While the Brooklyn Nets don’t have any major injuries they are dealing with, a slew of minor ailments is hurting their ability to prepare for the regular season.
If there has been one constant during the two seasons Kenny Atkinson has been head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, it is that injuries seem to almost constantly keep him from having his entire roster available.
In 2016-17, the Nets were 20-62 and lost point guard Jeremy Lin to a strained left hamstring in early November and didn’t have rookie acquisition Caris LeVert available until early December as he recovered from foot surgery.
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Lin was bothered by the hamstring much of the season and played in only 36 games. Joe Harris missed 30 games recovering from offseason shoulder surgery early in the year and with a concussion late in the season.
That’s not getting into the day-to-day bumps and bruises that robbed playing time from Isaiah Whitehead, Trevor Booker, Justin Hamilton, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brook Lopez, Sean Kilpatrick and Quincy Acy.
Fast forward to last season. Lin went down with a ruptured right patellar tendon after playing 25 minutes on opening night. D’Angelo Russell missed two months after surgery on his left knee.
Late in the season, Whitehead went down with an injured right wrist that required surgery, DeMarre Carroll sat out the end of the season with a strained left hip and Harris sat out the final two games with a sprained left ankle.
And again, there were the nagging issues — Acy’s groin, Jarrett Allen‘s foot, Booker’s back and ankle and toe (and that was just before he was traded in December), Hollis-Jefferson’s hip, Allen Crabbe‘s back and ankle, Carroll’s sprained knee, Nik Stauskas‘ ankle, Tyler Zeller‘s hip, LeVert’s groin and Jahlil Okafor‘s calf.
No Net played in all 82 games in 2016-17, with Hollis-Jefferson leading the team with 78 appearances. Last year, Spencer Dinwiddie was the team leader with 80 games played.
So it has to be frustrating that Atkinson is once again dealing with a plethora of player ailments and the regular season is still 11 days away.
The injuries hampered Atkinson’s rotations in the preseason opener against the New York Knicks Wednesday night. A planned experiment to play Allen and Ed Davis together had to be temporarily scrapped because they were the only two healthy bigs the team had available.
Kenneth Faried missed the game with an ankle injury. He did return to practice on a limited basis on Friday.
Beyond that, two-way contract player Alan Williams is also out with a sprained left ankle, a more severe injury that will still keep him sidelined for a bit.
But the Nets also didn’t get a chance to see if a lineup of Russell, Crabbe, LeVert and Hollis-Jefferson will provide them the four shooters Atkinson would like to have for his offense.
That’s because Hollis-Jefferson, two months after straining his left abductor muscle during a charity game in China, still hasn’t participated in a full practice.
While second-round pick Rodions Kurucs dazzled in his first taste of NBA action Wednesday, scoring 13 points while playing just 12 minutes, first-round selection Dzanan Musa is still waiting to get his initial shot in an NBA-style game.
He hurt his ankle in September during European qualifying play for the FIBA World Cup with Bosnia and Herzegovina and has only been practicing for a few days.
Any thoughts of getting a look at ball-handling guard tandems with Russell or Dinwiddle paired with Shabazz Napier are on hold as Napier recovers from a strained hamstring.
Given how poorly Allen played against New York center Enes Kanter, he might have benefitted from having some help from Davis down low.
In the overall scheme of things, none of these injuries should be long-term (although few expected RHJ to still be having problems 60 days out from his injury).
But rather it is the timing that is the problem — right now is the time to do that experimentation with rotations and combinations, because once the bell rings on the regular season, the time for such things becomes limited and the stakes are real, rather than being confined to scrimmages in full uniform.
The Nets still have a week and a half of so and three more preseason contests to get the mad scientist scheming done. But for a fan whose seen a never-ending turnstile of injured players checking in and out of availability, this preseason has been a bit of a disappointment already.