The Nets roster got a little closer to full strength, but they aren’t at full strength yet. And won’t be for a while as players shuttle back and forth between the bench and trainers’ table.
The good news for Brooklyn is that Kenny Atkinson says Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Shabazz Napier will be activated for Wednesday’s game in Cleveland. NetsDaily has learned that contracted two-way Alan Williams should be back as well. None of the three have played thus far.
However, Rodions Kurucs is unlikely to play Wednesday due to his ankle sprain, and Treveon Graham will be “out a while” with a hamstring injury, according to Kenny Atkinson.
The full low down, per coach Atkinson.
“Rondae did the whole practice. He’ll play against Cleveland. Shabazz should be able to play, too. Rodi, sprained ankle, day-to-day. Not as likely. I’m not going to rule him out, but not as likely. Treveon Graham, I think his [hamstring] is a little more serious. So, he’ll be out. I’m not going to give you a timetable, but he’ll be out a while,” he said Monday after practice.
Hollis-Jefferson had been working his way from a hip injury suffered in China three months ago at a charity game hosted by Jeremy Lin. He looked poised to return last week, but was held off due to the birth of his son, Rylen Hollis-Jefferson.
With his return to the court, and possibly the starting line-up, The Hyphen should make an impact on defense immediately, said his coach.
“Defense and rebounding. Especially with Treveon out, who covered us a little there. We obviously missed that defensive presence in Indiana. That’s Rondae, a versatile defender who can rebound,” he said.
“The No. 1 thing about playing good defense is personnel. Not having him hurts your defense, so having him back should be a boost for our defense, because he can guard a lot of different guys, his length, 7-foot-3 wingspan, versatility, can guard five positions, and he’s a good rebounder.”
And on offense …
“We kind of did it last year. We figured it out with him. He’ll play closer to the basket. But again, we’re driving the heck out of the ball and we’re getting to the rim. I think it fits his game. He can play on the perimeter, too, because he can play pick-and-roll. He can roll to the rim. I think he’ll be fine. He’s picked it up great,” said Atkinson.
Hollis-Jefferson also expects a lot of himself upon returning to the line-up.
“I think I can help a lot,” RHJ added. “Just something I kind of want to take initiative in and being the go-to guy defensively ... That’s something I’m going to take pride in.”
“Whatever they need me to do at the end of the day. I feel like I can do anything,” the four-year veteran insisted. “At the end of the day, it’s just about doing whatever they need me to do, and doing that extremely well. I feel great.”
Hollis-Jefferson also has his own observations from the first few games of the season, specifically turnovers.
“Lock in more when you’re making a drive and those passes. Lock in more. Just make the right pass, the right read. It doesn’t always have to be a home run. Simplicity wins,” he said.
“It comes down to mental sometimes. Just making those mental mistakes. I feel like if we stay focused longer, in those stretches and those runs they have – of course they make tough shots, it’s part of basketball – it’s just staying locked in longer, 24 seconds. That’s how long they have the ball for. It’ll benefit us.”
Indeed, since the beginning of last season, the Nets are 3-14 without RHJ, including 1-10 in a stretch from late January through late February.
Napier’s return, although not as anticipated as Hollis-Jefferson’s, will add depth to both guard positions. He has been troubled by a hamstring injury. The Nets signed Napier to a one year, $1.9 million deal with a team option for 2019-20.
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson returns from paternity leave to help bolster defense - Greg Logan - Newsday