BROOKLYN, N.Y. — DeMarre Carroll hasn’t sounded like a player that’s been salary-dumped on the league’s worst team. Nope. Rather, he sounds like a veteran leader who has something to prove, especially after two years of lingering injuries.
Carroll told reporters at Media Day that this is the healthiest he’s been in two years and that’s obviously great news for the Nets.
“I can honestly go into training camp saying that I’m 100 percent healthy,” Carroll said. “I feel like in pickup (ball), even the things I’m doing, I’m back to that Hawks era. But I’ve got to go out there and show it and I’ve got to keep that confidence throughout the whole year. But right now, I feel like I’m at the top of my game.
“After the first six games my first season in Toronto, that’s when I got hurt. It was against New Orleans. Since then, I haven’t been healthy. I knew in my mind I wasn’t healthy. Physically, I wasn’t healthy. My wife even knew I wasn’t healthy. Every day, I go home and she’d be like, ‘You ain’t healthy.’ Now, she sees me, and she just wrote me a text before training camp that said, ‘this is the best you’ve looked.’ So, I’m excited.”
Carroll is seen as an anchor to this year’s team -- a veteran leader that will hold players accountable and vice versa. He is one of three players on the current roster who have played under Coach Kenny Atkinson before he joined the Nets. Atkinson will rely on him to keep the young guys in check.
“It’s my personality. It’s who I am,” Carroll said when asked about leadership. “All of these guys know that I welcome them with open arms. I talk to them. I’m one of those locker room guys. I’m not scared to get in your face. I’m not scared to pull you to the side and talk to you. It’s just my personality.”
He’s known to have a great relationship with Atkinson from their days in Atlanta where Carroll and the Hawks grew as a team and finished as the top seed in the East. He attributes his ‘3-and-D’ style of play to Atkinson.
“Kenny was one of those guys who developed me in Atlanta. He turned me into the 3-and-D guy that I am. He made the game simple for me. He made me who I am today. Him, Quin Snyder, and Darvin Ham. Without those three guys, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today. I’m excited to get back in his system and kind of pick his brain and talk to him, not only as a coach, but as a friend. Hopefully, we can help these guys grow and help the guys like Caris LeVert and Rondae grow into the players they need to be.”
The last sentence is key to Brooklyn’s strategy. Carroll is here to play out the next two years, not as a salary dump, but rather a guy who will build young guys up and lead by example. He told reporters that he was impressed last year by many on the Nets squad, but Caris LeVert stood out the most.
“There’s a lot of guys. Just playing them twice a year, it’s hard to see. But Caris, I feel like he’s got a really bright future. He works really, really hard.”
Some see Carroll as a coach on the court. He didn’t dispute that on Monday.
“I’ve talked to Kenny. We’ve got to come up with cool things to point out in film sessions. Guys see they’re striving and it’s fun and it’s exciting. They actually are going to play because they’re playing defense. It makes it fun.”
So, suppose Carroll is healthy, is a solid veteran leader who’s been given a second chance as a contributor, maybe even a starter. Don’t let last year’s numbers fool you. He averaged 8.9 points, grabbed 3.8 rebounds, and shot 34.1 percent from three in 72 games, all of which he started.
In Atlanta, where Atkinson was his assistant coach in a pace and space offense, Carroll averaged 11.8 points on 38 percent shooting from three. He was a leader who brought swagger and toughness to both ends of the court... and off the court as well.
“We’ve got to show the world and show the NBA that we’re not last year’s Brooklyn team. We’re a new era,” Carroll added.