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Nets’ Isaiah Whitehead benefited from time in G League

Nets guard Isaiah Whitehead, left, drives the lane

Nets guard Isaiah Whitehead, left, drives the lane past Nuggets center Mason Plumlee on Nov. 7, 2017, in Denver. Credit: AP / David Zalubowski

It was only five months ago that Isaiah Whitehead served as the Nets’ human Ping-Pong ball.

The official announcements would come, one after the other: “Isaiah Whitehead assigned to Long Island Nets,” followed, almost invariably, by “Isaiah Whitehead recalled from Long Island Nets.” The instability spoke to a few things: One, that the Nets were injury plagued and they believed that Whitehead, who was drafted two years ago, was developed enough to serve a role in the NBA. And two, that they would still very much prefer that he develop some more.

Now, though, with the G League season over and those days long behind them — from December to March, Whitehead stayed put in Long Island — the Nets are reintroducing a somewhat different player than the one who was called into emergency duty earlier this season and all of last year.

“It’s boosted his stock, quite honestly,” coach Kenny Atkinson said of Whitehead’s development. He dropped 52 points in February — good for a Long Island Nets franchise high and a G League season high — and averaged a team-high 22.3 points (he only played in 30 of the 50 regular-season games).

“I do like that we saw him much more off the ball,” Atkinson said. “We’re thinking that’s probably going to translate better. He can still have the ball in his hands and we’re multi-positional and all that, but he’s definitely really good about being off the ball, scoring the ball off the ball and defending off the ball.”

That means a whole lot for Whitehead, who came up as a point guard on a team that could have Jeremy Lin, D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie ahead of him on the depth chart next year. He played the “2” and the “3” with the Long Island Nets this season, and Atkinson said he’d like to see Whitehead do more of the same with the big club — something that will no doubt open up more opportunities.

“I think he’ll still play some ‘1’ but like I said, in our offense, any guy can bring it up,” Atkinson said, adding that Whitehead is “much improved”.

“He’s played really well and I love what we did. We didn’t start yanking him back and forth. He stuck with the G League. He had a routine . . . We’re not like, ‘Oh, it’s the G League.’ We have enough understanding about what that league is about, what Long Island is about, that they’re doing the same stuff we’re doing so we put great value in it.

“He’s going into the season on a real positive upswing.”

New York Sports