For those who wondered why the Nets traded Jeremy Lin last summer, the crowd in the Nets’ backcourt is real. Starting point guard D’Angelo Russell learned as much when he sat out the final 16 minutes of the Nets’ season-opening 103-100 loss Wednesday night in Detroit while backup point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, who is like a point forward, ran the show.
LeVert and Dinwiddie totaled 50 points, and the Nets had more drives to the rim than any other NBA team that night. As coach Kenny Atkinson explained after Thursday’s practice, it was a case of going with the hot hands.
“I think we’ve got a lot of good point guards, two guards, perimeter guys, and there’s only so many minutes,” Atkinson said. “We’ve got to do it on a game-to-game basis. It was no punishment for [Russell]. Those other guys, we had to play them. They were getting to the rim. They were playing great basketball.”
Russell, who had eight points and five assists in 25 minutes, took it professionally, but he admitted it was tough to watch the fourth quarter as the Nets took a one-point lead, only to lose a close one. “It’s just tough to lose, honestly,” Russell said. “I feel like that’s a game we should have won. As far as subbing goes, he’s right. We’ve got multiple guys capable of doing that.”
Asked if he might use that outcome as fuel for the home opener against the Knicks on Friday night at Barclays Center, Russell said, “You try to take care of business every day and develop that trust with your coaches. It’s the first game. It’s not something I plan on getting too low about.”
In the final 10 seconds, LeVert, who led all scorers with 27 points, committed a turnover on a drive and two-guard Joe Harris missed a potential tying three-pointer at the buzzer. Russell hit a few game-winners last season, but it would have been tough for him to come in cold at the end.
“I would love that opportunity to go back on the floor,” Russell said. “If you warm up to start the game and you’re coming off the bench with the second unit, we’re depending on guys to be ready. So I think it’s the same type of pressure.”
The Nets’ backcourt will be even more crowded against the Knicks. Allen Crabbe was listed as probable after practicing and scrimmaging for the first time since injuring an ankle in the second preseason game. He probably will come off the bench rather than step into his starting two-guard role, but the Nets can use Crabbe’s three-point marksmanship.
“I feel like I was moving pretty well today,” he said of practice. “I don’t think it will be a factor. Just go out there and take the shots I normally take. I think I’ll be fine.”
Notes & quotes: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (strained adductor), who was held out in Detroit, is cleared to play the Knicks. But after Hollis-Jefferson enjoyed the birth of his first son on Thursday, Atkinson said his playing status will take a backseat to any family issues.