The Nets were undermanned in a couple of those games, but now with the return of Allen Crabbe and Caris LeVert over the last five days, the Nets are pretty much a normal team in turns of injury.
So, the issue now is finding minutes for them and eventually Spencer Dinwiddie as well as those like Rodions Kurucs and Shabazz Napier, even Joe Harris whose play ignited a run that despite their recent woes is still stellar, at 21-10.
There’s also the issue of who’s the lead?
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s starting over, but it’s definitely going to take some adjusting to get used to just playing together again,” Jarrett Allen admitted. “But I think we’re going to mesh well together again.”
That’s the hope as the schedule gets rougher, as Greg Logan pointed out in a couple of tweets.
Here's how tough #Nets schedule is: Of final 25 games, 17 are vs teams in playoff position plus 2 vs non-playoff teams with winning record on road (LAL & SAC). Last 13 vs playoff-position or winning teams. No guarantee of making playoffs. Need to beat 6 losing teams, 2 on road.— Greg Logan (@GregLogan1) February 10, 2019
Only 25 games left for #Nets, but 14 are on road, including two-game trip to Toronto-Cleveland, single games at Charlotte, Miami, Atlanta, then 7 games at OKC, Utah, LAC, Sac, LAL, Port, & Phila and two-game trip to Mil-Indy.— Greg Logan (@GregLogan1) February 10, 2019
In other words, learn how to adjust fast ... or lose the post-season dream.
“These games are big, Allen coming back, too. It’s obviously [key]. We have a lot more perimeter players now, rotation guys, so just figuring [things out],” Kenny Atkinson said.
“These games, obviously first goal is to win them, and the second is to start figuring out what the minutes look like going forward. We just have to get information, see where everybody is. There’s some newness to this. You’ll see lineups that we haven’t seen, so it’ll be interesting.”
It is not going to be easy. It’s great to have the additional talent, in LeVert’s case, all-star level talent, but re-integrating them is going to be a coaching challenge. And as Allen said, LeVert looked good on Friday, but has a way to go before he looks like the pre-injury LeVert.
Atkinson is going to rely on D’Angelo Russell, who keeps adding to his accolades, the latest an incredible statistic. At age 22, DLo is the youngest player to 500 three-points ... in NBA history. He now has 507. In the next few weeks, his buddy Devin Booker, a few months younger, will get to 500 himself and will take over that spot. But still.
Atkinson spoke about the development of Russell the other night. Each player of course has a personality ... or better yet, a perceived personality. LeVert is the good guy; Allen the nerd; Dinwiddie the sly wit. And Russell, he’s been seen as the naughty one who maybe needs some reining in, some —yes— coaching.
“It’s just a natural evolution of a new player, a young player, and it just takes time to trust with every player, I remember Jeff Teague in Atlanta, and the first five months, I didn’t know if I was going to connect with him. It was just very hard,” Atkinson recalled to Brian Lewis. ”Then eventually you break through. D’Angelo, the same thing.
“It was quicker with D’Angelo because he’s a little more open, and Jeff had his thoughts already established. With a younger player, it’s easier. As we started to have some success and he started to have some success, that trust gets better, the relationship gets better. [That’s] great when you have that trust and you have that relationship.
And as everyone on the Nets has said, DLo wanted to be coached, wanted to be made better. His work ethic and maturity belied a reputation he left behind in L.A. He had a bad rep. The reality turned out to be quite different. There were setbacks, but the rewards have been so great.
His selection to the All-Star Game, on top of almost nightly heroics during the Nets run, is his reward, Sean Marks said Friday afternoon.
“It’s a combination of him really capitalizing on the moment when, unfortunately, Caris [LeVert] goes out,” Marks said. “This is a great opportunity for others to step up and the team as a whole has really stepped up.
“They believe they can win games. That’s terrific, that’s contagious. D’Lo is one of those leaders out there. What he’s done, his habits on and off the court have put him in a place now to have the success, and he’s well deserving of it.”
The next few games are, as Atkinson noted, going to be crucial. Training Camp II, without the time. It’s a big challenge and other step along the way for a team that sure seems like it’s on the right track.
- Nets’ next challenge: Finding time for LeVert and Crabbe - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- How Kenny Atkinson developed chemistry with D’Angelo Russell - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Teammates impressed with LeVert in his return - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Nets have to readjust to returning starters - Greg Logan - Newsday