On the surface, the emergence of third-year wing Caris LeVert as a force in Nets training camp suggests he might challenge shooting guard Allen Crabbe or small forward DeMarre Carroll for a starting job. But two days before the Nets’ preseason opener against the Knicks on Wednesday at Barclays Center, Kenny Atkinson hinted LeVert might play with Crabbe and Carroll in one of his preferred “small ball” lineups.
Part of the reason is circumstantial. Starting power forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson still is nursing an adductor strain and has been only a partial practice participant. Another factor: Increased veteran depth gives Atkinson the versatility to experiment.
Asked after Monday’s practice if LeVert might start ahead of Carroll, Atkinson said: “What we’re going to do with them, with Caris pushing, playing so well, that’s something we’ve got to figure out. I haven’t decided yet. We’ve been playing DeMarre at the four [power forward]. The great thing about DeMarre is that he doesn’t really care. He gets it.”
Even though he’s coming off a season in which he averaged career highs of 13.5 points and 6.6 rebounds, Carroll said he leaves it to the coaches to determine the starting lineup.
“We’ve got a lot of selfless guys here, so we really don’t pay attention to that,” he said. “We only won 28 games last year. We definitely want to be better than that.”
As for splitting or sharing time with LeVert, Carroll added: “We definitely are going to play a lot of small ball. It’s interchangeable. At the end of the day, we’ve just got to put the guys on the court who are going to help us win.”
Without specifying how far the Nets might go, Carroll said the core young players are showing signs of maturing. At the same time, the addition of veterans such as center Ed Davis, forward Jared Dudley and point guard Shabazz Napier means other seasoned players can share the leadership role with him.
Carroll noted that the Nets lost 26 games last season by eight or fewer points or in overtime. “If you win half of those, the [record] would be better,” he said. “I think we brought in a lot of guys who can help us with that. Those couple of rebounds we missed, maybe Ed Davis can get those. A guy like Shabazz can come in and give us a spark. We definitely got key guys that can come in and help us. We’ve just got to put it all together.”
Notes & quotes: No. 1 draft pick Dzanan Musa went through his first full practice after recovering from an ankle sprain . . . Napier (hamstring) did not practice.