After missing the first 11 games due to right ankle arthroscopy, it sounds like DeMarre Carroll is ready to make his season debut Friday night in Denver.
Kenny Atkinson hasn’t fully committed to specifically when Carroll will play, but he’s coming as close as he can, using words like “hopeful” and “It’s looking good.” Moreover, Carroll was upgraded to “probable” in Brooklyn’s injury report. So, it sounds like he’s good to go.
“It’s [been] difficult,” Carroll said in an interview with The New York Post. “It’s very difficult those times to know my veteran leadership on the court could help these guys get this win out, but we’re losing by one or two. But these guys have been playing great, and I’m just trying to come in and help improve more, and hopefully I can pick up where I left off last year.”
The Nets can only hope he return to last year’s form. He averaged career-high’s in points (13.5), rebounds (6.6) and assists (2.0), while shooting 37 percent from three. Emphasis on that three part.
Carroll switched from the 3 to the 4 several times last year in effort to help the Nets stretch the floor. Carroll, who’s 6’8”, will enable Brooklyn to play small and have four shooters on the floor at all times. They’ve been starting Jared Dudley at power forward for that reason alone, and Carroll will only add more depth to the situation. (For their careers, Dudley is the better three-point shooter.)
“It’s an open canvas to see where he ends up,” Atkinson said. “[But] it’s so important to have four shooters. … We don’t play two bigs together, although I wish I had a little more gumption to do that sometimes. But that’s our comfort level. Between Jared Dudley, DeMarre, those guys can defend that position in today’s NBA.”
It’s crucial in today’s NBA to have enough players on the floor who can shoot from the perimeter — and also defend the perimeter. Carroll was one of Brooklyn’s best perimeter defenders last year — an area they’ve improved dramatically. Brooklyn is allowing just 9.1 three-pointers per game, good for third in the NBA.
Furthermore, Carroll’s versatility and ability to stretch the floor should help bring opposing bigs out to the perimeter, which would open up the paint for the downhill guards like Caris LeVert, D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie.
“Me and Kenny both feel like it’s something that can help the team, help space the floor, give guys like Caris [LeVert], D’Angelo [Russell], Spencer [Dinwiddie] room to get downhill with the ball, open the lane and let Jarrett Allen do a lot of rolling, catching oops and dunking,” Carroll told Brian Lewis. “It’s to space the floor. … This will help the team, so if that’s what I’ve got to do, that’s what I’ve got to do.’’
You’re a valuable commodity in today’s NBA if you’re 6’8” and have the ability to knock down the three. But all things said, it’s tough on these guys because they often have to cover bigger and stronger players.
But DeMarre will do as he’s instructed and is bound to lead by example with this young core. That veteran leader, player-coach stuff doesn’t go away just because of an injury. It’s going to be on Atkinson to help him find his niche, likely at the 4, but also some minutes at the 3, too.
Just don’t expect him to be rushed back into the starting lineup anytime soon.
“Yeah, definitely ease him. With all the time he’s been out we’ll ease him in, start him low and then build him up,” Atkinson said of Carroll. “Then we’ve got to find his niche, with what lineup does it look better.”