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Kenny Atkinson: Brook Lopez is "absolutely" a "building block" for Brooklyn Nets

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

In an interview with Chris Mannix of NBC Sports Friday, Kenny Atkinson lavished praise on his center, calling him "absolutely" a building block with the Nets going forward ... admitted there are areas, particularly on defense where he could be "a little better."

Mannix noted that "Nets coaches have had a love/hate relationship wih Brook Lopez.  Some guys love him, some guys have wanted to trade him. Is he a building block player for this team?"

Atkinson responded with a lengthy analysis of the Nets 7-footer, saying Lopez is a big part of the Nets and noting that he is a "huge fan. He cited one aspect of his play that he was particularly impressed with.

"Absolutely," Atkinson said. "The first thing I'm really impressed with him --watching him and I'm watching him really closely right now, watching games from the last couple of years -- is how well he passes the ball and that's going to be a big part of our offense, moving the ball.  He obviously can score the ball.  That's been established. He's been established as a pro, but I'm really impressed with the way he passes the ball."

He also pointed to areas where Lopez can improve. 

"And I think there will be areas where we're going to challenge him," Atkinson continued. "Protect the rim a little better, a little better pick-and-roll defense. These are areas where he can get a little better there, a little better here,

"He's already an excellent player. Can we get him to another level.  Can we help him get to another level.  But I'm a huge fan.  I think he plays the game the right way. I think he's smart. It's a fast paced game right now in the NBA, but I look at Andrew Bogut in Golden State. They play pretty fast and he does alright in the offense. So, I think there's a place for Brook in this new NBA."

Mannix also got Atkinson to admit that he was a bit hesitant about taking the job, knowing the Nets draft pick situation.

"Uh, ya know, yes. to be honest, yes," he noted with a laugh. "then i looked at the people who are running the organization."

As he has in other interviews, Atkinson he had long wanted to "partner up" with Sean Marks.