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Kenny Atkinson wants depleted Nets to generate more offense

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson gestures during the

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson gestures during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Barclays Center on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Kyrie Irving isn’t ready yet to walk out of the locker room and step on the court in his basketball clothes. Caris LeVert is just a talented spectator these days, too.

After Wednesday night’s 101-91 win over Charlotte, coach Kenny Atkinson still spoke of the Nets needing to find a way to generate more offense. They’ve been trying to overcome the loss of two of their top three scorers.  

The team is last in the NBA in offensive rating over the last three games, or since Irving’s 28.5 points per game landed on the bench because of a right shoulder impingement. The point guard has been declared out for Friday night’s game against Sacramento at Barclays Center.

“He’s got to get to the point where he feels like — and we feel like — he can play,” Atkinson said after practice Thursday. “We’re just not at that point right now. I think it’s pain tolerance. I think it’s range of motion.”

LeVert and his 16.8 points per game were lost five games ago. The shooting guard underwent surgery Nov. 14 to repair ligaments in his right thumb, an injury that could cost him five weeks.

The Nets have managed to go 2-1 without Irving to improve to just 6-8. The wins came against two sub-.500 teams, Chicago and Charlotte. The above-.500 team in the mix, Indiana, beat them by 29 points, 115-86. They’re 2-3 without LeVert and 3-4 in their last seven.

“The first thing is we’re just not shooting the ball [well] over the last seven games,” Atkinson said. “I don’t think I want to tell you the number.”

It’s 42.7 percent. It’s 25.8 percent from three-point range over the last six games.

“We’re getting good shots,” Atkinson said. “We’re not shooting well. I think this happens in the NBA. I think you have periods where you’re not shooting it well.”

Joe Harris has been among those struggling. Atkinson wants the small forward to shoot more anyway, even if it’s contested.

“Yeah, to be honest, it’s kind of been a redundant thing for like my entire basketball life is to shoot more,” Harris said. “… I just try to play within myself, play within the game, do what I think is best for the team to have success.”

Besides playing good defense, the Nets had success against the Hornets thanks in large part to Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan dominating inside. The centers totaled 36 points and 24 rebounds. Spencer Dinwiddie, who is second behind Irving at 18.6 points per game, scored 20. The Nets needed power forward Taurean Prince to get going again, and he also scored 20.

Atkinson said a point of emphasis Thursday was “simplifying the package” for the second unit to get better looks. He wants both units to get to the line more by going on more drives to the rim.

“I feel like we’ve dipped recently,” Atkinson said, “so I want to get back to sending that message to our guys.”

New York Sports