ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Whatever hopes the Nets had to show improvement last season were undone by recurring hamstring injuries to Jeremy Lin that limited their point guard to 36 games. So, the sprained left ankle suffered by Allen Crabbe, who is projected as the Nets’ top three-point shooter, was evident in the frustration coach Kenny Atkinson expressed on Thursday about the first “setback” of the new season.
Crabbe’s injury happened Wednesday at the end of his second practice with Lin and new guard D’Angelo Russell, but Atkinson liked what he saw in terms of how Crabbe might fit. “He’s a player,” Atkinson said. “We’re challenging him defensively right off the bat. It’s a good offense for him. He’s a quick decision-maker, an efficient player. He’s going to help us a lot.
“Between Jeremy and D’Angelo, they’re going to know how to get him stuff in this offense. So that’s where we need time. That’s a little upsetting about him not [practicing], that he’s not going to get that chemistry. That’s so important.”
Atkinson put no timetable on Crabbe’s return but said the Nets will take a cautious approach geared to making sure he’s healthy for the regular season. “Honestly this is a setback,” Atkinson said. “We’ll do the best we can showing him stuff, but it’s not the same.”
The Nets originally signed Crabbe to a restricted free-agent offer sheet a year ago worth $75 million over four years, but it was matched by Portland, which used him off the bench. Crabbe averaged a career-high 10.7 points and ranked second in the NBA in three-point percentage (44.4) behind Cleveland’s Kyle Korver (45.1), but the Trail Blazers were happy to get out from under the remainder of his contract when the Nets expressed interest in a trade in July.
At $19.3 million, Crabbe is the Nets’ highest-paid player, and it’s clear he will have an expanded role. “It’s a win-win, coming to an organization that really believes in you and signed you to an offer sheet like that,” said Crabbe, who was wearing a walking boot. “For them to be around a year later shows a lot.”
Crabbe knows Atkinson was an assistant for the Hawks when they had Korver, and he envisions himself in a similar role in the same offense. “He’s giving me the green light to shoot the ball, so I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to succeed in that,” Crabbe said. “That’s what I do.
“I don’t think any team would offer you what they offered me if they didn’t see a bigger role in their system . . . It’s going to be an opportunity for me to show more of everything offensively and defensively. I’m ready for the challenge. It’s going to be a recipe for success here.”
But as the Nets learned last season, health is the key ingredient.