ATLANTA — Coming off a home loss to the 5-17 Hawks on Saturday, several Nets suggested they view the rematch Monday at Philips Arena as a virtual “must-win” situation against a team with a worse record that they feel they should defeat. It was especially important before a road trip to Mexico City for two tougher games against the Thunder and Heat.
“I don’t know if ‘vital’ is the word,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said in response to a question about the importance of winning. “I do think [it’s important] just to get back on the right track . . . We had that good taste in our mouths after that road trip, 2-1, and then we kind of stubbed our toe. It would be really nice to play well and go into this Mexico City trip with a good mindset.”
Atkinson was referring to a trip that ended with a win in Dallas on Wednesday. Before that game, he met with his veteran leaders to underline the chance for a winning trip.
“We do that periodically during the year,” Atkinson said. “I do want to give these guys more ownership of preparing. Those guys have great ideas. They’re invested in it. I talk about an ‘improving’ team. Spencer [Dinwiddie] wants to be a ‘good’ team, so I like that mentality. What do we have to do to get there? Sometimes it’s not always me on the pulpit preaching. It’s: ‘What do you guys think we need to do to get there?’ ”
Forward Trevor Booker said the vets “are trying to not only lead by example but just be more vocal.”
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Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said Atkinson responded strongly to Saturday’s loss. “Kenny got after us,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “You kind of go through those things and you see the slip-ups, and you get to have a coach bash you about it, and it wakes you up. You come in locked in, ready.”