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Kenny Atkinson: Despite controversy, Nets China trip good for team ... long term

BASKET-NBA-CHN Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

The Nets and their coach are still a bit shell-shocked from last week’s trip to Shanghai and Shenzhen, two games marked by an international incident that started with a tweet by Rockets GM Daryl Morey and included a controversial message to fans by Joe Tsai and a refusal by CCTV-5, China’s ESPN, to show the games.

Not to mention mental and physical strain brought on by the controversy and 15-hour plane rides.

Still, at the end of the day, Kenny Atkinson and those players who’ve made themselves available to the media think the bonding under pressure could turn out to be a positive in the long run. But short term, there likely will be an effect.

“Yes, long term and the big picture, if we get to April and further down the line, it’ll help us,” said Atkinson, asked about the trip’s effect on bonding. “I saw it in [Wednesday’s] scrimmage there’s going to be a physical and mental hit; I understand that.

“But we put the protocol in place to help alleviate that. … This week’s practice was extremely light. That was a study done by our performance team and how we’re recovering.”

“It was eventful. There was a lot of stuff going on that we were not prepared for. But us as a pretty smart team, we dealt with it; and a mature team, we dealt with it the way we were supposed to,” said DeAndre Jordan who’s becoming a vocal leader on and off the court. “Nobody stepped out of their role. We talked about it and we had discussions about it, but it wasn’t anything.”

“I feel like as a team we got a lot closer,” added Caris LeVert. “Obviously I don’t want to talk about the other stuff that went on there, but as a team it was a very successful trip for us.”

Kevin Durant (who wasn’t on the trip) and Kyrie Irving (who was) haven’t talked about the ramifications of the controversy. Both have long-term stakes in China. Spencer Dinwiddie, who also has endorsements and a sneaker deal in China, said he doesn’t expect much effect on his business.

“[That] doesn’t have much of a bearing on what was going on,” Dinwiddie said of his sneaker business. “That was completely outside Spencer. So, I mean, they still sell my shoes, so I don’t have any problems.”

Atkinson did point out that he’ll ease Irving back into the mix slowly. Irving has played exactly one minute this preseason, his time on court affected by a facial fracture sustained in a scrimmage back on September 24.

“This is a game we want to prepare for like a regular-season game,” Atkinson said. “I don’t think he’ll be there at the minutes I expect in the regular season — that’s obvious with him being out a little bit — he’ll still play good minutes, but not regular-season minutes.”

Jordan quipped that one problem was Irving’s mask. The mask wasn’t ready just before the start of the Shanghai game and he was still adjusting to it at tipoff. Then his fact collided with Rajon Rondo’s arm. “That just means the mask was pretty sh-tty.”