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As pundits paint pessimistic picture, Atkinson talks development

It’s that time in the NBA off-season when, absent much news, pundits try to paint a picture of what the season might look like. They’ll do it again when camp opens a month from now and then again when the season starts.

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) came out Tuesday. As the worldwide leader explains, it’s “our predictive metric that rates every team by how many points per game better or worse it is than the average NBA team.” Based on that ESPN extrapolates wins and playoff chances.

In that calculation, the Nets will be -3.3 points worse than the average with a 14 percent chance at the playoffs and a less than one percents chance of making it past the second round.

Moving on to CBS Sports. Their Colin Ward-Henninger is giving odd on the odds, suggesting which teams are likely to do better or worse than what Las Vegas is projecting in terms of wins. Ward-Henninger thinks the Nets are a good bet to win less than 32.5 games. Bet the under, writes Ward-Henninger. Sean Marks has done a good job but not good enough is the line.

There were positive projections as well. Bleacher Report put both Ed Davis and Treveon Graham in their top five of underrated off-season acquisitions.

Kenny Atkinson isn’t getting into the punditry game. He was out in the Hamptons Tuesday to work with kids at the Nets annual basketball camp co-sponsored with DRIBBL.

“Listen, from the first day I was here, I’ve never been a predictor, or gave win totals. I think we will make another positive step forward,” Atkinson said Tuesday morning at the Southampton Town Recreation Center.

“Positive step forward” was just one of the buzzwords Atkinson used to describe the upcoming season. Some others were “development curve,” “another step,” “can’t skip steps” and “building that foundation.”

That’s not to say he’s pessimistic like the pundits. He’s happy with the off-season moves that saw his GM turnover half the roster and add four draft picks, including a first rounder.

“I think for one thing, we have a nice mixture of veterans and youth,” Atkinson said, noting the addition of Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier, Kenneth Faried to the bench. “They are all guys with high basketball IQs, guys who’ve all had success in this league ... I think it’s huge to have veteran guys that know the tricks of the trade.”

But he is not going to raise false expectations either.

“To all of a sudden be at the mountaintop and be screaming ‘championship contention,’ I think that would be pretentious. I would say we just have to keep building with our building blocks.”

The head coach did talk about the big improvement the Nets want to take this season, one that could bust them out of mediocrity, finishing games stronger. As Brian Lewis explains, the Nets were the second worst team in the league in “clutch moments.” He writes, “In clutch moments (up or down five in the last five minutes) the Nets had the second-worst margin (minus-47), and lost the second-most close games (31) in the league.”

Atkinson thinks that can be improved with the addition of veterans and just experience.

“The hope is to be more consistent. As a coach you look at the whole game: What we did in the first quarter, coming out of the half. … And yes, do better in the last five minutes.”

Atkinson spoke as well about the loss of Jeremy Lin, his protege’.

“Jeremy said to me, ‘I feel bad I wasn’t healthy for you guys.’ He told Sean the same thing. That’s the kind of guy he was. He wasn’t bitter, he was frustrated we never got to see him over a stretch of time. Above all he was frustrated, as the organization was frustrated we didn’t have him on the court. I believe in the player to the utmost. … It’s frustrating and sad he had bad luck during his time with us.”

Moving on.