Incredulous after learning of the situation, Thaddeus Young couldn't wait to investigate the evidence with his own eyes. "Who gets a tattoo of themselves?" the Nets forward inquired Monday.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, that's who.
The rookie was the last Net to get dressed in the locker room Sunday after a win over the Celtics, and the rest of the players had all cleared out by the time he proudly displayed the massive amount of ink, providing a detailed peek at the silhouette of himself that covers the majority of his back.
Hollis-Jefferson's teammates aren't even aware of that particular aspect of his body art, but he's already crafted what he will say when the subject inevitably arises.
"I was getting a story [tattooed] on my back about where I started, where I am coming from. Just the stepping-stones," Hollis-Jefferson said. "And this was the biggest picture of the portrait I was getting. So I was like, 'Let me get that out of the way.' And I tell people I will get it finished in the future, the whole thing. But now I tell them, 'Nah, that's just me watching my back.' "
Young isn't surprised at Hollis-Jefferson's explanation.
"That sounds like a Rondae quote," he said.
Hollis-Jefferson has been a breath of fresh air for the Nets, injecting them with an ebullient personality and lengthy athleticism. He's stabilized their starting five, using his defensive attributes to clog passing lanes and protect the rim.
Offensively, he's still a work in progress, but he's become much more aggressive lately, attacking the basket with purpose or firing perimeter jumpers when the defense sags off him. He was all over the place against the Celtics, posting nine points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists in 31 minutes.
He's one of only four players to record at least five points, at least five steals and at least four assists in a single game this season. The others: Golden State's Stephen Curry, Houston's James Harden and Atlanta's Paul Millsap.
"He's active, man," Jarrett Jack said. "He comes up with a lot of plays that I don't know you would be expecting a rookie to make at times. The one thing I constantly stay on him about is just being confident as far as the offensive end of the floor is concerned. He has a lot more ability and the capability than he realizes with his quickness, his athleticism."
Hollis-Jefferson's performance on Sunday came on the heels of collecting his first double-double against the Celtics in Boston on Friday night, when he had 13 points and 11 rebounds. The Nets (3-11) are 3-6 with him in the starting lineup.
His contributions remind Young of someone who had a similar impact on his team at such a tender age of 20.
"Yeah, myself," Young joked. "I might have been a bit younger. Nah, he's done very well. He's going out there and he's done everything that we have asked him to do. I remember when I first came in the league, [76ers] coach [Maurice Cheeks] told me, whatever you give us is extra. I was like . . . 'OK Coach.' I made it up in my mind. He was like, 'You are going to play some games, you are not going to be playing some games.' I'm like, 'I'm going to be starting at the end of the season.' So at the end of that season, I had started like 20-something games.
"[Rondae] definitely has that type of mindset, that he wants to start, he wants to get better. He's in the gym shooting every day after practice. He is probably always the last one to leave the gym and he just puts the work in."In his on-court education, perhaps the most valuable lesson Hollis-Jefferson has learned is that he can't be afraid of making a mistake.
"It's definitely a challenge," he said. "You want to be able to just go out there, and the potential you know you have, you just want to be able to show it all. But sometimes you are afraid to mess up. But they say you can't be afraid to mess up. That's how you learn from your mistakes. Some people catch on to it quicker than others.
"But I feel like I am catching on to it like, 'Hey, I know I may mess up, I may shoot bad shots, I may turn the ball over. But that's a part of the game.' And I know I play defense, I play hard on both ends of the floor to make sure we get the best opportunity next time and just try not to make the same mistake multiple times in the same game."