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China fatigue still draining Nets as players try to adjust

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Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

It was evident from the first minute Friday night at Barclays. The Nets didn’t have it. And Kenny Atkinson thinks it may be that the aren’t over their stressful China trip.

“When we came back there was special protocol,” Atkinson said at practice last week. “It wasn’t like we were coming back from Philly or something. We had a plan in place, put together by our performance team obviously, and we adhere to it. I think we knew this when we first added the trip that was going to be important, how we treated this week.”

And for two Nets, Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie, the trip to Shanghai and Shenzhen was their second a little more than a month.

Brian Lewis got some information on the protocol...

The Nets performance team mapped out nearly every portion of the trip with ideas of how to combat jet lag and the team’s possible exhaustion. There was an on-the-plane plan, a when-they-landed plan, as well as a coming-back plan. While on the plane, there was a strict schedule of when the lights were allowed to be on and when they were supposed to be off.

And despite all that, there is a real danger things could start slowly in Brooklyn. Lewis has pointed out, teams on the China trip start slowly. As an example, he noted what last year’s teams did.

Historically, some NBA teams who compete in China during the preseason struggle upon return and start slowly. Last year, the Mavericks started 3-7 — including a six-game losing streak — after playing the Sixers, who lost three of their first five regular-season games, in China.

Other than fatigue , the Nets other big project, of course, is integrating Kyrie Irving into the lineup. Irving didn’t play in the first game, played a minute in second game and didn’t play in the third. He did look good on Friday, scoring 19 points, four assists, three rebounds while shooting 2-of-5 from deep.

“First, it’s him getting comfortable not playing with the mask, getting his wind and the third one is getting the chemistry,” Atkinson said after Sunday’s practice.

“We’re going to have to do it a little bit on the fly now. We scrimmaged more today than we would on a normal day just to get him more reps with the other guys.”

That re-integration on defense too. As Greg Logan notes, Atkinson played his three guards together for a bit on Friday, seeing how his closing unit would do. Not so good. Toronto ended their 46-point second quarter on a 16-5 run against that group.

“You want your best players on the floor, and those guys are in our best five,” Atkinson said. “Finding a way to keep them on the floor, we’re going to have to look at the game and how it’s going and the matchups a little bit, but we need to keep looking at it.”

Indeed, Dinwiddie blamed their struggles on a lack of practice together. “We’re going to adjust as it goes,” Dinwiddie said. “It’s going to be something that continues to evolve . . . I don’t really even play with Caris much. My job is just to help try to assimilate as easily and effectively and quickly as possible. We’ll get better. We’re all really talented.”