Once everyone is healthy and up to speed, Nets fans can look forward to seeing the second and third overall picks of the 2015 NBA Draft — D’Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor — playing together.
Russell returned to the lineup against the Heat on Friday night at Barclays Center after missing nearly 10 weeks while recovering from a knee injury and subsequent arthroscopic surgery. Okafor, who was acquired in a December trade, has played only limited minutes since then.
Although Russell came off the bench against the Heat, he figures to be back in the starting lineup soon. Okafor, however, remains a work in progress.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson praised him for the way he fit in during a 13-minute stint against San Antonio on Wednesday night, when he had four points, four rebounds and two assists and finished plus-8.
“I thought he had a good game [against the Spurs],” Atkinson said. “He tried to do everything we asked. What I like is that he’s not forcing things. Obviously, he’s not playing 30 minutes a game right now. Guys that play limited minutes can go in there and just kind of be a black hole. I think he’s doing a good job picking his spots. He still has a ways to go with his conditioning, but he’s much, much better.”
Coming up small
The Nets had lost six of seven games before facing the Heat, and Atkinson blamed a decline in offensive production. That’s why he often goes with a small lineup.
“Against the Spurs, we were down 16 and went small and that’s how we got back in the game,” he said. “That has happened a bunch this season. Unfortunately, we get down and then we’ve got to score. Let’s face it. Our offense has dipped. Our defense is getting better, but our offense has really taken a hit. We’ve got to find some shooting. We’ll definitely play some small ball to get some space out there.”