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NETS TRAINING CAMP DAY 1: Kenny Atkinson talks team, NOT trade

The third year head coach talked to the media about his early impressions, growing on defense, adding experience, the Larry Brown comparison and Jimmy Butler, without mentioning names

Brooklyn Nets

What’d you want to get done?

“Just I think first day get everybody on the same page. We had a long film session, just really hammer our defensive principles and the basics of our defense, the big rocks as we like to say, so that was a big emphasis today. At the end of practice, we did some offensive stuff, we scrimmaged a little. Guys always like that.”

Any changes. You going to switch more?

“Yeah, I think in Year 3 I think we can maybe change defenses a little more, and switching is definitely in the realm of those adjustments we can make. I think we have a group that can switch. Obviously the league is trending that way, the percentage of teams switching is more and more. It’s a little bit new for us, because we didn’t do it a lot last year. We liked how we played, we played pretty conservative. But I think it’s something we could see more of this year. We really want to get our basic principles down, and then we’ll build out to our adjustment stuff.”

Dudley said you’re Larry Brown-ish.

“I’ll take it. Listen, Larry Brown’s a Hall of Fame coach. He is in the Hall of Fame, right? If he isn’t he should be. But fellow Long Islander, Long Beach I believe. If I have a quarter of the career he had as a coach I’d be thrilled. So I take that as a compliment.”

Dudley said he doesn’t think you detach, like Doc Rivers playing a round of golf. He pictures you w/ a ham sandwich watching film…

“Well I need to be more like Doc Rivers and play some golf. I think that would help my balance (laughs) I think I’m a young coach, still learning, so I carry it around with me a lot. I think its kind of an improvement area for me, just having more balance. I think Year 3 I’m in a better place in terms of not carrying it around with me 24 hours a day. But these are my kids, right, these 17 guys on the team and then the staff you want to care for. So its hard not to be on all the time.”

What’d you learn Year 2, take into Year 3?

“More comfortable, more confident. I think its Like a player 3 Years into the league; you just feel like you know the league better, you know the job a lot better, you know your players better, you know your staff better, and you can kind of step back a little bit and not micromanage so much. So that’s a good feeling. That’s the confidence level that I have at this stage.”

How big is having holdover players?

“Yeah. Oh man. A day like today goes so much smoother. Way less questions, they know it. I think the guys that’ve been here helped the new guys. They talked to them about what we’ve been doing. I did a little poll after with the new guys, they kinda “Yeah, coach, we understand that,” understand what we’re doing. So that’s a big advantage. It’s a time saver, and I think we can get to our adjustments sooner, more advanced stuff a little sooner than we have in the past.”

What have you seen from new guys?

“Yeah, it’s kinda what we saw in Shabazz, a competitor, definitely a guy that can play both positions, the 2 and the 1. Ed Davis just grabs every rebound in the gym, even in the shooting drills; it’s very evident. Faried, too; his energy level, chasing down balls, running the court. He got two over-the-top rim runs for a dunk and then a layup. These guys have been doing it in the league, and we kind of know their identity but it’s nice to see it in person live.”

You brought in a lot of experience. How do they fit in?

“First of all, I’ll lean on them. Those guys are important for the head coach. You can get feedback from them, feedback on the team, you can get opinions on what we’re doing. So you’ve got a good connection there. And obviously because they’ve been in the league so long they’ll help the other guys on the team and help me. It’s more important than I thought it was, the vet label, and especially vet guys that can play that are in the rotation; they’re valuable members. I think that’ll help us grow, help our young guys a little quicker.”

How will new additions like Ed Davis, Kenneth Faried and Alan Williams help rebounding woes?

“I’d put Treveon Graham into that mix. That was one of the things that revealed itself today. He’s got a big body and will go to the offensive boards. He gives us some girth and strength. That balances out maybe some of our less experienced rebounders, having those guys, I think we’ll have better balance rebounding the ball. But that being said, we can’t expect Ed to change the world. We still have our, you know, we need five guys to rebound. We’re going to emphasize guard rebounding. I think we finished our film session with a rebounding, hit-first mentality. That’s the last phase of defense and it’s a big point of emphasis.”

How will you adapt those three to your system since they aren’t shooters?

“Yeah, we know where to put them in their spacing spots. We have addressed that. We do understand that, and we understand some of those guys aren’t going out there. If they show they can do it – it’s still early, you’ve got to see – but I do think Kenneth can spread the court a little bit with his drives. So you can spread him out in the corners because of his speed, and he can get downhill even if the guy is back or he can run into a pick-and-roll. It’s almost like the spread offense in football. You can kind of space your alignment out and still block and hit and still get to the boards.

Was your message to Davis and Faried just to play their game?

“Yeah, and again, within our system, we’re going to guide them into the right spots and they’re going to find spots that we didn’t know about. It’s only the first day. It’s a learning process where exactly that is, but we have given them guidelines.”

How have guys like Jacque Vaughn and Adam Harrington helped you?

“You just rely on those guys. They know the league; they’ve been in the league. We can talk about the old times, the old days in the NBA. I think the players respect that. There’s a respect factor with the players. They can give them real life experiences. ‘Hey, I remember when I was playing against such-and-such. I remember this game we did this type of defense.’ So just that type of experience, I think players are going to respond to that, and I respond to that as a coach. I definitely ask those guys about their experience of playing in the league.”

How are you handling trade rumors involving Nets when so many guys with big contracts could be moved?

“I focus 100 percent on those 17 guys we have in the gym. I’m just going to put [trade rumors] aside. I’m not paying attention to it. Focus on the work we have to get done here in training camp.”

How hard would it be to sacrifice assets accumulated the past two years?

“I don’t even think of that. I let Sean think of those big-picture things, especially now in training camp when I’m so focused on pick-and-roll shell and regular shell and our offensive script. I do know this: players change in this league, and we’ve had changes in the past. So I know it’s part of the business.”

Do you talk to players who appear in trade rumors?

“No, no, no. I don’t address it. I address the guys that are here and focus on them. That’s always kind of been my mindset.”

Did Rondae Hollis-Jefferson practice?

“Integrated. I’d say he did 40 to 50 percent of the practice.”

And Dzanan Musa?

“No. He’s out there conditioning and watching, but didn’t do any of the breakdowns or drills or scrimmage.”

Hypothetically, would a player who has had problems with teammates at two other places be tough to fit into the Nets culture?

“No, hypotheticals, I don’t want to get into that. I’m really thinking about our group of guys and coaching them. We have a great group of guys here.”

How excited are you by the young core and Caris LeVert?

“Excited and excited to see who breaks through again, who makes another step. I think we have a bunch of candidates for that possibility. That’s the exciting part of this business – those young guys making another step. That’s really my main focus is helping those guys get there because I know that will help us with the team picture.”

Dudley says no one can stop LeVert. What do you think?

“Yeah, he’s gotten stronger. That’s a huge thing, his physical development. He’s understanding when not to force it and when to go. You can see the maturity. There’s more starts and stops, more changing speeds. He’s starting to figure it out.”

How much trust do you have in your assistant coaches?

“We’re a collaborative group. I lean on them a lot. The best time I had as an assistant was when I was with Bud in Atlanta and we had a collaborative group. You were part of it. I knew that was one of the things I wanted to bring here. I’m a piece of it and they’re a piece of it and they have ownership in it. I enjoy it. I think it’s the ‘funnest’ way to coach. I can tell you I’ve changed a ton of my normal steadfast opinions about this game because a staff member says, ‘Hey, look at this.’ Or, ‘Here’s some evidence that we should do it differently.’ That’s the fun part of this business.”