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Nets rotations will have to wait until players get healthy

NBA: Preseason-New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

In Kenny Atkinson’s two years as head coach, no player has averaged 30 minutes a game. DeMarre Carroll came close last season at 29.9. The Nets also have one of the fastest paces in the NBA. And the organization has put a significant number of players in uniform in both years: 22 overall, including four two-ways last season.

That all adds up to a lot of opportunity for players to show their skills and for Atkinson to mix and match. It also means a lot of experimenting, as Brian Lewis points out Friday. That of course is what preseason is for.

Wednesday’s game against the Knicks was a bit of a mixed bag in that regard. The Nets were missing five veterans, led by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, on one hand, and a player few thought had a shot at the rotation, Rodions Kurucs, looked very good, if in limited minutes.

The Nets should have a wealth of opportunities once everyone gets healthy Sean Marks priority, other than clearing cap space and adding draft picks, was filling out the bench, primarily with bigs. Atkinson said post-game that he hopes to work things out wit the rotation as preseason continues.

“We obviously had a few guys out. That did limit us,” Atkinson said. “First game we were focused on understanding the minutes guys [could] play, so it was tough to mix-and-match … because you had guys that were going to have a set number. That’s on me. We didn’t really have a chance to play Ed [Davis] and Jarrett [Allen] together like I said we might.”

Davis was the only back-up big Wednesday with Hollis-Jefferson, Kenneth Faried and Alan Williams all out. And the combination of Allen and Davis did little to stop Enes Kanter, who had a 20/20 game. As Lewis reported, it’s unclear whether Faried and Williams will be available for Monday’s preseason game at Detroit.

Treveon Graham did play upfront and other than an 0-of-5 performance beyond the arc played well, finishing with 11 points and 9 rebounds. Despite his girth and “Freight Train” nickname, he’s still only 6’5”.

Long-term, of course, things should be better. As Lewis notes, in the second half of the season, they got just 72 minutes off the bench from big men taller than 6’8”, keeping Jahlil Okafor under wraps.

Kanter’s numbers represent a big problem. Also last season, as our Bryan Fonseca pointed out in May, opposing players managed to grab 10 or more boards against the Nets 92 different times during the course of the season. On 40 separate occasions, the Nets allowed opposing bigs to score 20 or more points on their frontline, with 27 going for 20 and at least 10 boards...

There were also five different 40-point games from bigs, beginning with Nikola Vucevic on October 20’s home opener, and ending with 44 (and 17 rebounds) from Anthony Davis on February 11. Not to mention games of 32 and 30 from Dwight Howard, 34 and 10 from Brook Lopez and 32 and 9 from Kristaps Porzingis.

Such numbers will put a crimp in the Nets plans for small ball, with Allen and Kurucs playing the stretch 5. So will not having Hollis-Jefferson who has not practiced fully in four weeks after suffering a strained adductor muscle while warming up for a Jeremy Lin charity contest in China.

Worst of all, from a small ball perspective, the Nets shot a miserable 19.5 percent from three (8-of-41). As Atkinson told the media after the Knicks game...

Our offense has a long way to go. We struggled to execute. [The Knicks] pressured our guards and did a good job of getting into the ball and we struggled executing.”It’s a familiar refrain, and one the Nets have to fix. That’s what preseason is for, after all, ironing out the kinks. But this one is both a reoccurring and worrisome one.”