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Kyrie Irving won’t play Friday night, but Kenny Atkinson ‘very pleased so far’ with fit

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Brooklyn Nets

It’s no secret around the Nets that the head coach and point guard are very much on the same wave length, that Kenny Atkinson, the point guard whisperer, is crazy about Kyrie Irving.

Although the second team All-NBA 1 won’t play Friday vs. Basquete Franca of Brazil because of his facial fracture, Atkinson was full of praise for Irving’s progress.

“He’s gonna be the quarterback and has picked up the plays, picked up our defensive system kind of seamlessly,” Atkinson said, as reported by Greg Joyce of the Post. “Very pleased so far.”

Atkinson was also pleased by his other charges’ reactions to Irving whose talents the Nets are heavily invested —$141 million over the next four years.

“It’s interesting to see how each player reacts,” Atkinson said. “Yeah, that’s part of this discovery journey we’re on and seeing how they all interact. So far it’s been really good. The fear when you bring in a great player is people are going to defer too much. So, I haven’t seen that. And I think Kyrie’s done a good job of making sure they don’t defer.”

As for Irving’s injury, four small fractures on the left side of his face, Atkinson said the decision to hold him out was more the team’s than the player’s.

“I’d say there’s push more from our side, coaching staff and performance, just being cautious and smart about his buildup,” Atkinson said. Irving has only participated in two practices so far.

No word yet on whether Joe Harris will play, Joyce reports. He’s basically been playing non-stop since Team USA gathered in Las Vegas at the end of July. He played three exhibition games in California and Australia in August before playing another eight in China at the FIBA World Cup last month.

Sean Marks has said the Nets would be careful with Joe Harris’ workload, As for Harris, he says he’s ready for whatever the Nets throw his way.

“I’m doing whatever they tell me to do,” Harris said. “It’s a long season, so if they want me to play 10 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever it is, I’m ready to go regardless.”

The Nets do face a hectic week ahead. Although they are off Thursday, they have the preseason game vs. Basquete Franca Friday night, the Practice in the Park on Saturday, then the grueling 14-hour flight from New York to Shanghai which leaves on Sunday and arrives on Monday. Their first game isn’t until next Thursday, but they have league commitments as well in Shanghai. Expect the league to make a very big deal of Joe Tsai’s ownership once the Nets are in China.

“Round two,” Harris said. “I’ll be the tour guide when we get out there.”