Brooklyn Boro

Nets’ summer grind pays early dividends

Russell Leads Charge in 115-107 Win over Knicks in Preseason Opener

October 4, 2017 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson gets in Kristaps Porzingis’ face during the Nets’ 115-107 victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. AP Photo by Julie Jacobson
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D’Angelo Russell was getting tired of driving by teammates and hoisting 3-pointers over fellow backcourt mates all summer in Sunset Park.

That’s why Tuesday night’s exhibition opener against the arch rival New York Knicks in midtown Manhattan was so refreshing for the Brooklyn Nets’ newly acquired young point guard.

“It was fun,” Russell said after scoring 19 points in only 16 minutes to lead the Nets to a 115-107 victory over the Knicks in front of 14,981 fans at Madison Square Garden.

“Just to get to compete [against] a new group of guys. We’ve been going at it all summer, so that was good for a change.”

Change is something the Nets are embracing as they enter this campaign with high hopes after going a combined 41-123 over the past two seasons, including an NBA-worst 20-62 in 2016-17.

Russell and fellow new additions DeMarre Carroll and Timofey Mozgov were all in the starting lineup, alongside Brooklyn holdovers Jeremy Lin and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Allen Crabbe, another new player general manager Sean Marks brought in this summer during his massive rebuilding project, was unable to play due to an injured ankle.

But he is projected to replace Hollis-Jefferson in the starting five come Opening Night in Indiana on Oct. 18, meaning Lin will be the only remaining starter from last year’s squad.

Russell, who came to Brooklyn with Mozgov from the Los Angeles Lakers for all-time Net Brook Lopez back in June, went 7-of-14 from the floor, handed out four assists and grabbed a pair of rebounds while Lin finished with eight points and three assists in 20 minutes.

The backcourt duo alternated at the point position, which is fine for now, but may be altered as the preseason progresses.

“I’d like to have one of those guys at the point the whole game,” second-year Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said of Lin and Russell.

“That would be pretty nice.”

Even nicer was the Nets’ outside shooting touch in their first game action after months at the team’s HSS Training Center in Industry City, where they grinded through scrimmage after scrimmage against one another.

Brooklyn went a combined 16-of-32 from long range, using an 8-for-13 effort beyond the arc following intermission to pull away from the Knicks, who began their post-Carmelo Anthony era with a dud in front of their home fans.

“I thought our defense was better in the second half,” Atkinson noted. “First half we were really struggling in transition.

“But I think that started with our turnovers in the first half and we were having a tough time getting back,” he added. “In the second half I think we cleaned up our turnovers a little bit, not perfect, and we did a better job defending.”

Carroll, starting at power forward, had 10 points and eight rebounds, while Sean Kilpatrick (15 points), Joe Harris (13), Quincy Acy and Spencer Dinwiddie (12 apiece) all contributed off the bench for Brooklyn.

“We came out the gate, started off a little shaky,” said Carroll. “But once we settled down and got comfortable with each other and we started playing off each other, you see when we make shots we can be a deadly team.”

Mozgov managed only four points and two rebounds in 20 minutes, but first-round pick Jarrett Allen got his first taste of NBA action with five rebounds in 13 minutes at the center spot.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” Atkinson said of the spindly rookie out of University of Texas.

“For a guy that didn’t play Summer League, he’s further along than I thought he’d be. I thought he’d be way behind. But he’s been a pleasant surprise. My gut [says] he’s [going to] contribute sooner rather than later.”

The Nets will resume their preseason slate Thursday night here in Brooklyn against the Miami Heat at Barclays Center.

Nothing But Net: Crabbe was joined on the inactive list by guard Caris LeVert, also dealing with ankle issues. Atkinson is expecting big things from the 23-year-old former first-round pick, who has dealt with countless foot injuries that have derailed his progress over the past several years. “Caris is like the A student in class,” said Atkinson. “He’s just got a maturity beyond his years. He’s well-spoken, he does it with his actions, he does it with his work. He’s really a guy that, he led our offseason. The guy was 100 percent participation. Just always around.” … Hollis-Jefferson finished with 13 points and Trevor Booker cleaned up on the boards with 13 rebounds … After hosting the Heat on Thursday night, the Nets will wrap up the preseason by taking on the Knicks at Barclays Center on Sunday before next Wednesday’s exhibition contest against the Philadelphia 76ers at Long Island’s renovated NYCB Live, aka the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.


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