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Nets facing ‘good problems to have’ as they get healthier

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Brooklyn Nets v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

On the scale of controversy, the best one is having too much talent.

That “problem” is one Kenny Atkinson and his Nets are likely to face in the coming weeks as Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert get closer to their return. With the Nets clicking and Spencer Dinwiddie leading them, Brooklyn’s coaching staff will have to find enough minutes. Add the imminent return of Wilson Chandler and things become just a little more complicated.

“It’s a good [situation]. It just adds to our depth and adds to our talent, and I just see it as a good thing,” Atkinson said after Sunday’s win. “Now I’m thinking about what is that going to look like rotation-wise.

“What does that look like with Spencer: Start or come off the bench? So those are good problems. I’m excited — our staff is excited — about making that work.”

Excited and no doubt intrigued about what the rotation will look like, particularly at the point, where Dinwiddie has averaged 23.8 points and 7.6 assists in the 12 games without his two backcourt mates.

He says he’ll do what the team needs, whether that’s staying in the starting lineup or returning to Sixth Man of the Year consideration. Dinwiddie has been philosophical about what’s ahead, where he fits.

“That’s kind of a trick question. I really appreciate the confidence. At the same time, 11 and seven aren’t playing, and 22,” Dinwiddie said, referring to Irving, Kevin Durant and LeVert. “All it’s about is getting wins at the end of the day. Taking the last shot, not taking the last shot, doesn’t matter too much.”

It’s not just that Dinwiddie is on a roll. He is also helping with the development of Jarrett Allen and the new aggressiveness of Joe Harris and Taurean Prince, as Brian Lewis reports Tuesday.

Allen has worked well with DeAndre Jordan, giving the Nets a 1-2 punch at the 5. Both are capable of a double-double and as last week proved, they can do it in the same game.

Allen has now notched a double-double in nine of his past 11 games, including a career high eight in a row. Many of his points have come on offensive boards by following Dinwiddie to the rim on pick-and-rolls.

It’s been getting noticed.

“They drove the ball and they got by our guys,” Denver coach Mike Malone said of the 66-22 advantage the Nets racked up in the paint. “One-on-one containment. Some of it was pick-and-roll. We adjusted our coverage because of their 3-point shooting. That allowed their guards to get downhill and we had little presence at the rim. Like I said, it just seemed like all night long it was easy layup after easy layup.”

Harris and Prince have been the beneficiary of all that open court.

“It’s one of those situations where we were down a couple guys and we need some more offensive production in other areas,” said Harris, who is averaging 17.8 points while shooting 49.2 percent shooting from three in the past nine games, never dropping below 12 in any of them.

“They were really talking about Taurean and I trying to get our volume up from three, being more aggressive, hunting shots, taking some contested ones every once in a while. Just making the defense communicate on us, keeping the defense shifted, making Spencer and some of these other facilitators’ jobs a little easier when guys are playing up and more attached to shooters.”

Then, there’s the improving defense, anchored by the two bigs.

As Newsday’s Laura Albanese notes, both Allen and Jordan are among the league’s best defenders, with Jordan registering a defensive rating of 104.0 and Allen coming in at 104.7. Concerns about how the two bigs would co-exist have evaporated. Jordan after all had started more than 800 straight games going back to 2011 before joining the Nets this summer.

Atkinson attributes their success to their team-oriented personalities, recalling his conversation with Allen prior to the season about sharing the 5 with Jordan.

“It was an easy conversation,” Atkinson said. “Some guys would take that as a slight . . . He just doesn’t come at it that way. He’s so concerned with his individual development, individual improvement, and [he has] just general humility. I think he also [figured], ‘Hey, this is something that could eventually help me and push me and then [if] I don’t take it as a slight, I turn it into a positive.’ That’s just who he is as a person.”

None of the team’s success is making people inside think the Nets are better with Kyrie, Kevin and Caris on the bench. Dinwiddie has said the team’s ultimate success is tied to Irving having an MVP-type season whenever he gets back. Atkinson agrees.

“We want (Irving) back ASAP,So we’re going to do what we have to do right now with the rotation. That being said, I like the chemistry they’re building, the identity they’re building,” Atkinson said of his replacements. “But it doesn’t change the thought process. You want your best players back. That’s Kyrie. Don’t forget about Caris, that’s the next piece. We can’t wait until he gets back. When those guys come back, we’ve talked about this, that’ll be a lot of decisions to make.

“What does that rotation look like when those guys get back? We’re definitely talking about it behind the scenes.”

And no one is talking about KD, other his role as what his coach calls a “savant.”

The Nets of course will face a roster issue later this week, with the return of Wilson Chandler from his PED suspension. Word is that he’s worked as hard as anyone during his 25 games off and both coaches and players are excited about his return. Still, that team camaraderie will have to be disturbed whether a player is waived or traded. So far, though, the Nets have gotten through greater adversity and thrived.