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Nets defense fails them vs. Knicks, but hey, it’s preseason

NBA: Preseason-Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Wins and losses don’t exactly matter in preseason.

An opportunity to witness a brand new team continue to grow in a brand new system with a bunch of brand new pieces however, does. A lot.

The Brooklyn Nets lost to the New York Knicks, 116-98, but we saw what we needed to see, which provides for some interesting takeaways moving forward.

Nets fans were very excited after Game 1 when the Nets moved the ball and got everyone involved, showing a new, and expected, brand of basketball to tip-off preseason. On Saturday night against the Knicks, head coach Kenny Atkinson says we didn’t see the same team offensively.

"We had a lot of new combinations – different guys we’re looking at," Atkinson said after the loss. "We could still do better. It’s a different offense and a different way of playing, we’ve got to get guys used to it but we took a step back from the last game where I thought we really moved it and shared the ball."

As a team, the Nets recorded 12 team assists after dishing out 21 just two days prior.

"We got away from what our advantage is going to be and what's going to make us good and competitive," said Brook Lopez. "We absolutely need to move the ball, share the ball, and trust in each other on both sides of the ball honestly, defensively as well. We need to communicate in general to give us a shot."

However, we did see some noteworthy performances from some Nets who can become key members of the new look roster moving forward.

Former first overall draft pick Anthony Bennett netted 15 points, leading the team, and grabbed five rebounds in 20 minutes of action. After only scoring two points in the first half, he made a concerted effort to get to the line, where he shot 11-of-14, and posted 13 second half points.

"I’m just trying to come in and try to grab every rebound," Bennett said after the game. "Trying to be the bully on the glass – we’ll see how the game progresses."

Joe Harris, who Atkinson called one of training camps biggest sleepers earlier this week, poured in 11 points in 19 minutes, included a 3-of-4 performance beyond the three-point line.

"I think it’s one of those skillsets where my game matches up with the way he (coach Atkinson) wants to play," Harris said post-game. "Obviously the need for guys to shoot the ball, you can never have too many shooters on a team."

Atkinson, who was complimentary on Bennett’s commitment to getting in shape and working on his game earlier this week, spoke glowingly of the two.

"Both of them had really good camps so it’s not a surprise," Atkinson said of Bennett and Harris. "I think most of the credit goes to them, they did a good job tonight."

Rookie guards Isaiah Whitehead, who missed the first game due to a hyperextended knee injury, and Yogi Ferrell, both saw a healthy dose of minutes in today’s game.

In his preseason debut, Whitehead logged 14 minutes, scoring six points and dishing out an assist while playing predominately at point guard, and against Brandon Jennings. Ferrell played 15 minutes and finished with eight points, five of which came from six free throw attempts, but his third quarter defense left a bit to be desired. Atkinson is noticeably giving the rookies their shot to crack the rotation.

"It’s a great baptism by fire for them," Atkinson said. "Isaiah happened to play against Brandon, I told our coaches it’s really good for those young guys. Chris McCullough too, this is high level basketball and I think in the long run it’s going to help those guys get better."

McCullough had a tough night. He had six turnovers to go with seven points (on 2-of-6 shooting) and seven rebounds.

One of the Nets biggest question marks is the power forward spot, who will be starting rotation on opening night and how the rotation will work out. With Luis Scola out, Trevor Booker played 20 minutes and started (again), and seems to be carving out a niche as the team’s heart and soul in the early going. With five points, five rebounds and pesky defense, he certainly grabbed Atkinson’s attention.

"He’s our energy. To me he’s doing to be our defensive leader, he’s going to be our energy guy," Atkinson said of the former Utah Jazz forward. "He’s going to run the floor. His style of play fits us very well."

If that isn’t an endorsement…

In addition to Bennett, Harris and Whitehead, two other young players did well. Sean Kilpatrick, coming off an 0-of-7 start at Barclays, shot 5-of-10 and finished with 13. Yogi Ferrell had eight, but defensively, he had a tough time with Chasson Randle, who like Ferrell is fighting for a job.

As for Lin's absence, Atkinson said it was no big deal.

"We planned it a long time ago," Atkinson said. "Each game, you’ll see a couple of guys resting. We want to see different guys play."

The Nets play the Heat Tuesday in Miami. The game will be televised on NBA TV.