Rondae Hollis-Jefferson feels he is in a good spot, in the NBA, in Brooklyn, and at the 4.
With 107 games under his belt, RHJ, aka “the Hyphen,” is the Kenny Atkinson model for position-less basketball. He’s gone from swingman to the undersized power forward where Atkinson really likes the former 2015 first round pick.
Was Atkinson’s move a surprise? A big adjustment?
“I didn’t know what to expect honestly,” said Hollis-Jefferson at last week’s season ending media sessions. “I knew I could give my all but I feel like I’ve learned a lot in terms of my aggressiveness, my approach and everything just because I’m playing guys 20 or 30 pounds more and 3 to 6 inches taller than me. It kind of made me come out with a different approach and I feel like that’ll be my approach for the rest of my career.”
At the same time Atkinson installed Hollis-Jefferson at the 4, he moved the Arizona product into the starting lineup after demoting from the 3 earlier in the season.
The return of Jeremy Lin plus the addition of two athletes, RHJ and Caris LeVert turned what remained of the Nets season around. They went 11-13 the rest of the way and improved their defense. At the same time, Sean Marks added two other athletes, K.J. McDaniels and Archie Goodwin to the bench.
It all fit the Nets’ philosophy. By switching Hollis-Jefferson to the 4, he’s also been able to insinuate RHJ’s positives — the defense, the energy, the athleticism — by having him around the basket more often. It also hid his negatives, like his deep shooting, which is still developing. Atkinson also said he wouldn't be afraid of giving Hollis-Jefferson occasional minutes back at the 3.
Hollis-Jefferson digs it.
“Getting into the starting line-up I feel like is something you’ve got to work on and earn, it’s not just given to anybody…it’s definitely a privilege and an honor to be a starter in the NBA,” he said. “I feel like I’ve worked pretty hard to be there. It was just great to be able to go through that, switching from a 3 to a 4 and guarding those big guys, have that chip on my shoulder when I was out there – that Brooklyn Grit that we always talk about.”
Many believe that RHJ needs to get stronger to play in the post, and well, he doesn’t disagree, (nor does the Nets coaching staff). In fact, one of his plans this off-season is to do just that in anticipation of a full season in the post.
“That’s something I feel like I need to do is get stronger,” said the 6’7, 220-pound (as listed) combo forward. “As far as my leg strength I feel like I need to get better at that. I feel like I’ve held my own pretty well guarding tough guys like (LaMarcus) Aldridge or (Al) Horford or whatever, they’re really good in the post, it’s difficult at times but I feel like I did a good job. I want to get stronger and maintain that strength throughout the season.”
Hollis-Jefferson spent time down low while with the Wildcats in college, although the Pac-12 and the NBA are two separate beasts all together. As far as what exactly is his natural position?
“I feel like you could put me anywhere on the court and I’ll do my job,” he said bluntly.
…And left it at that, before offering an assessment on what the future holds for the Black and White. Hollis-Jefferson kept the optimistic tune that is found throughout the organization, and in effect, us here at Netsdaily (including you, reading this right now).
“It looks like it’s on the rise,” Hollis-Jefferson said, looking ahead (literally and figuratively). “From ownership and the staff all the way down to the managers, the ball-boys, I feel like everyone’s in a good spot. Everyone is working extremely hard just so we could get better at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about. We’re about pushing and motivating each other, and those are the type of people you want to be around.”
A good spot indeed.