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Nets’ Rodions Kurucs gets star turn early, almost leads comeback win

In a game of stock-up, stock-down, Rodions Kurucs ran away with the headline Wednesday ... He’s a player! And that’s when you consider his breakout came …

  1. Against the New York Knicks
  2. In the first game of preseason
  3. In the fourth quarter in a duel between third units … which they lost!

In the end, the 6’10” Kurucs logged 12 minutes and made every one count. The second-round pick from Latvia --the only healthy Latvian in the building-- led a late Net comeback with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting, 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 assists. He also hit 5-of-6 from the free throw stripe when the game was on the line.

Here’s his highlights... compiled by Free Dawkins.

Kenny Atkinson, the floor is yours …

“I was very pleased with Rodi,” he said the post-game presser. “I loved his energy. He’s a talented guy. He’s got length. I like how he drove it. Showed some good things defensively. In training camp we’ve talked about Caris and other guys but I think he’s been a surprise. He’s a multi-position player, his speed is better than I thought. I was really pleased with how he played.”

Atkinson continued to say that Kurucs is someone he wanted to see right away in preseason. Of course, a rash of injuries to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Alan Williams and Kenneth Faried all “helped.”

“(Kurucs) has earned it,” insisted Atkinson. “He earned it in training camp. Every time he stepped on the floor when we scrimmaged, he’s been impressive. Confirmed tonight that he’s a talented, talented player.

“I think he showed good instincts passing the ball,” he continued. “And again, maybe the thing I liked, he doesn’t have any fear. He’s barreling in there. He’s hitting guys. I just liked how aggressive he was. His overall energy was just a real bright spot. I thought it really helped that third unit.”

D’Angelo Russell saw some of those same qualities in “Rodi.” (His last name is pronounced Ka-RUKES.)

“Same thing, same thing. He’s active, he’s athletic, he plays hard, he knows his role. He knows what he’s capable of. He never steps outside the box. He’s the guy that plays hard and brings that energy,” said Russell.

Kurucs said that, although it’s preseason, the showing meant a lot to him. It was a form of redemption after being hold out by FC Barcelona because they didn’t like his interest in the NBA. When he did play, it was only in short spurts and with the Barca “B” team. All the while also watching his stock fall from the first to second round in one year.

“It was really emotional for me because I didn’t play last year,” he said “It was a really good moment for me. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed every minute.”

How emotional? He tweeted about it early Thursday...

Kurucs also didn’t know how much he would play, even with all the injuries.

“What coach gives me, I’ll take it,” he said. “I’ll use my chance. When he puts me in the game, I’ll use it. I’ll play hard, I’ll play 100 percent and we’ll see what coach Kenny decides.”

Perhaps now, we may have to see more of him. And given what he did Wednesday night, if it continues, he’ll force Atkinson’s hand.

This depth chart could get real interesting …