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Kenny Atkinson: Wilson Chandler will be thrown in the mix this weekend

Brooklyn Nets All-Access Practice Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

For Wilson Chandler, it’ll be Opening Night in December.

After serving a 25-game suspension for PED use, Chandler will be eligible to return this weekend, Sunday to be specific, and his coach told reporters Tuesday that he’ll be utilized as soon as available.

“He’ll be thrown to the wolves, so to speak,” Kenny Atkinson said. The Nets play the 76ers Sunday in a 6 p.m., then take on the Pelicans in New Orleans on Tuesday.

Chandler has been working out with the team throughout his suspension and was able to practice and play during preseason, although he saw only 11 minutes of action back in October. Still, he knows his teammates, knows the team schemes.

The 12-year veteran has Atkinson’s confidence. He’s known him since Chandler was a second year player for the Knicks in 2008 and Atkinson was an assistant coach. Then, this summer, he okayed his signing. Kristian Winfield quoted the head coach on his relationship with the veteran forward.

“The big advantage is my experience with Wilson, and not only my experience with the Knicks, but I’ve kind of followed him when he was playing on other teams,” Atkinson said. “I watched him closely. So I feel comfortable. I feel really comfortable. He knows the system. It’s just gonna be the physical return, what that looks like.”

And veteran that he is, Chandler knows a number of his teammates, who have universally praised his work ethic since he was suspended at the end of August.

““I’m excited for Will. He’s been practicing and playing well,” said DeAndre Jordan. “Obviously, he’s getting his work in now. The ‘Cardio King’ we call him right now. He brings another veteran leadership guy in here, another big we can throw in there who can play multiple positions, guard multiple positions. He can shoot it from behind the arc, help us in rebounding. He’ll be all-around helping us this year, and we’re excited for him to come back.”

“Just having another quality vet. Wilson has played a long time in this league and been really productive every year that he’s played,” Joe Harris added. “He’s a pro’s pro. He’s just gonna come in and do his job. He’s a low-maintenance type player, but he’s gonna help us out a lot.”

Chandler started last season with the 76ers. In Philly, he played 36 games, starting 32. He averaged 6.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 26 minutes while shooting 39 percent from deep. After being included in the Tobias Harris trade at the trade deadline, Chandler played fewer minutes with Clippers, averaging 4.3/ 3.1/0.7 in 15 minutes.

Now the question is who goes now that Chandler has arrived. The Nets were able to sign a replacement player for Chandler and in mid-November added Iman Shumpert, who’s helped the Nets improve their defense. So who goes? There are a lot of permutations out there, but it seems highly unlikely that Shumpert or David Nwaba will be waived.

In the past few days, Atkinson (who will not make the final decision ... that’s Sean Marks call) has praised the Nets three young bench players: Dzanan Musa, Theo Pinson and even Rodions Kurucs, who’s been assigned to Long Island.

“It’s a combination,” Atkinson responded when asked about what led to his demotion ... Is it a new role, the team’s new players, his arrest for domestic assault? “I think the bar has been raised. I think he’s struggled with his confidence more than anything because of the new role. And that’s what’s great about Long Island. It seems like he’s having fun again.”

Atkinson then said Kurucs out of the rotation.

“I think this stint’s gonna help him,” he said. “I expect him back with us soon.”

So, it would seem the 21-year-old isn’t going anywhere. The Nets have until Sunday to make their decision, but it could come at any time.