On Monday, the Nets will practice for the first time this preseason at HSS Training Center. They’re back from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where Kenny Atkinson said the team did well.
“Pleased with camp, I was pleased with the scrimmage today,” Atkinson told beat writers. “A lot of guys competed, we mixed lineups a lot, looked at different things. Just overall good feeling coming out of camp.”
One thing Atkinson and the front office like after a week of intense practices is the team’s depth, particularly in the backcourt and along the wings. That was not the case last season, particularly after Jeremy Lin and Greivis Vasquez went down and the Nets were forced to use rookies, Isaiah Whitehead and Yogi Ferrell, in key roles.
“With Jeremy, D’Angelo and Caris, you’ve got multiple guys,” Atkinson said. “Spencer can play pick-and-roll. That vision of versatility and different guys handling it is pretty good. I thought DeMarre was good today, too. He’s solid as a rock. There’s little stuff you can do in this offense that he knows, and just talking to the guys and helping them out is huge.”
Caris LeVert, Atkinson added, is going to make things difficult when he writes out that first starting lineup.
“Caris is going to make it hard on everybody,” Atkinson told the writers. “He’s going to make it hard on me. He’s going to make it hard against guys competing. That being said, I know where he is in his career and the type of guy he is. He’s going to accept whatever role it is. ‘If you want me to be the 10th man and be a defensive stopper, if you want me to be the sixth man …’ ”
LeVert gets that he has to make a difference not just in the coach’s mind as he tries to figure out a starting five when he’s on the court no matter when he’s inserted.
“Just going through a full year of the NBA teaches you a lot of different things,” LeVert said. “I try to learn from every little thing I went through last year, good and bad. And Summer League as well, I can learn from that and bring everything I’ve learned into this training camp and this season.”
LeVert said he and the others are feeding off what Atkinson calls “competitive development.”
“With Jeremy [Lin] and D’Angelo [Russell], Caris … that vision of versatility and different guys handling it is pretty good,” said the coach.
“That’s only going to make us better individually and as a team as well,” LeVert agreed. “When you’ve got guys like Allen, DeMarre, myself, D’Angelo, Jeremy, all of us aren’t going to start. When you’ve got guys like that coming off the bench, we’re that much more dangerous.”
Atkinson saw elements of that in the team’s final Annapolis scrimmage. with LeVert showing not just his pick-and-roll skills and shooting acumen, but his passing and newfound strength as well.
The Nets open preseason Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden vs. the Knicks. No word yet if Crabbe who suffered a sprained ankle will play. But he’s out of a walking boot and shooting around.
- Caris LeVert used first real offseason to get seriously fit - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Kenny Atkinson, Nets players excited by competitive scrimmage - Greg Logan - Newsday