LAS VEGAS — During the first three seasons under general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson, the Nets were at the opposite end of the spectrum from top teams operating under a “star system.” That changed recently when they signed free agents Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan.
Durant will miss next season while recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, but Atkinson must develop a relationship with point guard Irving, who was considered a source of the Celtics problems last season, and he must figure out how to fit former all-NBA center Jordan with budding third-year starter Jarrett Allen.
Asked how he expects to use Irving, Atkinson’s answer was succinct: “Give him the ball.
“I think the challenge is to get the best Kyrie,” Atkinson added. “I want him to have his best season ever. I know there’s a lot of talk out there, but you look at his numbers, and I think he played really well last year.
“We play a system I don’t imagine changing a ton. I think that’s part of the reason he was interested in coming here is our style of play. I think we’ll come to a meeting of the minds between me and him and how that works within the group.”
Allen is a key part of the Nets’ future, but he has struggled against physical centers such as the 76ers’ Joel Embiid. At 6-11, 265 pounds, Jordan has the bulk and defensive prowess to handle such matchups, but the last time he came off the bench was eight seasons ago.
“I’m excited about the pairing,” Atkinson said of Allen and Jordan. “DeAndre, two years ago, he was an elite, elite center in this league. We really want to push him to his previous level. I think Jarrett will help him do that.”
Atkinson said the starting situation might even involve switching Allen and Jordan depending on the matchups. “Whether it’s Kyrie or DeAndre Jordan or anybody, we don’t pre-judge from other situations,” Atkinson said. “I think the strategy is how we can fit this player the best possible way into our culture. I feel like our culture is strong enough no matter what type of player we bring in.”