The Nets are 1-9 in their past 10 games after getting swept by the Bucks in a home-and-home set over the weekend, but in a season devoted to transforming the culture of an organization and building for the future, it’s important to identify signs of progress wherever they appear.
In that respect, forward Anthony Bennett’s first start as a Net in Saturday’s 112-103 loss at Milwaukee qualifies as evidence that the team’s emphasis on development is making headway.
Bennett started in place of Trevor Booker, who was out with an illness, and responded with seven points and a career-high 14 rebounds while finishing minus-1 in the plus/minus column. It was exactly what the doctor ordered without team-leading rebounder Booker, who is likely to return against Washington on Monday night at Barclays Center.
“I was just trying to get every rebound and kind of help my teammates the best way I can, whether it’s setting screens or getting them open shots or rebounding,” Bennett said. “The opportunity was there, and I went out and played.
“I’m just definitely trying to rebound. I’m trying to make a big statement on that. I definitely let a couple of them loose, but I would say 14 is all right.”
Thanks to Bennett’s effort, the Nets equaled the Bucks with 46 rebounds apiece and actually outscored them 17-11 in second-chance points, aided by Bennett’s game-high four offensive boards.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, who recently sat with Bennett to discuss his role, was pleased by the response.
“I told him, ‘You’ve got to show us more,’ ” Atkinson said. “He showed us some real board work, which is one of our weaknesses. That’s great when a guy can work like that. I will give credit to him by going to the D-League and playing 34 minutes and  minutes and getting his rhythm. That’s part of our program and helps our players be ready when they do play with us.”
Considering Bennett was the No. 1 overall pick by Cleveland in the 2013 NBA Draft, the fact that he has played in the D-League this season could be viewed as a negative. Bennett and the Nets, however, view it as the measure of his commitment to improve and carve out a niche with the Nets. In his two appearances, Bennett averaged 18.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals.
“I got my confidence and got a rhythm going down there and playing a lot of minutes,” Bennett said. “It definitely does help a lot . . . Just to go down and play free definitely built my confidence up.”
Describing what Atkinson needed to see from him, Bennett said, “It was just to be more active, toughness on defense and offense, push myself through fatigue, all the little things. We definitely had a great sitdown. Pretty much he was saying it’s toughness.”
Notes & quotes: The Nets pronounced 2016 first-round draft pick Caris LeVert as available to make his NBA debut on Monday night after completing rehab following left foot surgery in March.