Kilpatrick brings fire to passionless Nets
D-League Standout Finds a Home with Slumping Brooklyn Franchise
Less than a month ago, Sean Kilpatrick was lighting it up for the Delaware 87ers in the NBA’s Developmental League, earning little in the way of money or notoriety for his league-high scoring average.
But that all changed when newly appointed Nets general manager Sean Marks inked the 26-year-old Yonkers native to the first of two 10-day contracts back on Feb. 28.
“It’s not every day that you get a New York kid playing for a New York team like this,” Kilpatrick told the team’s website, referring back to his days at White Plains High School.
Since getting his first genuine opportunity to shine on the league’s big stage, Kilpatrick, a University of Cincinnati standout who went undrafted in 2014, is averaging 13.4 points in a tick over 20 minutes per night over his first 11 games for Brooklyn’s struggling NBA franchise.
Kilpatrick, who just last week was signed to a three-year deal with the Nets, has been one of the few bright spots during the team’s disastrous fourth season in our fair borough.
His effort, and scoring acumen, shone through again Tuesday night during Brooklyn’s 105-100 home loss to visiting Charlotte before a crowd of 15,739 at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
Kilpatrick finished with a career-best 25 points, marking the sixth straight game that he was reached double figures in scoring.
But Brooklyn (19-51) got off to an anemic start and had too little left at the end to overcome the red-hot Hornets (41-30), who are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“They made shots towards the end and we didn’t,” said Brook Lopez, who amassed 29 points, nine rebounds and a season-high six assists. “We got some good looks and ours just didn’t go down. It’s unfortunate that we put ourselves in the hole in the beginning of the game.”
Rookie Rondae-Hollis Jefferson, returning from a 50-game absence due to a fractured ankle, picked up five points, three rebounds and a pair of steals in 15 minutes off the bench.
His effort, and that of Kilpatrick, were the only things that heartened Nets interim head coach Tony Brown following his team’s seventh loss in the last eight games, and third in a row overall.
“I like the spirit of Sean Kilpatrick, I love the spirit of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson,” Brown gushed. “He’s getting a chance to play again, and they’re playing their butts off when they’re out there.”
That type of all-out effort has been missing for too long from a Nets team that qualified for the playoffs in each of its first three seasons here, but will be lucky to avert finishing with the league’s worst record this year.
Lucky, in that Philadelphia (9-62) is setting the bar lower than any of the non-contenders — Brooklyn, Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers — chasing that dubious distinction.
But if Marks’ signing of Kilpatrick is an indication of where this franchise might be headed during his tenure, it can be taken as the first significant improvement in the team’s fortunes since former GM Billy King was “reassigned” earlier this year.
As for Kilpatrick, he’s just happy that he doesn’t have to “live out of a suitcase” anymore.
His nomadic pro basketball existence had taken him through brief NBA stints with Philadelphia, Golden State, Minnesota and New Orleans, with NBDL stops in Santa Cruz and Delaware, where he averaged just over 24 points per night before Marks brought him into the fold.
Now, he feels very much at home filling up the basket on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
“Growing up, this is a kid’s dream coming out of New York to come here and play for basically their hometown,” Kilpatrick said. “There are a lot of guys I know in the NBA from New York that would die for a position like this.”
Dying to be a Net is a rare thing these days as owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s new policy of patience could set Brooklyn fans up for an extended playoff drought, especially with no first-round pick to speak of until 2019.
But for Kilpatrick, who is living out a lifelong dream with every second he spends on the team’s herringbone-designed hardwood, it’s an opportunity he won’t let go to waste.
“A situation like this can be taken away from you at any given moment,” he noted. “I’m just going to continue to take each and every day — especially practice and games — as a 10-day [contract].
“That helps to motivate you as well as continue to making sure that you’re working hard. I just want to make sure I continue having that 10-day mentality and make sure that all my hard work continues to keep paying off.”
Nothing But Net: Jefferson’s long-awaited return was highlighted by an emphatic fourth-quarter dunk as the Nets tried in vain to catch to the Hornets. The first-round pick out of Arizona didn’t hesitate to leap to the rafters off his surgically repaired ankle. “I was like ‘I’m going up for this, there’s no stopping me,’” he said. “Whether I miss or not, I’m still going up.” … The Nets will be back at Barclays Center on Thursday night to host LeBron James and the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
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