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Nets' defense greatly improved with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as starter

Hollis-Jefferson, who has embraced the stopper role while shutting down opposing scorers, has averaged 11.3 points and 6.8 rebounds in starting power forward role.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson #24 of the Nets reacts after

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson #24 of the Nets reacts after a teammate's three-pointer during the second quarter against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

PHILADELPHIA – It’s no coincidence that the Nets’ defensive efficiency has improved dramatically to seventh in the NBA over their past seven games since Rondae Hollis-Jefferson regained his starting power forward role eight games before the Nets faced the 76ers Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Coach Kenny Atkinson was hoping for another solid performance from Hollis-Jefferson, who was playing in front of friends and family from nearby Chester, Pa., where he grew up. “Chester tough,” Atkinson said with a smile. “He’s a tough dude. Like the city of Philly, he matches up with the reputation.”

Speaking of the Nets’ two-game winning streak, Atkinson added, “He’s been great the past two games. He’s coming back from a long injury (adductor strain) this summer and is starting to finally feel his true level. It’s great, a guy comes home, he’s in the starting lineup here in the NBA, the family is wonderful, his brother is playing in Finland and works out with us all the time, the mom is wonderful, he just had a new baby. It’s a pretty cool time for Rondae.”

In eight games as a starter, Hollis-Jefferson has averaged 11.3 points and 6.8 rebounds. More importantly, he has embraced the stopper role.

“I told Kenny, ‘Hey, man, you want me to stop him? Put me on him,’” Hollis-Jefferson said after shutting down the Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. on Saturday. “That’s the mindset. You want me to make it tough for them, put me on them. That’s how I feel no matter who I’m going against.”

Against the Sixers that meant Hollis-Jefferson figured to be matched up quite often against 6-10 Ben Simmons whether he was playing point guard or power forward. “I’m always shocked at how fast he is and how much force he plays with,” Atkinson said of Simmons. “I don’t want to put any pressure on him by comparing him to LeBron [James], but there’s very few guys that have the whole package. He has it.”

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