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Nets need Allen Crabbe to step up ... now more than ever

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Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The God-awful timing of Caris LeVert’s dislocated right foot magnifies a lack of production from fellow guard Allen Crabbe, who has struggled more than any Brooklyn Net so far this season.

And it’s not even close.

Through 14 games, Crabbe, who lost his starting spot to Joe Harris before the regular season began in part due to injury, has yet to get re-adjusted to life off the bench, where he played in Portland before being traded to Brooklyn last summer.

By the numbers, it’s pretty bad:

His three point shooting is particularly troubling. He’s shooting 28.2 percent from three (27 of 71). Last year at this point, he was 37.5 percent (30 of 80).

It all casts a harsh spotlight on the $18.5 million Crabbe is making this season, and likely to make next year after picking up his player option. (Why would he not?!?)

He’s optimistic that he’ll turn it around this season. (Editor’s note: He has no other choice.)

It’s only been one game, but it’s obvious the void left by LeVert’s absence is going to be very hard to fill.

It will be a sizeable adjustment period for Brooklyn, who is now 6-9 after 15 games, and is expected to miss CL Smooth for an unknown period of time —“I never talk about timelines,” said Sean Marks. Suffice it to say, the organization has a history of being very, very patient.

In fact, Marks didn’t offer much outside of an update on LeVert’s spirits – which mirror what we’ve heard from Kenny Atkinson, Spencer Dinwiddie and others – and a comment about who needs to step up? All for one … you know the rest.

“This is a collective group. It’s never been about one player,” Marks said, surrounded by an elevated level of media coverage. “We’ve got a group as a whole. You never know. One night, D’Angelo (Russell) steps up. The next night, it’s Spencer, the next night is Caris. We’ve seen that throughout this season and parts of last. I would hate (to say), ‘Now, it’s Allen’s turn to step up, or DeMarre (Carroll)’s turn to step up.’ I think these guys will do it as a group. These guys are a selfless bunch. They’ll want to play together and compete.”

He didn’t mention “Allen.”

Atkinson spoke of a similar sentiment 60 minutes earlier.

“We might have to play small some. It just changes things up,” said the third year head coach. “Guys will get bigger opportunities than we’ve had previously. But ideally, nobody has to be a hero. We just all have to come together as a team and all of us have to do a bit more to cover for Caris’ absence.”

Sure, many will look to Russell to make that jump. Conventional wisdom and the law of averages suggest he should, and probably will.

But he’s actually played relatively well so far – few metrics aside, like field goa percentage – and prior to LeVert’s injury, “Brooklyn’s Backcourt”, had something going.

So in the aftermath, as the dust settles along with the reality of LeVert’s temporary unavailability, the Nets must look to Crabbe. Yes, everyone needs to do more, but Crabbe needs to do the most.

No. 25.7 percent overall and 28.2 percent from three isn’t going to make it when you’re a shooter and making close to $20 million.

Atkinson, who is as loyal as they come, is standing by Crabbe, who has elevated his play on the defensive end and on the boards. It’s what keeps him in the rotation.

“I trust him. I love him as a player,” offered Atkinson Wednesday before the loss to the Miami Heat, where Crabbe had six points in over 25 minutes of play. “I just think, ‘it’s him and it’s up to his coaches to help him.’ We have to find his niche. We haven’t found it yet so. We went looking, doing some different things, looking to play him with different line-ups.”

A reminder: Crabbe’s ankle injury, which sidelined him during the preseason and for the Nets’ season opener, hurt the (still only) 26-year-old establish his rhythm early on.

“Obviously, the injury in preseason kind of slowed him down and he just hasn’t been able to catch that rhythm offensively. Defensively, I’m pleased with the way he’s playing defense. That’s what we keep asking him, ‘Until you find your groove, keep defending. I think he’s done that. That’s why he continues to stay in the line-up. That’s why he continues to have our trust. Hopefully tonight he finds that rhythm,” Atkinson added of Crabbe.

And he isn’t incapable. Notoriously a slow starter, the University of California product averaged 16.8 points per game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 42 percent from three in the last 24 games of 2017-18. That two-month period from February 7 to April 11, included a 34-point showing and a career-high 41 against the Chicago Bulls on April 9, his birthday.

The Nets need that guy in order to survive life after LeVert.