In his first pre-game address of the season … okay preseason Kenny Atkinson had plenty to say, since there was plenty ask.
After announcing the debut starting line-up of D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, Caris LeVert, DeMarre Carroll and Jarrett Allen, Atkinson quickly said Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will return to start at the 4 upon his return from injury.
“When Rondae’s back fully, I expect Rondae to be in that position and we’ll figure out the wings after,” said Atkinson.“We’ll see DeMarre at the four and see how we play. We’ll be okay with that line-up it’s just, ‘Are we going to be able to get stops?’ That’s the question, and rebound out of that line-up. It’ll be a good chance to look at it.”
Shabazz Napier will not play against the Knicks due to a right hamstring strain, but Atkinson previewed what he can bring upon his return, as well as Ed Davis, who is active and expected to play a significant role backing up The Fro.
“I think Ed Davis obviously gives us some rebounding we need,” Atkinson said. “I think Faried gives us rebounding, so that definitely fills a need. Shabazz – we struggled to turn teams over last year, we were 30th in the league at turning teams over – he’s a guy who puts pressure on the ball and causes havoc out there with his defense. Obviously he gives us the offensive side where he could be a spark plug off the bench. I definitely think our new guys will help in those areas of improvement.”
Add Kenneth Faried into that mix as well …
“It’s an open competition. We’ve got a lot of big guys. You’ve got to compete for minutes. Nothing set in stone right now. Kenneth has showed some real positive signs in training camp. I think these preseason games will give us a little bit more information on our big situation,” he said.
Caris LeVert only started 10 games last year, but has been the talk of the organization and media over the last 9 days. Regarding his start, Atkinson says, ‘He keeps getting better.’
“All offseason and even training camp practices there were signs that he’s made a bit of a jump; but to be confirmed,” he added. “He’s got to do it during the regular-season, obviously. I think No. 1 he’s made a big improvement physically; he’s gotten a lot stronger. I think his movement patterns are better; he has better balance. I think he’s really kind of understanding the pace of play, changing speeds.
“His first couple years he was always on fast-forward. Now he’s just mixing it up a lot more. I want to see improvement from him defensively. He’s going to have to be a stopper for us. He’s got the ability; he’s a great competitor on the defensive side. We’re looking for big things from him.”
And without Napier, Atkinson says we should expect to see Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell on the floor together.
“I think we’re going to play with a lot of different lineups. Obviously first game, guys aren’t playing huge huge minutes. So it might be a little difficult. But we’re going to look at everything; we’re going to look at small lineups, we’re going to look at big lineups, two-point guard lineups. That’s part of the reason why we have preseason. So you can expect to see some of it,” he said.