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Kenny Atkinson: “We’re going to have to look under every rock" for talent

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Kenny Atkinson went through the rite of passage for every new Nets hire -- an interview with Joe and Evan on WFAN ... as well an appointment with Woj on The Vertical.

Although the FAN interview took place before the NBA Draft Lottery, the talk was about how to get around the team's lack of draft picks. In the Woj podcast, which took place after the Nets press conference, the emphasis was on how he prepared for the job --on the playgrounds of New York and the courts of Europe's national leagues.

As Sean Marks has said in past, the Nets new coach told Joe and Evan the draft was just one way to get things done.

"We’re going to have to look under every rock, and that’s a great thing about the NBA today. I think there’s a lot of different ways to acquire players — D-League, international, free agency," he said. "So I’m excited. I think we can get it done, and I’m ready to get to work," Atkinson told long-suffering Nets fan Evan Roberts.

"I think we have to focus on our future and think of the different ways we can get players here. We’re not focused on that. Past is the past, and we’re trying to be really creative."

Atkinson didn't detail those "really creative" measures, but he continued to echo what he and Marks have talked about since Day One of the rebuild: patience, culture and development, declining again to discuss wins and losses.

"I think we can build something. It’s not going to happen overnight. I want to see steady improvement on a daily basis. I think we can find some players for the way we want to play."

"The first thing we have to sell is the change in culture. They have to feel that. A bunch of our players yesterday were saying, ‘we want to be a part of this.’ We have to put it into action now."

He also reiterated what he and Marks have said about the team's core players.

"Brook is an excellent starting center in this league and Thaddeus’ resume speaks for itself. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, man there’s your draft pick. He’s an athletic guy and can defend the position. Why can’t he be a darn-good starting three-man in this league?"

The native New Yorker added something else in discussing Brooklyn's positives, the team's "infrastructure," starting with the Barclays Center ... and the fanbase.

"You have a great facility, the Barclays Center, which I was blown away the first time I went there. Great arena, a great, diverse fan base. I think things can change quickly in the NBA, and we’re optimistic that we can do it," he said.

"I was blown away by the infrastructure here, a D-League team 45 minutes away. That’s the way this league is going. Listen, I’m from New York and grew up on Long Island. For me, this is a high-priority job if I ever had the chance to compete for it.

"At the end of the day, it’s New York. It’s a great market and there’s tons of potential here."

With Woj, a lot of the interview was about his partnership with Marks and how rare it can be in the NBA.

"Sean and I are like distant cousins," he joked, citing the remote connection between him and the Spurs "tree" through Mike Budenholzer.  "There's a great collaboration between GM and coach" in San Antonio.

"I'm happy there's a partnership, that I'm going to have a voice," Atkinson told Woj.  "Not outside the room. I'm at the table, at the right hand of Sean. He wants to know my opinions of players ...  What about this guy in the Euroleague."

On international recruiting, Atkinson emphasized the wealth of players overseas, citing the Hawks pick-up of Pero Antic two years ago, noting he was 32 when he came to Atlanta and became a rotation player.  "It's something we're pursuing, actively pursuing," said Atkinson of overseas recruiting, adding that "We have to be a little lucky, too."

When Woj noted that Atkinson is the first player development coach --something relatively new in the NBA -- to become a head coach, the Nets coach noted how much of an advantage that can be in recruiting players just below the top level, how agents want to see their clients get better.

"That's the wind of change around here ... development," he said, naming two players -- Hollis-Jefferson and Markel Brown -- who could benefit from an emphasis on development.  Brown is a free agent, but spends most of his days on the Nets practice courts.

As for the team identity, Atkinson more than once brought up "the grind of New York" as a model, how the best in the city get through it and fuel their careers with it.  He also said he and his wife have bought in Brooklyn and are already living there.

Bottom line: "Words are cheap. We have to put it into action now," he said. "This is a very small niche, a small league, and word gets around if you’re doing the right things and you’re putting the right culture in place."