Curiosity is getting to the coach. On the last day of practice before the regular-season opener against the Pacers Wednesday night in Indianapolis, Kenny Atkinson was giddy with excitement about his new-look Nets.
Yes, Atkinson is eager to see how the Nets look with a healthy Jeremy Lin for more than the 36 games he played last season. But questions go beyond that following the offseason additions of D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll and Timofey Mozgov.
“I’m excited to have a healthy Jeremy and see what that looks like over 82 games, but I’m also curious and excited to see what this team’s going to look like,” Atkinson said. “That’s the biggest thing.
“The fans are like, ‘Who’s going to be good in this league? Who’s going to surprise?’ That’s really the fun part of this, and throw me in the mix because I’m curious, too. I feel good momentum coming into this second season, but you need a good sample size, 10 or 15 games, to really get a feel.”
Lin said the hamstring that let him down last season is “way stronger,” and he added, “The injury for me is very much in the rearview mirror.”
He takes heart from the fact the Nets went 10-11 in his final 21 starts last season. “I believe we’ve been doing the right thing even when I was hurt,” Lin said. “Sometimes, you just need to see it work. You need to see progress. That’s the inspiration you need.”
That upbeat finish was followed by an offseason of change. The new faces blended well during a 3-1 preseason, but Lin puts little stock in that. What thrills him is the offseason work the Nets put in preparing to get out of the gate quickly.
“We’re not in a position where we can mess around and ease into anything,” Lin said. “So if we can come out of the gates and play well, I think we’ll be able to ride that wave for a long time versus if we come out and we stagger for the first 10 games . . . That’s not a position we want to be in.”
Atkinson wants a team-first style with production coming from all over the court, but the early focus inevitably will be on how Russell meshes with Lin. “I’m very excited,” Russell said. “It has a ‘first day of school’ feeling. In this situation, everybody wants to get out there for real.”
Asked if he and Lin have talked about how best to play together, Russell said there’s no substitute for the real thing. “Talking doesn’t really get you too far,” Russell said. “It can get you to a certain point, but playing together and going through adversity really helps you learn somebody . . . It’s a process. We’re still learning each other.”
That process kicks into high gear Wednesday in Indiana.