The Nets find themselves in a promising spot this weekend.
Reserves Joe Harris, Caris Le Vert and Spencer Dinwiddie needed to play enhanced roles because of injuries and thrived as the team won two of three on the just-concluded road trip. And now the Nets expect to get back starters Allen Crabbe and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for a pair of games against the four-win Hawks. They will play at Barclays Center on Saturday and in Atlanta on Monday.
Crabbe has missed three straight games with a sore back. Hollis-Jefferson hasn’t played since he was forced from the win in Memphis on Sunday with an ankle sprain. Coach Kenny Atkinson said both practiced Friday and “looked good.”
He added that they might play fewer minutes than usual — and possibly not even start — in the first games back.
“We all have more confidence in the guys who played while [other] guys were out and this just makes us stronger,” Atkinson said after he, general manager Sean Marks and a quartet of Nets cut the ribbon on the newly renovated Nicholas Naquan Heyward Jr. Park Courts. Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment — the umbrella group for the Nets and Barclays Center — sponsored a sparkling renovation of the two courts outside the Gowanus Houses.
“Guys like myself and Joe Harris, guys who normally come off the bench, we’re now more comfortable coming into games because we played the minutes when [the starters were] out,” said Le Vert, who averaged 11.7 points on the three-game swing.
DeMarre Carroll believes the Nets can take a major step forward if the players who stepped up on the trip maintain their level of play.
“We have to continue to keep rolling,” the forward said. “The biggest thing for the guys who are coming off the bench is to keep playing at the high level like they are. You can defer to starters and not play at the level you played at when you started. So this is a great opportunity to pick up a couple of wins.”
The Nets lost Jeremy Lin for the season in the opener and have gone stretches without other key players this season, including D’Angelo Russell (still out after knee surgery), Jarrett Allen and Quincy Acy. So players are intrigued by what the team can achieve as it gets closer to full strength. “It’s jelling together,” Carroll said. “If we can do that, we can go far.”
One player who won’t be back this season is Lin, who suffered a ruptured patella tendon and required season-ending surgery.
He announced on social media that he will spend the season rehabbing at the Fortius Sport and Health Institute in Vancouver with the goal of rebuilding “my body from the ground up, each and every muscle and joint.”
Lin and Marks know the institute’s reputation and its ties with Steve Nash. They and the Nets’ performance team feel, as Atkinson put it, “like it was the best place to get this done.”
“I can’t wait to get healthy, come back even stronger,” Lin said in his dispatch.