43° Good Afternoon
43° Good Afternoon

Rodions Kurucs, Dzanan Musa will have to fight for minutes

Nets forward Rodions Kurucs shoots during training camp

Nets forward Rodions Kurucs shoots during training camp at the Nets HSS Training Center on Monday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Beyond the star power the Nets have added, the presence of eight new veteran players on their 16-man NBA roster assures them of phenomenal depth even with the projected seasonlong absence of Kevin Durant, who is recovering from right Achilles tendon surgery. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said his ideal rotation will be 10 players deep, but he expects everyone to get a shot because of injuries.

For the moment, last season’s rookie draft picks, Rodions Kurucs and Dzanan Musa, find themselves lower on the food chain with so much veteran experience on the roster. “They have to earn it,” Atkinson said of a spot in the playing rotation. “I know them a little better from last season, but they’ll have to earn their minutes.”

Musa, a first-round pick who spent most of his time in the G League last season, can play anywhere on the floor except center and maybe point guard. “I think he’s a two, three, possible small-ball four,” Atkinson said. “He’s 6-8 ½, he’s a big dude and getting stronger ... He’s shooting the ball much better and progressing defensively. I’m really pleased with his progress.”

Second-round pick Kurucs surprised last season when he made 46 starts at power forward and the Nets went 28-18 with him in that role. But now, he’s behind veteran Taurean Prince.

“I like that he’s not hesitating to shoot,” Atkinson said of Kurucs, who is trying to improve his three-point percentage. “We need him to shoot the ball when he’s open without forgetting what he’s really good at — energy, elite cutter, runs the court really well.”

Atkinson was amused to learn that Kurucs told reporters he’s working on his ballhandling and wants to be more of a playmaking forward after the fashion of Warriors standout Draymond Green.

“Tell him the coach wants him to be less of a ballhandler,” Atkinson said. “Me and him have to get on the same page. For Summer League, maybe he was handling it a little bit more. Now, he’s got to come back to who we are and put him in his role. Thank you for that.”

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