MILWAUKEE — If there was one positive the Nets could take away from their loss to the Bucks on Thursday night, it was the relatively quick return to the lineup of forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson after missing only three games following an injury to his surgically repaired right ankle.
A starter for the first 14 games of the season, Hollis-Jefferson came off the bench to score seven points in 17:21. The Nets took a typically cautious approach, limiting his playing time to avoid endangering the ankle that required surgery a year ago this month. His speedy return was an indication that they are confident of his health. Starting point guard Jeremy Lin has missed 14 games with a strained right hamstring.
“It felt good to be back out there,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “My ankle was fine. It took me a couple minutes to actually feel comfortable with running and jumping in an actual game setting. After a minute or two, I was good to go.”
When Hollis-Jefferson was injured in a game against Boston, he hit the floor and struggled to get back up before heading to the bench. Coach Kenny Atkinson said a review of the hit showed it was more violent than it first appeared.
Hollis-Jefferson admitted he was concerned. “When you go through something like that [ankle surgery] not even a year ago, it’s tough,” he said. “Then you incur a bruise or something that happens to the same ankle. When you’re down, it’s like you can be thinking a million thoughts about the possibilities. I understand anything can happen. Just staying humble.”
It’s unlikely that Hollis-Jefferson will jump back into the starting lineup right away in a rematch with the Bucks on Saturday night at Bradley Center. But Hollis-Jefferson is one of the Nets’ best defenders, so it will help if his playing time increases even a little bit, especially if he can use his athleticism to contain Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo better than the Nets did Thursday night, when the “Greek Freak” had 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
“What I’m definitely going to try to bring more of is ball pressure and being more active and making the extra effort,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “If I see somebody get beat baseline, I’m going to be there to make a stop, make a block, scrambling if they kick it out to make the stop or get the rebound, whatever it takes. I feel we need more of that. That’s what I’m good at.”
Notes & quotes: The Nets announced Friday night that they have signed Houston restricted free-agent forward Donatas Motiejunas to an offer sheet. Under NBA rules, the Rockets have three full calendar days to match. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported it is a four-year deal worth $37 million with only two years guaranteed.