As Matt Brooks notes in his Trending Up, Trending Down story Wednesday morning, this is not the Rodions Kurucs Nets fans had hoped for after his surprising rookie year. After averaging 8.5 points and 3.9 rebounds —and playing thoroughly annoying defense— the 6’10” Latvian is having a hard time.
No one is overreacting ... yet, but Kenny Atkinson believes he knows the cause and is certainly aware of the effect.
“He’s trying to find himself with this new team,” Atkinson told Brian Lewis. “I think that’s a [situation which] last year we could throw him in, run him out there, ‘Hey, you’re playing 25, 30 minutes whether you make a mistake or not.’
“Now I think there’s a different role for him. He’s struggling. But we don’t want to [overreact]. He’s going to play for us. He’s going to help us. Right now he’s just struggling to figure out his role a little bit.”
Kurucs is currently averaging just 2.3 points and 2.7 boards in 11.8 minutes per game, as Lewis notes, his 1.3 turnovers more than he averaged last season in roughly half the playing time. He’s shooting 35.3 percent overall and has gone just 2-for-6 from the free-throw line. He hit rock bottom on Monday when he went scoreless, had two ugly turnovers in seven minutes. The 21-year-old knows what he has to do.
“I mean, that’s what Kenny said to me: You just have to adjust it, and just do everything right. Not turning the ball over, rebounding the ball and play great defense,” Kurucs told The Post. “That’s what is going to keep me on the court and out on the floor.
“So I turned the ball over [Monday] twice; like, that was my mistake. So I just have to do what Kenny wants from me now, because he said, ‘You have a role this year. So you have to stick with your role and do the things that coaches need you to.’ ”
No one is linking Kurucs on court woes with his legal problems. He was arrested on September 3 and charged with domestic abuse of his ex-girlfriend back in June. He has his next court date November 19. His lawyer has denied the charges.
“I don’t think so,” Atkinson told The Post when asked if there was a connection. “It’s not part of the conversation. I think his sanctuary right now is the basketball court. He’s practiced well, he’s engaged with his teammates; I see it. It’s more about the change in role and a young player having to deal with the different role.”
The Nets of course need Kurucs. With Kevin Durant presumably out for the year, the Nets started the season short-handed at the 4. Then Wilson Chandler was suspended for half the season. So far, Taurean Prince has looked even better than expected, but other than him and Kurucs, the Nets are limited to rookie Nicolas Claxton and two-way player Henry Ellenson at power forward. Neither has played yet. The Nets could sign a big as Chandler’s replacement but that’s a stop-gap measure. They need Kurucs to return to form.
- Rodions Kurucs struggling to adapt to his new Nets’ role - Brian Lewis - New York Post