The game was long lost for the Nets on Sunday night at Barclays Center, but when Philadelphia scored off an offensive rebound to inflate its lead to 26 points with 4:07 left, Kenny Atkinson didn’t let it go. He called for time and yelled at the player who lost track of his man and didn’t box out.
“You know how it is when you get yelled at,” Caris Le Vert said Monday at the HSS Training Center. “It’s kind of like a little shocking to you. But I have a great deal of respect for Coach Kenny. I feel like he views me the same way . . . We both want to win games, and I want to be the best player I can be . . .
“I wasn’t playing hard. I missed the box-out. So it was very deserving.”
The impressive backup point guard usually gets an “A” for effort. But Atkinson used that one play in the 120-97 loss to deliver a message during the timeout: Keep competing no matter what.
It could come in handy for a 21-46 team that will host Eastern Conference-leading Toronto on Tuesday night and is in the waning weeks of another rebuilding season.
“I think there was a message to the whole team,” Atkinson said. “ . . . Believe me, a lot of guys made mistakes during that game. It was the circumstance. The message was like, ‘It doesn’t matter, guys, if we’re down 30 or up 30, we still have to lock into what we do.’ He just caught it. It was a bad time.
“Now, he’s maybe one of our hardest-playing dudes. In one sense, it’s a little unfair because it was him. But on the other hand, I felt like I had to send a message that that was unacceptable. I think it’s important to send for our culture. We’ve been really good that way.”
Teams such as Philadelphia and Toronto, which has won eight straight, are focused on their playoff seeding. But in Atkinson’s eyes, the Nets also have something to play for in these last 15 games.
“Listen, I think we’re in a different place than a lot of teams,” Atkinson said. “We’re trying to build something here. Us finishing the season in an upward take, upward kind of move, it’s important to us. So we’re kind of playing our own playoffs . . . Every game for us is huge for our development.”
Notes & quotes: Jahlil Okafor played 5:48 in his first game action since Feb. 12. He finished with four points, one rebound and “a couple of stitches in his tongue” after a fourth-quarter collision, according to Atkinson. “Got a good knock,” Atkinson said, “but I thought he was good in the minutes he played.”