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For the Nets, there'll be a challenge of the bigs

Nets center Jarrett Allen had seven rebounds in

Nets center Jarrett Allen had seven rebounds in only 18 minutes on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, against the Knicks.   Credit: Steven Ryan

The Nets’ opening preseason loss to the Knicks on Wednesday night looked like a case of “same time, next year” when they got pushed around by hulking Knicks center Enes Kanter, who had 22 points and 20 rebounds. Several powerful centers, such as Kanter, Detroit’s Andre Drummond and former Charlotte center Dwight Howard had similar games last season against Nets rookie Jarrett Allen, who focused on adding strength and working on his rebounding during the offseason.

Although Allen grabbed seven rebounds in 18 minutes against the Knicks, he was unsparing in his self-critique following practice Friday. “Kanter is one of the strongest guys in the whole league,” Allen said. “Honestly, he had a 20-20 game. It’s unacceptable on my part. But I still think I showed improvement in some areas about rebounding.”

Allen is measurably much stronger, but he still weighs only 237 pounds, which makes it difficult for him to dislodge players such as Kanter and Drummond, whom he will face when the Nets visit Detroit on Monday night and again in the regular-season opener Oct. 17 in Detroit.

“I’m going to have to learn how to get them off the block,” Allen said of the league’s largest centers. “I’m going to have to adjust to not just rebound, but if I can’t get the rebound, help my team to get the rebound. My next step is in that area.”

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson has emphasized that his players need to rebound collectively, especially against elite centers.

"We need probably two guys to hit a guy like Kanter, maybe three,” Atkinson said. “I think Jarrett can be more aggressive and do a better job. There’s no doubt about it. But I also think there are guys like that in the league that he needs help. When Kanter was out of the game, we rebounded pretty well. When he came back in the game, he was a problem.”

During the offseason, the Nets signed veteran center Ed Davis, who also had seven rebounds against the Knicks, and they acquired power forward Kenneth Faried in a trade. Faried missed the opener with a sprained ankle but returned to practice on a limited basis Friday.

“When a guy is really hurting us like that, we can make an adjustment with Kenneth, or we could flip Jarrett and Ed’s minutes, too,” Atkinson said, suggesting that Allen might get more time against the opposing backups. “We could manipulate those matchups.”

At the same time, Atkinson emphasized Allen definitely will remain the starter because of all the other skills he brings to the table and the way he runs the floor. Atkinson also was enthusiastic about the play of 6-10 second-round pick Rodions Kurucs and said he has a shot to make the playing rotation.

At the offensive end, Atkinson said Kurucs’ ability to slash to the basket reminds him of former players Andrei Kirilenko and Keith Van Horn, and he was impressed with Kurucs’ defensive instincts, too. “He’s a much better athlete than I thought,” Atkinson said. “And that’s not just the first preseason game. That’s what we’ve seen [in practice]. He has a chance to help us.

“He’s definitely not just a stand-in-the-corner shooter. He’s cutting through there, he’s flying through there. I’m making this guy sound like he’s Larry Bird, but yeah, a pleasant surprise so far.”

Notes & quotes: The Nets are holding their second annual free public practice starting at 11 a.m. Saturday at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 2. Nets alums Albert King and Kerry Kittles will be there, and there will be food trucks and photo booths among other activities.

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