DETROIT — If it’s the NBA regular season, the Nets’ injury list is back in business. Three of last season’s starters — DeMarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — sat out the season opener against the Pistons Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena. Two newcomers — Shabazz Napier and Alan Williams — also were medical casualties, leaving the Nets with a shortened bench numbering 12 bodies, including two rookies and a third rookie on a two-way contract.
It hardly was the ideal situation for facing a Pistons team led by All-Stars Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin and coming off a playoff season under new coach Dwane Casey. “Oklahoma City was without [Russell] Westbrook last night,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson noted. “It’s just how it is. I do think we have a deeper roster this year, and we can cover for those guys. We’ll hold the fort until they can come back.”
Regular starters D’Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen were joined by Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and newcomer Jared Dudley. LeVert likely would have started anyway in place of either Crabbe (ankle) or Carroll (arthroscopic ankle surgery). Atkinson said he remains hopeful Hollis-Jefferson, who is coming back from an adductor strain, will be active for Friday night’s home opener against the Knicks.
Atkinson clarified that Hollis-Jefferson, who has been practicing fully, did not suffer a setback that delayed his return. Carroll practiced on Monday before undergoing surgery on Tuesday; Crabbe and Napier (hamstring) have been practicing on a limited basis, but the Nets’ performance team always errs on the side of caution.
As Atkinson explained, “In Rondae’s case, I don’t think you can go two months out [from the original injury] and, all of a sudden, get into an NBA game. There’s just a logical build-up you need to play an NBA game, and we take that very seriously. The last thing you want is a recurrence. We don’t want anything in Game 10 where something else happens. Make sure he’s right, make sure he’s ready to play. That’s with all of our guys.”
Atkinson acknowledged the long injury list deprived the Nets of some of their veteran leadership. “We’re throwing a bunch of young guys out there,” Atkinson said.
Pistons starting forward Stanley Johnson (sore toe) also sat out.