CHARLOTTE, N.C. — More than any other game this season, the Nets’ 143-114 blowout of the Pelicans on Friday night might serve as a template for the future, in the estimation of first-year coach Kenny Atkinson. He liked what he saw from a second unit that scored 73 points, using a mix of fast, defensively skilled young players, including Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Isaiah Whitehead.
“Guys can play multiple positions, get stops with their length and then have speed to the frontcourt,” Atkinson said. “Different guys were bringing it up and running, and it wasn’t always the point guard bringing it up. I like that. I like the image of that and what it could be in the future.”
The chemistry between LeVert, Hollis-Jefferson and Whitehead was apparent. “Yeah, that was an interesting part about last night, seeing those guys play together,” Atkinson said before the Nets faced the Hornets on Saturday night. “Obviously, there’s a connection off the floor. Every time you look, they’re around each other, which is normal — they’re the same age. They really get along. It just felt like they were sharing the responsibility, talking to each other. Good to see.”
Because of an injury that sidelined guard Joe Harris (sprained left ankle) and a decision to rest a healthy Justin Hamilton, the Nets used their 18th starting lineup Saturday night. The experimentation this season serves a purpose in identifying players who best fit the system for the future.
“It’s pretty obvious we’re playing with speed,” Atkinson said. “We’re No. 1 in the league in pace. It takes time to get used to playing that way. It’s hard to run like we’re running, and sometimes hard to ask guys to make quick decisions and share the ball. You’ve got to do it consistently. Our guys are buying into it. Now we have to improve. Hopefully, our minds will catch up with the speed eventually.”