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Kenny Atkinson: ‘Improvement’ is watchword for season

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Asked by Alex Labidou what’s the one word he’d use to sum up the Nets season —and what he expects for the rest of the year, Kenny Atkinson replied, “Improvement.”

“Improvement. Gradual improvement – [it’s] product of the work we’ve done, that we’ve put in over a year and a half since Sean [Marks] and I have been here,” said about the season thus far. “The caveat is we’re not satisfied; we want to keep pushing. We keep saying we have a finger through the ceiling, we’re trying to punch a fist. We haven’t gotten a fist through yet.”

And what he expects over the next 30 games?

“I think it’s the same thing. It’s like what we did last year – we were really good after the All-Star break. Let’s continue to make money before the All-Star break. Teams start to get tired now, they start to get distracted now – All-Star break is coming. Our goal is to remain focused and try to steal some games during this time where teams can get tired or focused -- we don’t have that luxury; we have to be locked in. Our guys, I feel that they are.”

The answers were part of a quick Q and A Labidou conducted with the second year coach.

Individually, Atkinson pointed to several players who have stepped up their games.

“Joe, Spencer…everybody. Caris is getting better, Rondae has made a huge jump. That’s when you get the trust is when those guys feel like [they are improving] when they come into work – that they are going to get better. I always joke with the guys if you didn’t get better today [in practice], I’ll give you a refund.”

Atkinson also gave a shout-out to DeMarre Carroll, who he said could be a model for recruiting not just young players, but mid-career guys.

“He had some injuries in Toronto and it wasn’t perfect for him. He comes here [and gets better] – everyone always talks about development for the young guys – I want this to be a program where a guy comes here at 28 or 32 and is going to improve his game. “

Among other issues Atkinson talked about in the interview is his biggest surprise, the Under-reported story.

“That’s a great question [pauses]. It sounds corny but how well our guys get along. Listen, I’ve been in this league for a while now, 11 years now, just in terms of attitude and all of the things you talk about. Character, we don’t deal with any problems. Maybe a guy has been late once or twice – that’s the biggest problem I’m dealing with…I

“It’s just a great group of guys. It makes it enjoyable coming to work. You’re not dealing with any issues and I know that’s something that not a lot of people like to write about.”