Kenny Atkinson

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Ujiri, Porzingis

There’s no denying that the Nets were in a pickle when Sean Marks took over from Billy King as general manager of the franchise. In the time since, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes, the former Spurs‘ staffer has changed the culture of the franchise by consistently and patiently strategizing ways to improve.

Another transformative figure within the Nets organization is head coach Kenny Atkinson. O’Connor details Atkinson’s hands-on approach and willingness to get in the foxhole with his players.

The results speak for themselves. While the Nets don’t exactly strike fear in their opponents yet, they’ve managed to amass a solid cache of promising young players despite the previous regime having unloaded a bounty of picks in one of the worst trades in sports history.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Ex-Celtics big man and current Heat forward Jordan Mickey gives his former boss the benefit of the doubt regarding his release from the team. Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe tweets that Mickey was surprised about being waived in the summer but that he trusts that Danny Ainge knows what he’s doing.
  • Give Masai Ujiri more credit for his work with the Raptors, Tom Ziller of SB Nation writes. The Raps’ president of basketball operations has turned a fledgling squad into a consistent playoff team and now a potential contender, all without bottoming out.
  • Desperate to build enough strength to avoid injuries, Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis has been working with famous personal trainer Carlon Colker, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. The doctor and former MMA fighter has worked previously with Shaquille O’Neal and, uh, Justin Bieber.

Nets Notes: Culture, Carroll, Okafor

GM Sean Marks was worried that parting ways with locker room favorites Trevor Booker and Sean Kilpatrick would disrupt the Nets‘ chemistry, which is why he took a proactive approach, personally explaining to the team why the move was best for the organization. Coach Kenny Atkinson also sat down with several players to make sure the reason for the transactions was understood, Brian Lewis of the New York Post relays.

“The plan going forward is to always inform these guys of important decisions like that, change of roster,” Atkinson said before adding that he feels the team will accept Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas.

“I think it’ll be a seamless transition,” the coach continued. “They’ll accept these two new guys and the plan for the future is to have a better Nets team going forward. That was the goal. I’m glad we explained it to the players. That’s the type of organization we want, with open communication with the players.”

Here’s more from Brooklyn:

  • DeMarre Carroll, who arrived in Brooklyn during the offseason, explained how the Nets‘ approach impacted his feelings on the transactions, Lewis adds in the same piece. “We were devastated,” Carroll said of losing the two veterans. “They were like one of our brothers, both of them, SK, Sean Kilpatrick and Trevor. But they came to talk to us and try to make us see the bigger picture, see why they did the trade.”
  • Carroll added (in the same piece) that he feels the two former lottery picks will be able to understand the culture and fit right in. “I feel like that’ll be easy, because if you don’t fit in you’ll stick out like a sore thumb in this [culture],” the small forward said.
  • Okafor is motivated to prove himself after two-plus uninspiring seasons in Philadelphia, Zach Braziller of the New York Post passes along. “I have a chip on my shoulder,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

Nets Notes: Point Guards, Harris, Hollis-Jefferson

The Nets are without an exact timetable for D’Angelo Russell‘s recovery from a knee contusion, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes, so they haven’t made any reactionary moves to replace him just yet.

If the 21-year-old, who has been sidelined with the injury since last Saturday, ends up in street clothes long-term, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson may look to bring in reserves.

We’re not there. It’s updates every day, that’s where we are,” Atkinson said. “If it were contrary to that, somebody would be here. So we’re just obviously [expecting not to need that].

In the meantime, Alex Squadron of the New York Post writes, the Nets will turn to Spencer Dinwiddie as their temporary starter. They also have Isaiah Whitehead and Sean Kilpatrick available to step up in Russell’s absence too.

Spencer’s made a jump up. Isaiah has got a year under his belt. And obviously Sean played a lot of minutes [for the Nets] last year,” Atkinson said. “I just think our roster is a lot better equipped this year to deal with guys being out.

There’s more out of Brooklyn tonight:

  • In addition to Spencer Dinwiddie and Isaiah Whitehead, Caris LeVert also saw time at the one in the club’s Tuesday night loss to the Celtics, writes Bryan Fonseca of Nets Daily. “I thought our defense was pretty good,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said of the decision to try their swingman at the point. “Caris handled the ball a fair amount and that worked out OK. We need more of a sample size. We need to feel it out more. I am giving you a little bit of a vague answer, but we’re still trying to figure it out.
  • With a clearly established role, fourth-year guard Joe Harris is stepping up and thriving. As the New York Post’s Alex Squadron writes, Harris has reached double figures seven times this season, shooting 38.5% from beyond the arc.
  • While the Nets have struggled to stay healthy of late – and win games, for that matter – one thing that’s going particularly well is the development of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Alex Squadron of the New York Post writes that the versatile forward has made progress in 2017/18. “It’s great to see,” head coach Kenny Atkinson says. “I have a special place in my heart for Rondae for some reason. We have a good relationship.

New York Notes: Porzingis, Atkinson, Dinwiddie

Kristaps Porzingis says Achilles tendinitis is responsible for a disappointing season, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The second-year big man began having Achilles pain at Christmas, and it has affected him ever since. “I was out there playing at a high level,” he said. “Then the injuries, little things [that] happened got me out of my rhythm. Then it was kind of on and off, some games good, some games not so good. I was trying to find that rhythm for a long time. Then the second part of the season, it was just a big fight for us and mentally tough. I think I grew from this season.’’

Porzingis has missed three straight games with back spasms and may not play again this season. Coach Jeff Hornacek said this week that he plans to be “careful” with how he uses the 21-year-old. If his season is over, Porzingis will finish with 66 games, six fewer than last year, while averaging 18.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per night.

There’s more tonight out of New York:

  • Porzingis should be prepared to inherit Carmelo Anthony‘s role as go-to guy next season, writes Al Iannazzone of Newsday. The Knicks are expected to make a concerted effort to trade Anthony this summer, and Porzingis seems like his logical successor. Iannazzone notes that Anthony and Derrick Rose dominated the ball this season, but both could be gone this summer.
  • First-year coach Kenny Atkinson offered gratitude and a promise to Nets fans after the team concluded its home schedule today, relays Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn picked up its 20th win by rallying to play spoiler against the Bulls. “The crowd’s been outstanding considering we haven’t had a ton of wins and not fighting for a playoff spot,’’ Atkinson said. “The support’s been great. We understand we have to take another step next year, and they should demand that. That’s on us to get better this offseason.”
  • One of the players who helped pin the costly loss on the Bulls was point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who was waived by Chicago in the preseason, notes Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago. Dinwiddie scored Brooklyn’s final seven points of the game as the Nets erased a nine-point fourth quarter deficit. Dinwiddie came to the Bulls in a trade with the Pistons last June, but he was waived in July, then re-signed and was cut again in October. He signed with the Nets in early December.

And-Ones: Goodwin, Lopez, Harrell

Archie Goodwin, whose second 10-day deal with Brooklyn will expire tonight, is on the verge of signing a two-year deal with the Nets. Coach Kenny Atkinson is excited about the opportunity to bring him back, as Brian Lewis of the New York Post relays.

“I think Archie has shown some really good things. Even in [his short stints], it’s like, ‘Man, I want to see more,’” Atkinson said. “Archie, he’s been showing good things. Let’s find a way to get him in.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Brook Lopez, who has long been the subject of trade rumors, is shooting more than ever from behind the arc, SB Nation’s Net Income details. Lopez entered the season with just three made 3-pointers in his career, but Atkinson installed an offense that emphasizes the 3-ball and the center now has a chance to break a record for most long distance swishes by a 7-footer. Lopez has 129 made 3-pointers for the Nets this season and with 23 more made buckets, he’ll break Dirk Nowitzki‘s single season record of 151 made shots.
  • With both Sam Dekker and Ryan Anderson sidelined, the Rockets‘ void at power forward might suggest that Montrezl Harrell will get more of an opportunity to play the four. Coach Mike D’Antoni said that won’t the case, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays. “I like guys who space the floor,” D’Antoni added. Harrell played power forward during Sunday’s win over Phoenix, but he missed all three of his 3-point attempts.
  • Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer explains how the next five games will determine the Sixers‘ chances of getting a top-3 pick. Philadelphia currently owns the fifth spot in our Reverse Standings.

Atlantic Notes: Atkinson, Tucker, Thomas, Knicks

Chris Mannix of The Vertical spoke with Nets coach Kenny Atkinson about the team’s rebuild; a process Atkinson admitted can be overwhelming.

“I look at it like I deserve … like I deserve to start at the bottom. This is how it should be. I shouldn’t be handed some prime job,” Atkinson said. “I really believe that I have to pay my dues, and it’s great. It’s funny the situation we are in, without our picks, we never use that as a crutch. We never talk about the past. We’re talking about getting better in the here and now, and getting better in the future.”

Atkinson certainly has paid his dues; the Nets are currently 11-52, having won just 3 of 34 Eastern Conference games. Atkinson discussed the vision he shares with GM Sean Marks.

“Sean and I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy task,” Atkinson said. “We needed guys that were going to be able to keep pushing through and guys with high character that, despite the won-loss record, they’re going to come in here with a smile on their face and keep working their tails off, and that’s exactly what we’ve gotten from one to 15. We push these guys pretty hard, but everyone wants to be coached, accepts coaching. That attitude, that work ethic, that’s eventually going to pay off.”

More from the Atlantic…

  • Jackie MacMullan of ESPN discussed the Nets’ challenge of “rebuilding from nothing.” MacMullan spoke to Heat president Pat Riley, who was hesitant to criticize former GM Billy King for the infamous Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett blockbuster trade. “I’m a gambler — I might have done the same thing,” Riley said. “At the time, they were trying to build something. They had a new arena, a new owner, and so you go after the best players, and you tell everybody you are going to win. It didn’t work, and now they are paying the price.”
  • Doug Smith of The Star wrote about P.J. Tucker‘s adjustment to Toronto. Tucker, who became an immediate fixture in Dwane Casey‘s rotation, now has a thorough understanding of the team’s “schemes and nuances.” “A lot of stuff was on the fly: just people talking on the court, coaches yelling to me from the sidelines, literally the other team hearing them telling me what I’m doing,” Tucker said. “When you come into a team in the middle of the year that is doing well, you just want to kind of follow along and fall in place.”
  • Isaiah Thomas didn’t mean to throw coach Brad Stevens under the bus by saying “we can’t be experimenting in Game 63,” after a recent loss. Thomas, who met with GM Danny Ainge regarding his remarks, clarified his point of view with Chris Forsberg of ESPN“That’s not me. I just said how I felt at that time,” Thomas said. “I was frustrated, I thought we should have won. I was always taught to speak my mind. But for the most part, I don’t want to be a distraction. My teammates know that. It’s bigger than how I feel, I guess.”
  • There’s plenty of room for the Knicks to improve their draft position down the stretch, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Monday’s victory, Berman notes, dropped the Knicks from being in a tie for the sixth-worst record in the NBA to ninth-worst. Despite the team’s clear incentive to tank, coach Jeff Hornacek isn’t yet on board with throwing in the towel. “Until you’re out of it and doesn’t look good, it would come from management,’’ Hornacek said. “If we’re out of the playoffs, we’ll start doing that. There’s veteran guys here who will never give up until they’re out of it. We’re going to try to still win games.’’

Nets Notes: Lopez, Lin, Dinwiddie, Nicholson, McDaniels

Nets GM Sean Marks spoke to the press about Brooklyn’s trade deadline activity. While the team held onto Brook Lopez and Trevor Booker (each of whom have another year left on their contract), Marks was involved in a few lower-profile transactions.

“We’re very familiar with Andrew [Nicholson]…he’s a system fit for us,” Marks said. “He’s a stellar young man and another guy with high character and that’s exactly we’re trying to do.”

The Nets acquired Nicholson along with a first-round pick and Marcus Thornton (who was subsequently waived) in exchange for Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough. Bogdanovic performed well for the 9-47 Nets, but was a restricted free agent-to-be, and was dealt for an invaluable draft pick. Marks spoke about his team’s position in the upcoming draft.

“Now having two first round picks, it all helps,” Marks said. “It helps give us another vehicle where were can be systematic with the draft and see what happens. We obviously value the draft or we wouldn’t have done it. It’s about being strategic and having two picks now gives us an opportunity to move up with those picks, you can hold them where you are if your players are there at the time.”

More from Brooklyn…

  • One of the reasons Marks held onto Lopez at the deadline was to see how well he played with Jeremy Lin, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Lin has been limited to just 13 games this season due to injury, and hasn’t had an opportunity to be properly assessed by coach Kenny Atkinson. “To have a healthy Jeremy and a healthy Brook out there together with this team, it’ll be nice to evaluate that,” Marks said. “It’s something we started the season off with, and unfortunately, we only got a handful of games under our belt seeing that. We all know what those two bring to the table: They lift everybody else’s play.”
  • Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post profiled Spencer Dinwiddie, a former collegiate star at University of Colorado Boulder. Dinwiddie suffered a torn ACL during his junior year at CU, falling to the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Still just 23 years old, Dinwiddie has averaged more than 20 MPG for the first time in his career with Brooklyn. “He’s steadily getting better,” Atkinson said of Dinwiddie. “He played pretty well before the all-star break, started shooting it better and getting to the rim. We like his defense. He’s been a pleasant surprise, quite honestly.
  • Nicholson and K.J. McDaniels– each acquired at the deadline- are ready to step in right now for the rebuilding Nets. “I feel like it’s a great opportunity for me,” McDaniels told Greg Logan of Newsday“I’ll be able to show Brooklyn what I do, and play both ends of the court and just try to bring energy.” McDaniels’ acquisition was commended by writers across the league. Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post gave the trade an “A” grade, describing the transaction as low-risk, high-reward. “If he doesn’t do anything, the Nets can simply decline his option for next season. If he does something, then it’s found money. For a team with no talent or assets to speak of, it’s a good move to make — and saves them money to boot, as they were below the salary floor.”
  • Dan Favale of Bleacher Report echoed Bontemps’ sentiments, praising Marks for taking a flier on McDaniels. “Getting K.J. McDaniels for absolutely nothing is a great encore to parlaying Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough into Andrew Nicholson and a first-round pick,” Favale wrote. “Although McDaniels is beyond raw, he has the length and lateral gait to be a lockdown defender across all wing positions.”

Atlantic Notes: Jackson, Okafor, Atkinson, Ibaka, Porzingis

Knicks legend Willis Reed had an interesting take on the team’s leadership woes. The Hall of Famer suggested Phil Jackson take the helm as head coach, replacing Jeff Hornacek. 

“Unfortunately for us as Knicks fans, if Phil Jackson had been coaching all year, we would’ve won more games,’’ Reed told Marc Berman of The New York Post. “His toughness and ability to make guys concentrate, that’s what I loved about him as a coach. He got guys to play harder and smarter…He’s got a history with Kobe, Jordan and Shaquille and made them champions.”

Reed was critical of Jackson’s inability to find a suitable head coach during his run as Knicks president, citing Mike Woodson, Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis, and Hornacek as disappointments. Jackson’s most recent season as a head coach came with the Lakers in 2010/11, in which L.A. finished with a 57-25 record.

More from the Atlantic…

  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN discussed Jahlil Okafor in a recent mailbag, calling the Pelicans the best fit for the former #3 overall pick. In the event that Okafor isn’t traded at the deadline, however, Pelton named the Bucks as a potential landing spot over the offseason. Milwaukee big man Greg Monroe may opt out of his contract, making Okafor a logical candidate to slide into his role.
  • Brian Lewis of the New York Post handed out individual grades to the 9-47 Nets. Kenny Atkinson received a B-, as the rookie head coach has done a good job of keeping his players focused despite their gaudy record. GM Sean Marks was given a C+, largely due to his inability to capitalize on Yogi Ferrell‘s potential, and wasting $4MM on Greivis Vasquez.
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr gave props to the Celtics, saying Brad Stevens‘ squad is well-positioned for the future. “Because of the young talent, because of the coach [Brad Stevens] and because of the draft picks that they have coming up. They could end up with the number one pick in the draft, which is remarkable,” Kerr said. “Boston’s in a great place. I have a lot of respect for Brad and Danny [Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations] for what they’ve done and obviously, Isaiah Thomas. They’ve been a great story this year.”
  • According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, the Raptors received assurances that Serge Ibaka would re-sign after the season. Ibaka, who has yet to make his team debut, will be expected to help lift Toronto out of their recent funk- entering the All-Star break having dropped six of their last 10. As Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders points out, if Toronto doesn’t retain Ibaka over the offseason, their cap space can expand to $21.2MM.
  • Kristaps Porzingis has struggled to get on the same page as Derrick Rose, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “We’re still trying to find that connection between us, where we know exactly where the guy’s going to be,’’ Porzingis said. “We have to get a really good feel for each other. That doesn’t happen overnight. We’re still trying to work on that.’’ An anonymous NBA source added fuel to the fire, observing “I don’t think Derrick is helping Porzingis’s growth, with his head down going to the basket, not really looking for him.’’

Atlantic Notes: Pierce, Celtics, Powell, Nets

Long-time Celtics star Paul Pierce expects an emotional scene Sunday when he plays his final regular season game in Boston, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Pierce is finishing his 19-year NBA career as a little-used reserve with the Clippers. He has appeared in just 12 games this season, averaging about 12 minutes per night. But L.A. coach Doc Rivers plans to play him tomorrow to give Boston fans one last chance to salute one of their favorites. “I played under the lights of retired numbers, a lot of legends, man,” Pierce said. “So that right there is pressure in itself when you’re out there trying to hold the franchise down and you see the numbers and then you look up and Bill Russell, [Bob] Cousy, [John] Havlicek and all them are in the stands and you’re trying to live up to the expectations that they put [for] the franchise.”

There’s more tonight from the Atlantic Division:

  • Pierce would consider working for the Celtics after his playing career ends, relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. “That’s a possibility,” Pierce said. “Me and [general manager and president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] stay in contact, so that’s a possibility.”
  • Toronto  should consider giving a larger role to shooting guard Norman Powell, argues Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. The slumping Raptors have lost eight of their last 10 games and are dealing with injuries to DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Patterson. Smith contends that giving Powell some time at small forward would improve the team’s defense and maximize his ability to drive to the basket.
  • A long season of losing is starting to break the Nets‘ spirits, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn sank to an NBA worst 9-41 with Friday’s home loss to the Pacers. “I think it’s just human nature,” said coach Kenny Atkinson. “I think we’re searching, and when you’re searching and it’s not flowing, I think that’s where the hesitation is right now. And I’ve definitely seen that seeped in. So what we’re trying to do is show them our corrections and stuff we can get better at.”

New York Notes: Atkinson, Acy, Rivalry, Lee

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson hinted lineup changes might be coming after Saturday’s loss in Minnesota, according to NetsDaily.com. Atkinson was particularly upset with the team’ defensive effort as the Timberwolves put up 129 points. “We’ve got to find the guys that want to defend and distribute the minutes proportionately, appropriately,” he said. “I think that’s where we are. I think we’ve had a streak here where we’re not defending. That’s not acceptable. That’s not the type of program we’re trying to run.” In recent games, Atkinson has been using a starting lineup of Spencer Dinwiddie, Randy Foye, Trevor Booker, Bojan Bogdanovic and Brook Lopez, with reserves getting plenty of playing time.

There’s more news out of New York:

  • The Nets have to decide by Monday whether to sign forward Quincy Acy for the rest of the season, tweets NetsDaily. Acy, whose second 10-day contract expires tomorrow, has appeared in 10 games for Brooklyn, averaging 7.0 points and 2.7 rebounds.
  • The rivalry with the Knicks that began with so much promise after the Nets moved to Brooklyn in 2012 has fallen apart, writes Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. With the Nets at a league-worst 9-38 and the Knicks sliding out of the playoff race at 21-27, it’s hard to get excited about this week’s matchup, Vaccaro states.
  • Courtney Lee is taking coach Jeff Hornacek’s advice to shoot more, relays Fred Kerber of the New York Post. Lee, who joined the Knicks on a four-year, $50MM contract over the summer, is starting to make an impact after an uneven start in New York. “I’m just trying to be more aggressive and take those shots,” he said. “Coach has shown me film and the shots I’ve passed up, areas where I could be more aggressive.”
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