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Atkinson wants aggressiveness from backcourt; they respond … kinda

Brooklyn Nets

In the first one month of the season D’Angelo Russell scored at an All-Star rate of 20.9 points per game on 17.1 shot attempts per game.

When he went in for arthroscopic right knee surgery in mid-November, Spencer Dinwiddie was the one who leaped to the Brooklyn Nets offensive forefront ... in their backcourt. After some playful discussion of him as an All-Star, Dinwiddie went to L.A. and won the Skills Competition in an upset.

Now, DLo is back and he and Dinwiddie are trying to make things work. It hasn’t.

Since returning from Los Angeles, Dinwiddie’s scoring is down to 9.3 points per game while his shooting has dipped to 37.5% overall and an atrocious 16.7% from three. Russell, who returned to the starting line-up in Game One post-break, is scoring 15.6 points per game in his current run of eight starts, shooting 41.3% from the field, 38.8 percent from three.

Head coach Kenny Atkinson said on Saturday that he’s been looking for more from the young Nets core.

“They both have to stop deferring and be their aggressive selves,” said Kenny Atkinson of his young —Russell is 22, Dinwiddie 24— backcourt. “Understand that we are playing position-less basketball in a sense. Playing on the perimeter, understand that you can do both [passing and shooting].

“My argument is that they just need more time together. You could throw Caris in that mix too, he’s handling it like he’s – they just have to figure it out. I think figuring that out is just spending more time together. More time on the court together. There’s no reason [it can’t work], they are both good players.”

Both seemed to have registered the message, at least for now, with Russell dropping 26 points behind the strength of going 9-of-17 shooting, 4-of-8 from three and 4-of-5 on free throws on Sunday’s 23-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The total served as Russell’s highest scoring output since November 11, his last game before arthroscopic right knee surgery sidelined him for two months.

Dinwiddie hoisted but 14 shots against the 76ers, the most attempts he’s put forth since February 22, the Nets first game post All-Star Break, but only hit five and finished with 13 points, meeting his season average, which sat at 13.6 before the team returned for the “second-half” of the season.

On Monday, Atkinson reiterated he and the organization need more.

“Listen, I think we’re in a different place than a lot of teams,” Atkinson said. “We’re trying to build something here. Us finishing the season in an upward take, upward kind of move, it’s important to us. So we’re kind of playing our own playoffs . . . Every game for us is huge for our development.”

With some aggression from their ball-handlers, the Nets could get some much needed wins down the stretch to keep them out of the East’s basement for the second straight season, and maybe tinker with that Cleveland Cavaliers draft pick.