MIAMI – In the aftermath of the dislocated ankle suffered recently by Caris LeVert, the dynamic has changed in the Nets’ backcourt in terms of a greater responsibility that has fallen on the shoulders of point guard D’Angelo Russell. He struggled in a loss to the Heat last Wednesday in Brooklyn, the first game without LeVert, but coach Kenny Atkinson likes the adjustment Russell has made since then.
“Obviously, he’s handling the ball a lot more,” Atkinson said before a rematch with the Heat Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena. “When Caris was out there, they kind of shared the ballhandling duties. It’s fallen on him. He’s playing with Joe [Harris] and Allen [Crabbe], and they’re not pick-and-roll players. They’re more catch-and-shoot guys. So, his usage has gone up, which we’re fine with.
“Listen, he’s played great basketball. There’s no doubt about it. He’s in a good way right now. I think his defense is improving, and he’s an improving young player.”
Russell played well Tuesday night, scoring 20 points with nine rebounds and six assists in a 104-92 victory over the Heat.
When LeVert spoke to the media on Monday, he revealed that he sent a text message to Russell telling him not to feel as though he must carry the Nets by himself. “I think everybody has to step up,” LeVert said. “I texted D’Angelo after it happened and just told him we have everything we need with me going down. We have all the pieces we need. I feel like, if everybody contributes, if everybody gives that one more percent, we’ll be in good shape.”
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Rookie power forward Rodions Kurucs played well in a win at Washington on Friday when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was out, but got a DNP when Hollis-Jefferson returned in Saturday’s loss to the Clippers and also sat on Tuesday. Still, it appears Kurucs is pushing for playing time.
“He’s making it hard on me,” Atkinson said. “We saw in the Washington game that every time he gets out there, he’s active. He rebounds, he’s a great slasher. He’s got a lot of potential.” . . . Goran Dragic (knee) and Tyler Johnson (hamstring) were out for the Heat.