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For Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, mentors in a time of need

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Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets have a lot invested in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who despite being 20 years old is viewed as one of the team's top defenders ... which may be more a comment on his teammates' defensive issues than his skills.  Chad Ford thought he was the best defender in the draft, bar none.  Danny Chau of Grantland says RHJ is "most likely the team’s best defensive player and he hasn’t played a single minute yet."

And he admits he wants to go up against the best of the best, telling NetsDaily on Media Day, ""LeBron has the title of being the greatest player in the world," said Hollis-Jefferson. "So I feel like that's a big, big challenge for me -- to be able to guard him and see how I do when I guard him. So I'm looking forward to it."

He also says he's looking forward to guarding Kobe Bryant and James Harden.

He is, not, arrogant. He knows that the NBA is different and he's nowhere near where he needs to be.

"I'm starting off a little slower than expected, just because everything I'm doing is so new. I'm good at adjusting, but now it's more of just, 'How fast do I adjust? How well do I pick things up?' And I'm starting to pick them up." he told Mike Mazzeo.

So, as Mazzeo and Devin Kharpertian report, he's relying on mentors, Dahntay Jones and Joe Johnson, two vets 14 years his senior.

"I told him to come into the situation and be as humble as possible, act like you don't know anything, absorb as much as you can," said Jones. "Don't get too low when you make a mistake. Don't get too high when you have some success. Just keep working and stay at an even keel."

An even more unlikely mentor, Devin Kharpertian writes, is Joe Johnson, the quiet veteran to Hollis-Jefferson's effervescent rookie.  Johnson says he's trying to help RHJ the same way Penny Hardaway helped him in Phoenix.

"Those guys (Hardaway, Shawn Marion, and Stephon Marbury) helped me instead of just letting me find my own way," Johnson told The Brooklyn Game. "Penny kind of took me under his wing. He was showing me little things I can do to improve and get better to last in this league. So I’m just trying to pass that on down to somebody else."

If it all works out, Hollis-Jefferson's transition from college to the NBA may be easier and his game better.