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DeMarre Carroll: Everything old is new again

NBA: Brooklyn Nets-Media Day Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

As Nas might say, the Toronto Raptors are Nastradamus, and the Brooklyn Nets are Stillmatic ... or something like that.

At least DeMarre Carroll hopes so.

The 6’8” combo forward acquired from Toronto is looking to rekindle a flame that burned bright while soaring high as an Atlanta Hawk, his Illmatic years, from 2013-15, not the Raptor whose production fell off because of injury.

When Carroll was with the Hawks, Kenny Atkinson was the top assistant under coach Mike Budenholzer and Carroll posted the best two seasons of his career, averaging 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds on 48 percent shooting overall and 38 percent from three, while playing 143 regular season games, all but one, starts.

The past two seasons, which were riddled with injury — and discomfort with the style of play, the seven-year veteran’s production dipped to 9.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game in only 98 appearances.

Although it’s (way too) early, Carroll called reuniting with Atkinson, a seamless transition.

“It’s crazy. It’s like I left for two years and I came back,” he said on Friday’s recovery day. “You know how you come back home and you know where everything’s at? That’s kind of how it felt, man. It’s easy to me. I understand the offense. I understand what Kenny wants. I understand where I get my shots, where I can’t get my shots. Where I can do certain things, where I can’t do certain things. It’s great just to come back to this type of offense.”

Carroll, 31, understands these are the back-end of his prime years as a player. Still, he believes that while things fell off in Toronto, they may quickly be revitalized in Brooklyn.

“I think this can re-establish my career and help me start going back towards the way I was going back in Atlanta,” he said; the trade also brought the Nets a first and a second rounder in the 2018 NBA Draft. “Sometimes different teams have different dynamics. This time, I understand it, I understand the system, but I feel like I could really help these guys and help this team the way I know I can when I’m healthy in this system.”

The familiarity is important, not only to Carroll, but to Coach Atkinson as well. Atkinson spoke with Marks early Friday in regards to managing Carroll’s minutes, and monitoring his health throughout the course of the season, knowing that he’s a key cog in the come-up of the Nets.

Why else? Because Atkinson knows that Carroll is going to play hard every night.

“I know him,” said Atkinson of Carroll. “When the game starts, he’s a gamer, he brings it, he knows exactly what we’re doing with everything we do – there’s no ego there with DeMarre. He’s just kind of ‘I’m going to lead by playing really hard and competing.’ Not ‘I’m going to score 25 points or take all the possessions.’ To me, it’s the best type of leadership because it’s authentic leadership and because he’s leading by example.”

Or as Sean Marks has said of Carroll, he’s played on teams that won 50 or more games in three of the last four years — he didn’t come here to lose.

Leadership has been Carroll’s mantra since arriving, and seemingly everyone else in the organization sees him in that role.

We remember vividly “Markinson’s” September 19 presser when the GM and head coach were asked about veteran leadership. Carroll’s name was the first one to come out of Marks mouth.

Carroll’s goal is to lead by example and action, in a way that gets the most out of his teammates. He mentioned D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin in particular.

“(I’m going to) come in, playing my game and being a three-and-D type of guy to help space the floor for guys like D’Angelo and Jeremy, and hopefully be a captain on the defensive end,” he said. “For me it’s easy, I’m a natural talking guy. A lot of these guys respect me. And I understand how to lead in different aspects in different ways. Sometimes with leading, we have to go out there and show guys.”

As for his health, which included arthroscopic knee surgery in Toronto among other things, Carroll says this is the best he’s felt in two years since he left Atlanta.

“The past two years sometimes I couldn’t even cut backdoor or dive for loose balls,” Carroll said candidly. “In two preseason games I got eight and nine rebounds. That just shows me in my head that I’m right where I needed to be. I’ve just got to maintain it throughout the whole year. We have the best performance staff in the NBA. I think it should be easy.”

If this was music to the ears, it’d be Nas’ Stillmatic intro.