Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is the only player from the Billy King era to make it through all the tests and remain with the Brooklyn Nets during the Sean Marks era.
Drafted in 2014 with the 23rd overall pick acquired from Portland, Hollis-Jefferson was proud to be a Brooklyn Net from the day he was drafted.
“Look out Brooklyn, here I come,” he said. “You can’t hide, you can’t run. I’m coming, baby!”
Almost 2.5 seasons later, the Nets have a 56-146 record. The Nets won 20 games during his rookie season and 21 during his sophomore year. Through 38 games this season, the Nets have already won 15 games. Nobody is screaming playoffs or celebrating just yet, but there’s an aura in the air.
An aura that signifies improvement and better days ahead. Through thick and thin, doubts of his fit in the modern NBA and minor injuries, Hollis-Jefferson sees the progression and it’s something he’s glad to be a part of, if not a pioneer for.
“You kind of look back at it -- this being my third year and winning a little bit of games, taking a little while to do that. I feel like we’re really going in the right direction,” Hollis-Jefferson said after Brooklyn’s gutsy 98-97 victory over Minnesota. “You got to give credit to the system. The way our organization is developing and wants us to grow, man it’s a good feeling. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
After grinding out the win over the fourth-seed Timberwolves, Hollis-Jefferson admitted his team probably wouldn’t have pulled out a game like that last season.
“Last year we probably would’ve dropped the ball on that one,” he said. But yeah, it’s just good to see it. It’s good to see how these guys have us come together in times like that.”
RHJ is having the best season of his young career, averaging 15 points and 6.5 rebounds in 36 games thus far. He averaged nine points last season – 5.8 during his injury-plagued rookie season.
The (barely) 23-year-old has become lethal with his midrange game where he’s shooting 52 percent. We’re talking about tightly contested shots. According to NBA.com, Hollis-Jefferson has converted on 42.5 percent of his shots when a defender is within 2-4 feet, categorized as “tight” defense.
Even his 3-point ball has improved from 22 percent to 31 percent this season.
His jumper was/is extremely unorthodox, and it led to several question marks regarding his offensive game. At the time when he was drafted, the Nets saw him as a wing player mostly because of his ability to cover athletic wing players. Instead, under Kenny Atkinson, he became a ‘small ball’ 4 and has thrived in large part due to the improved jumper.
In an interesting and somewhat inspiring way, Hollis-Jefferson has become a leader for this young Nets team.
“People get confused with being a leader by what they say,” Hollis-Jefferson said earlier in the season. “It’s about what you do and your work ethic and how you come in every day.”
That’s how he’s earned his keep around here in Brooklyn with his work ethic and positive mindset. After all, he’s seen a lot in two and a half seasons. Whether it be losses, trade rumors, confidence issues, etc., the tough times have helped him become who he is today: A proud Brooklyn Net. After all, his climb is a good indication of how far the Nets have come from the past regime versus the new.
”When they told me, I thought they were kidding,” Hollis-Jefferson said on Draft Day. “I thought they were joking, and then they said, ‘Take the hat off.’
The rest is history.