Sometimes Kenny Atkinson forgets just how young his starting frontcourt is.
Nets center Jarrett Allen won’t be old enough to drink legally until April. Forward Rodions Kurucs turned 21 in February. Both have shown a beyond-their-years toughness this season in accepting whatever defensive challenge the team has thrown at them.
“You forget they’re 21,” Atkinson said before the Nets’ 103-75 victory over the Pistons on Monday night at Barclays Center. “[Their role] is so important where I don’t think of them that way. I think of them as major contributors, starting in this league.”
The Nets have a four-game winning streak, and Atkinson believes that both have stepped up their play of late. Allen had 20 points and 12 rebounds in a 114-112 win over the Hawks on Saturday night. Kurucs had 13 points and Allen 11 against Detroit.
“I do think [Allen] had a little lapse before this three-game stretch, winning stretch,’’ Atkinson said before the game. “Whether it was fatigue or I’m not sure what it was, I felt like a little slippage from him. But I thought he was a difference-maker in the Atlanta game. I thought he was outstanding. When he’s like that, when he’s controlling the rim and then finishing like he was finishing at the rim, it’s a huge plus for us.
“Rodi’s a really good story because his hiatus outside the lineup and not playing for a little bit while we’re experimenting and to throw him back in. He’s had some tough — John Collins [in Atlanta on Saturday] and [the Pistons’] Blake Griffin tonight — tough challenges. [Griffin had 26 and 25 points in the first two games against the Nets this season but shot 1-for-10 and scored only 10 on Monday.]
“But like I said the other night, his toughness, his lack of fear, for lack of a better term, I think is much higher than I thought. His toughness is impressive. He’s not afraid of anybody.”