Kenny Atkinson really really really loves the idea of the Brooklyn Nets having an D-League affiliate literally right in the neighborhood.
For now, for a year, the Long Island Nets will practice and play in Brooklyn, utilizing their big brother Brooklyn’s facilities as the new look Nassau Coliseum is being renovated in Uniondale, 27 miles to the east.
Atkinson views the L.I. Nets, and the overall D-League landscape, as another opportunity to develop players within the organization, and keep an eye on talent outside of it.
It will be a lot easier to navigate that landscape now than it was when the Nets had its affiliate in Springfield, Mass, 150 miles north.
“We’re going to use the D-League as a tool, we want to use that,” Atkinson said after a calm Nets Sunday practice. “Like to me as a coach it doesn’t have a negative stigma, it has a positive stigma. Anyway we can use it in any scenario, for our young guys, for our guys who have been out and building them up again. I’m a big believer in the D-League, I think it’s a great tool for development.”
He also made it seem like the Nets two youngest players, rookie Isaiah Whitehead and second year player Chris McCullough, may not be sent to the Long Island Nets locker room at HSS Training Center immediately.
“No one is already deemed ‘you’re definitely going to the D-League,’ it’s going to play out during the season,” he continued. “Especially being right here in Brooklyn, especially as close as it is, I think it’s something (general manger) Sean (Marks) and I really really really believe in. We involve our D-League coaches in everything, that’s part of our program, a big part of our program.”
Atkinson said Saturday that Whitehead and McCullough, both of whom have been thrown into the fire at various moments in pre-season, will spend some time in the NBADL this season. That would make sense considering how young they are.
The Nets first round draft pick, Caris LeVert, still rehabbing from foot surgery, is someone who may also spend some time in the D-League based on Atkinson’s comments about player development and rehab.
“When they’re in Long Island at the Coliseum they’re be a step away from us. For their coaches that have been around, they’re in our staff,” Atkinson said (with a laugh) of the Nets’ D-League affiliate coaches. “They’ve been with us every day, were with us in summer league, now they’re in all our meetings from a coaching standpoint.
“We’re going to be synchronized on both levels which I think will help. If Isaiah, or if Chris, or if some goes down there, this makes sense, we’re not sending them to Fort Wayne or Austin.”
The D-League season doesn’t begin for two weeks after the start of the NBA season. It’s assumed three of the Nets training camp invites — Yogi Ferrell, Egidijus Mockevicius and Beau Beech — will be cut and assigned to Long Island. Beyond that, the roster will have to wait until after the D-League Draft on October 30. The Nets have the 14th pick in that draft.