The Nets always like Isaiah Whitehead and they proved it on Draft Night, buying the Jazz pick at No. 2 for $3 million, then proved it again when he signed, giving him first round money, $5 million over four years, the first two guaranteed.
He’s starting to prove he’s worth it. He scored 14 vs. Denver, then 13 vs. Houston last week, while running the point in Jeremy Lin’s absence. And he’s getting recognition. NBA.com has him ranked No. 8 among this season’s rookies...
The charge from the second round, 42nd overall, to starting point guard has reached all the way to where the Seton Hall product is second among rookies in assists, fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio, tenth in scoring, sixth in minutes, tenth in shooting and even tied for third in blocks at 6-foot-4. He was already among the best first-year players at his position and then came the first six games of December at 46 percent from the field. That is a big part of the campaign material for someone at 39.1 overall.
Whitehead isn’t the only “rookie” on the Nets to get recognition Wednesday. Kenny Atkinson is ranked third among 11 rookie coaches by Yahoo! Sports. Here’s Eric Freeman’s analysis...
I am comfortable calling the Brooklyn Nets the most inspiring 6-17 team in NBA history. The Nets entered this season with no hope — they have a roster of limited players and cast-offs, they have no first-round picks for several years, and they imported middling free agents this summer only because they had to spend the money somewhere. It would have been very easy for them to become the team everyone avoided on League Pass, a club with nothing to recommend to anyone with any interest in the future of the league.
And yet, while the Nets are only a little better than expected and haven’t happened upon a particularly innovative method of rebuilding, Atkinson has them playing as hard as anyone in the league. They come back from big deficits, push playoff teams farther than they have any right to, and simply do not quit. The motivation is unclear — perhaps the individual players just want to maximize their earning potential — but the result is often thrilling to watch.
Against the odds, the Nets have become one of my favorite teams on League Pass. Instead of wallowing in hopelessness, they’ve turned it into a rallying cry.
That’s higher than Tom Thibodeau, higher than Jeff Hornacek, even Luke Walton.