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NBA coaches, executives praise Nets coach Kenny Atkinson

The Nets’ record will likely keep Kenny Atkinson out of any NBA Coach of the Year conversation. But the rest of the league is taking notice of what he’s doing — and haven’t been shy about lavishing praise on him for it.

“We know how good they are. We know how well-coached they are,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “I said last week I don’t see how they don’t make the playoffs. They’re an excellent offensive team. I think they have a lot of versatility defensively.

“I think they’re superbly coached and they all know what they do and they do it every single night.”

Former Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox was effusive over Atkinson in a recent podcast with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who also pushed the latter’s Coach of the Year candidacy.

“Kenny’s a great friend. He’s done a fantastic job in Brooklyn, as has [GM] Sean Marks,” Wilcox said. “This has just been a terrific job. It’s been a terrific story. … This has been a really fun one to watch.”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (adductor strain) and Shabazz Napier (right hamstring tightness) were both out for Monday’s 109-102 win over the Celtics.

Treveon Graham got the nod at power forward over DeMarre Carroll.

“DeMarre can obviously play the four,” Atkinson said. “He’s shot the ball well of late, and that’s something we have to look at. But I do think that’s a game-time, 60-on-the-clock kind of decision.”

Graham hasn’t shot the ball, hitting 20 percent overall and 13.6 from 3-point range. But Atkinson professed faith the 6-foot-5 wing can get out of his skid.

“It starts with the head coach continuing to believe in him. That’s important. When you’ve been out that long, it just takes a while to get back,” Atkinson said. “We’ve seen it with all our players … but I can tell you I have complete confidence.

“I just believe in his shot. I’ve seen it in training camp. I’ve seen what he can do. So, he’s going to keep shooting them. But we trust him on the defensive end. That’s the No. 1 reason he’s out there is because he gets after it defensively. He gives us stability and strength there, and we really like that. When the open shots are there, he’s going to continue to take them.”

After Atkinson said Spencer Dinwiddie was “struggling,” the point guard bristled and pushed back at the comment. The two talked it out and Atkinson said both parties understood.

“Yeah, we talked about it, and we’re good. I normally don’t like to do that. Kind of slipped out,” Atkinson said. “Quite honestly, I apologized to him. I think that’s not the way I like to operate, to motivate a guy. But I told Spencer, ‘You’re a talented player. You were playing at an All-Star level. How can I help you get there?’ That was kind of the conversation. We had a little chuckle. So, we’re good.”

YES Network’s Ian Eagle was voted the 2018 New York Sportscaster of the Year, the fourth time he has won this award.

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