A year ago, Sean Kilpatrick was a star in the D-League. He took buses to away games, carefully kept track of his per diem money and dreamed of finding an NBA team somewhere that would want him for more than a 10-day contract.
On Saturday night, he will start his second straight game for the Nets at point guard — and earn more in a week than the highest-paid D-League player does in an entire season.
Kilpatrick, 26, who signed a three-year, prorated contract with the Nets last March, has developed into a dependable utility player, someone willing to play out of position to help the team get through its current bout of injuries.
“We’ve asked him to do everything,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We’ve asked him to come off the bench and score. Now we’re asking him to play point guard. He’s started at point guard. You feel a little guilty because he was playing real ly well off the ball and off the bench, and now we’re throwing him in this role. But it’s kind of like the circumstances are what they are.”
The circumstances are that the Nets are without starting point guard Jeremy Lin, who has been out with a hamstring injury since Nov. 3, and backup point guard Isaiah Whitehead, who will miss his second straight game Saturday night because of a concussion.
Before Wednesday night’s start against the Knicks, Kilpatrick had gotten off to a hot start as a shooter off the bench for the Nets, averaging 16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists in just over 26 minutes per game. The Knicks game was his first NBA start and he had a decidedly rocky time against the Knicks’ more experienced point guards. Still, Atkinson had him run the point for the team’s entire practice Friday in preparation for Saturday night’s game at Phoenix.
“It’s a little transition for me,” Kilpatrick said about playing the point. “It’s the first time I’ve had to do this. But I’m pretty prepared for it. Coach prepared me through summer league to be doing that. And now I can get a couple games under my belt while Jeremy’s out.”
One of the things Atkinson likes best about Kilpatrick is the attitude he brings to the court.
Said Atkinson: “Sean has a chip on his shoulder. No doubt about it. There’s an angry chip and a healthy chip. His is healthy. It’s in good spirit. He’s not putting anyone down, but he feels like he didn’t get what he deserved [earlier in his career]. Every practice, he is trying to prove himself. I don’t think it’s sunk in that he’s an NBA player.”