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Could minutes crunch send Rodi Kurucs to Nets bench?

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Andy Martin - USA Today

Rodions vs. Rondae?

That’s probably too simplistic. But when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson finally returns to the lineup Wednesday after missing two months due to an adductor strain, then two games due to the birth of his son, he’s going to get minutes. The Nets have won only three games out of the last 15 games he’s missed, stretching back to the middle of last season.

It would seem that Rodions Kurucs, the Nets’ impressive 20-year-old rookie, will get his minutes cut in the resulting logjam at the 4 (although he has said and has proven he can play other positions.)

In his three games, Kurucs has averaged 8.7 points and four rebounds, shot 47.4 percent and 40 percent from deep. And in the last two, when he got significant minutes, the numbers go up to 11.5 and 5.5, respectively. He did turn an ankle at the end of the Pacers game, but neither he nor Kenny Atkinson think it will be much of an impediment. Atkinson referred to it post-game as a “little sprain.”

Atkinson likes what he’s seen from the 6’10” Latvian, but notes that he is a rookie with all that entails.

“Rodi, he plays hard,” Atkinson said. “There’s some good and some bad. He does everything full-out and we love his energy. I like that he’s shooting the catch-and-shoot. We want him to be open. He took a of couple contested ones [Saturday]. But he’s a young guy, learning. He had a couple of turnovers where you’re like ‘man, can we get that one back?’… But that’s youth.”

How much Hollis-Jefferson will play Wednesday remains a question as well. He hasn’t practiced that much and, at least in the short term, Atkinson likes what he’s seen from Jared Dudley whose veteran presence and experience, he believes, can be a big help.

“We’ll see. I like Jared with that unit,” Atkinson said. “Most of all, Jared Dudley, he moves it, he gets the ball cooking, and we need that with that first group. He’s important for that group right now, so we’ll probably keep it like that for now.”

The other possibility, Kenneth Faried, impressed in his garbage time debut Saturday. He had eight points and two rebounds in seven minutes at game’s end.

No matter what, the emergence of Kurucs has been more than a pleasant surprise. The Nets had seemingly ticketed him for a trip to Uniondale, home of the Long Island Nets, but from his first minutes on the court in preseason, he looked like an NBA player.

He fell in the NBA Draft after F.C. Barcelona decided against playing him last season because of a contract dispute ... and a corporate decision to use only those players who had committed long-term to the Spanish team.

Mike Schmitz of ESPN pointed out the irony of Kurucs getting big minutes in the NBA after getting so few in the Spanish League.

What happens next will be interesting, but what has already happened — getting a 20 year old with first round talent at No. 40 — is the real news.