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Nets' Rodions Kurucs making push for more minutes despite growing pains

Rodions Kurucs #00 of the Brooklyn Nets drives

Rodions Kurucs #00 of the Brooklyn Nets drives to the hoop in the second half against Frank Ntilikina #11 of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

For a guy who had to leave the floor last night with a sprained ankle, Rodions Kurucs was feeling pretty good about himself.

Kurucs tweaked his ankle late in in the Nets’ 132-112 loss to the Indiana Pacers Saturday night. But with three days off until the Nets play at Cleveland, neither he nor Nets coach Kenny Atkinson expected him to miss any time.

A mystery man who was selected in the second round of this summer’s draft with the No. 40 pick, the Latvian forward is pushing for more rotational minutes than anyone ever imagined.

In Indiana, Kurucs scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds in 10 minutes of play. Kurucs, who also scored 11 points in 17 minutes against the Knicks on Friday, is the first Nets rookie not selected in the first round of the draft to score in double figures in two of his first three games since Jamie Waller did it in 1987-88.

“Rodie plays hard,” Atkinson said after the loss. “There was some good and some bad tonight. He does everything. I love his energy. I like that he’s shooting the catch and shoot. He’s a young guy learning.”

Atkinson said that Kurucs, like a lot of young players on the Nets, has to work on taking care of the ball. Kurucs had two turnovers Saturday. The Nets had 20 turnovers in the game and are averaging 20.3 turnovers in their first three games. Only Atlanta, which has turned the ball over an average of 21.5, has been worse at protecting the ball.

“[Kurucs] had a couple of turnovers. I’m like, ‘Can I get that back?’ I think we have some turnovers with them that are kind of unexplainable at times. I think that’s youth. And we’re going to show it to him and talk about them.”

The 6-foot-9 Kurucs is just happy he’s getting an opportunity to play. Kurucs was demoted to Barcelona’s B team last year, mostly because of his plans to play in the NBA. Now, he is thrilled to be doing exactly that on a team that wants to see what he can do.

“It’s the team, the guys, the people around me,” Kurucs said Saturday when asked about his comfort level on the floor. “They just give me that power and energy and I just give it back on the court.”

Notes & quotes: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should be back for Wednesday’s game. Hollis-Jefferson missed the first game of the season with an adductor injury and the last two for the birth of his son.  Atkinson says he also expects Treveon Graham to be back soon from his hamstring injury. The Nets defense has been challenged playing without Hollis-Jefferson, Graham and DeMarre Carroll (ankle surgery). They ought to get a boost with Hollis-Jefferson’s return. Last season, the team was 24-25 when he started, while posting a 4-19 record when he didn’t.

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