LOS ANGELES — To know Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and his passion for basketball and the Nets is to understand how each “DNP-Coach’s Decision” that the former starter has accumulated this season has carved another notch on his soul.
So the role he played in the Nets’ historic comeback from 28 points down to defeat the Kings on Tuesday — Hollis-Jefferson’s layup with eight-tenths of a second left won it — not only was uplifting for an entire organization but also a reflection of the values the Nets preach.
Yes, D’Angelo Russell was the big star, scoring 27 of his career-high 44 points in the fourth quarter. But after not playing in six of the previous 12 games, Hollis-Jefferson got off the bench for the final 16:53 against the Kings and delivered 14 points — including 12 in the fourth quarter — shot 6-for-7 and added five rebounds, three assists, two steals, a block and a forced turnover by the Kings’ Marvin Bagley III with 5.9 seconds left to set up his own game-winner.
Before the Nets faced the Lakers on Friday night at Staples Center, Hollis-Jefferson — who has been with the Nets longer than any other player on the roster — reflected on how important it was for him to stay ready to come through in such a big spot. “It’s extremely important,” he said. “Just going through sitting on the bench and not playing, cheering my teammates on. It’s definitely tough as someone you feel like can go out and compete and give a great impact on the game.
“It really touched me to get out there and play with those guys. Right now, as I look at it, it was like crazy to think we came from down 25 [to start the fourth quarter]. Credit to D’Angelo for getting hot.
“But for me, it was like an eye-opener about going through things and understanding that God’s plan is bigger than any of our plans. You’ve just got to work through everything, work through adversity, work through the tough times, work through the good. At the end of the day, everything will pan out.”
Kenny Atkinson was reaching to find any spark he could when he inserted Hollis-Jefferson, but clearing the bench also often is a means of resting the primary players for the next game.
“I never played in a game like that,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “You were like, ‘All right, let’s just finish the game and just play hard. Whatever happens happens.’ I never thought we could come back and win.”
In the fourth quarter, Atkinson used four power forwards — Hollis-Jefferson, Jared Dudley, Treveon Graham and starter Rodions Kurucs — with Russell. He put the 6-7 Hollis-Jefferson at center and said Thursday after practice that he would use him again as a small-ball five if starter Jarrett Allen and backup Ed Davis aren’t getting results.
“I’d be even more confident in going with Rondae and that speed lineup and J.D. and his IQ at the four,” Atkinson said. “It’s something that can help us. I’ve just got to figure out how much, when and where without messing with the regular guys.”
Hollis-Jefferson often is overmatched in terms of size, but never in terms of heart. He’s game to play small five if necessary, and he said he’s over the groin injury that cost him training camp, the first three games of the season and another seven-game stretch at midseason.
“It’s tough going through injuries,” he said. “That means you’ve got to wait your turn to get back out there. It just so happened we got hot and had some wins when I got hurt. So you don’t want to mess up the flow. I’m not mad at nobody for it. Whatever it takes to win, that’s what it’s about.”