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Nets coach Kenny Atkinson uses sign language to organize defense

Kyrie Irving of the Nets controls the ball

Kyrie Irving of the Nets controls the ball during the second quarter against Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

As far as we know, Kenny Atkinson doesn’t hold any animosity toward Dennis Scott. But you’d be excused if you thought otherwise, what with the big craft project he held up during the Nets’ 123-116 win over the Rockets on Friday night.

While Scott, the former Magic small forward, probably is enjoying his retirement somewhere pleasant and maybe not thinking about the Nets at all, Atkinson wanted his team to focus on one of the best three-point shooters the game has seen. Scott may be nicknamed 3-D, but Atkinson wanted his team to focus on its D-3.

Well, probably. Atkinson wouldn’t say what the sign meant, but the Nets did hold James Harden to 2-for-16 shooting from behind the arc, and Russell Westbrook went 1-for-6.

“It’s just a defensive coverage we have, and we’ve had trouble communicating it to guys in the past,” said Atkinson, who held up cue cards better suited to a college football sideline. “We have to find a way to communicate so everybody knows, and sometimes you have a little humor in things and it sinks in a little more with the guys.”

The sign immediately caught the attention of fans on social media and beyond, and by the end of the game, it already had sprouted different memes.

Not that Atkinson much cares. He has somewhat weightier concerns: “I just wanted to make it clear what the heck we’re doing.”

Message received.

Not there yet

Despite a win over a strong Rockets team, Atkinson said before and after the game that his crew has a long way to go to establish cohesiveness. He’s not exactly sure of the timeline.

“I think it took us half the season, at least, to get in a good place,” Atkinson said of the 2018-19 campaign. “I was thinking about that today. When does that turn? You just don’t know with a new group when that can turn. It can turn tonight. It can turn next week. I do think we need more time together and more work together to get to that point. We’re not there yet.”

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