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Atkinson won’t say Okafor won’t play (So he might)

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NBA: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jahlil Okafor’s status has been in so many headlines over the last week or so, not just ours. It’s big news in Philadelphia, too!

Kenny Atkinson offered some further commentary on Okafor in his pre-game comments Wednesday, reiterating previous points that his current level of conditioning did not come as a surprise, and that the Nets are still trying to get him into basketball rhythm.

BUT...

Atkinson also didn’t rule Okafor out tonight, citing that an opportunity could arise for Okafor to make his Barclays Center debut.

“Never say never,” said Atkinson. “Foul trouble, an opportunity to get him in there, that’s definitely possible, but again, I think our goal is to get him to a point where when we throw him out there, he’s in a position to succeed, he’s in a position to help the team.

“I’m not going to tell you ‘no, there’s no way he’s not going to play.’ We’re working to get him up to speed.”

Regarding team fatigue, the Nets seemed tired. Over the last couple of weeks, they made the trip to Mexico, where they stayed for several days, playing two games at 7,410-foot altitude, flew back to Brooklyn and had two games in three nights before traveling to Toronto for a third game in a four-night span.

That’s the game Okafor (and Nik Stauskas’) debuted with the Nets, and it was the team’s worst loss of the season.

“We had to recover a little bit, get our bodies right,” said Atkinson. “We had a good practice yesterday, we watched some film. So we’re trying to get our defense back on track because the last few games we’ve had big time slippage. Hopefully we get it back tonight against a team (the Kings) that played very well against Philly last night.”

Atkinson would also like to play better off the tip, where the Nets have struggled the last few games.

”Our starting five has to do a better job,” he said. “They have to do a better job getting off to good starts. It’s not one person, it’s all five of them, but collectively, we’ve got to play better.”

The coach also wants to see better shot selection from the team, citing that there’s not an enormous amount of contested shots being hoisted up, but there are a few too many.

“We missed some open shots, but I also think our shot selection has not been perfect,” he said. “When I say that I mean, it’s not 20 shots a game, it’s not 15 shots a game, but there are five, six, sometimes seven shots a game that we should be looking for something else, looking for something better. It’s not a high number, but when you’re talking about a 100-possesion game, six or seven, that’s a lot.

“We’ve got to reduce our number of poor shots, I think the guys get the message.”