Three days before the Nets’ regular-season opener Wednesday night in Boston, coach Kenny Atkinson remained uncertain about his starting lineup. But Atkinson’s determination to improve the Nets’ defense might be a good reason to start veteran Randy Foye in the backcourt with Jeremy Lin.
In the five preseason games in which he played, Foye was plus-19 in point differential for a team that lost four of those games.
“Randy gives us a physicality,” Atkinson said Sunday after practice. “He’s very strong, he knows our schemes, he’s a smart player and he has a toughness about him. Then he has NBA savvy because he’s been in the league so long. That gives me a comfort level. I think it gives our team a more solid feeling defensively when he’s out there.”
That “veteran savvy” is a major reason the Nets signed Foye as a free agent. The Nets are his seventh team in 11 NBA seasons, and he knows what it’s like to go through a rebuild.
Asked what has impressed him so far, Foye said, “It’s the work ethic. There are some places where you’re rebuilding, and it’s turmoil from top to bottom. Management doesn’t know if they’re going to have their jobs, coaches don’t know if they’re going to have their jobs.
“But everyone is secure here. There’s no turmoil. We’re playing hard every single day in practice. If you continue to work hard, you start coming together.”
Foye pointed to the Nets’ work over the summer as one reason they have begun to build the camaraderie they will need to sustain them through tough times. “It’s multiple guys going out to eat, going to the movies, doing things that good teams do,” Foye said. “Last year, when I was in Oklahoma City, that was something they did. Just building that and laughing and joking and having fun away from the basketball court means a lot for a winning atmosphere.”
Despite the Nets’ 1-5 preseason record, Foye said players understood Atkinson was experimenting with a variety of lineups. The most pleasing thing to the rookie head coach was how they handled it.
“I was happy with the effort and with these guys really buying into what we’re doing with the whole program, from the basketball part to the performance,” Atkinson said. “There’s a good spirit in terms of trying to do what we want . . . In my heart, I know we brought in guys that are coachable and want to improve. I’m pretty sure we’re good there.”