neale, who finished with six assists, five rebounds, and a plus-10 for the game.

“Royce has been huge for us, not only on the floor, in the locker room, the consistency that he brings every single day, the joy that he brings to the gym every single day,” Vaughn said before the game. “A guy that I enjoy coaching, enjoy being around, count on. He’s played a lot of minutes for us, different roles, semi-point guard at times, four-man at times. So little bit of everything and appreciate all of it.”

Royce O’Neale, who scored 13 points, shoots over Malik Beasley during the Nets’ 117-106 win over the Jazz.

O’Neale spent his first five NBA seasons with the Jazz, before the Nets acquired him this summer for a first-round pick. Vaughn played his first four years (1997-2001) with Utah, as a teammate of Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton.

Nic Claxton had 20 points, 11 rebounds and was a staggering plus-29. Most noteworthy were his four blocks, giving him at least three in 11 straight games. That ties Shawn Bradley (1996) for the longest stretch in Nets history.

Kyrie Irving’s 48 points, eight 3-pointers, 11 rebounds and four steals all either tied or set season highs.

Vaughn has been reshuffling his rotations, trying to get through three games in four nights and find a hot hand to ride in the absence of Kevin Durant, out after spraining his right MCL.

T.J. Warren was fresh after being limited to just eight minutes the night before at Phoenix, his fewest as a Net. He played 18 minutes off the bench Friday, but scored just five points.

Seth Curry has gotten more playing time lately and came into Friday averaging 15.8 points in eight January games, shooting 52.7 percent overall and 48.9 from 3-point range.

He scored 10 points and shot 2-for-6 from beyond the arc Friday. He had averaged 18.3 points in his previous three games, and logged a season-high 36 minutes Thursday.

The game Sunday at Golden State will mark the first time Seth Curry will face his big brother Stephen Curry since joining the Nets. The two-time MVP was injured for the Nets’ 30-point win over the defending champions in Barclays Center in December, but the teams are in very different places now.

Speaking of the elder Curry, he tops the NBA jersey sales, with Durant fifth and Irving 15th. The Lakers — led by No. 2 seller LeBron James — top the team list, with the Nets eighth.

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