Last season, we covered the Nets’ lack of success on the boards at great length.
To address their rebounding woes – and there were many of them – the team brought in Ed Davis, Kenneth Faried and Alan Williams, and are also banking on the further development of a second-year Jarrett Allen.
And the Net schedule wastes no time, pairing Brooklyn with the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks right off the bat – namely; Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, followed by Enes Kanter, all terrific bigs who had their way with the Nets last season, as did many others.
“I think it’s a good test for our guys,” said Kenny Atkinson. “We’ve talked about before, it’s good we’ve seen them too already (in preseason). We know what’s coming. It’s not like there’s any big mystery. But it’s funny with Detroit. They are so up-tempo right now. What did they shoot, 90 threes against us? Over four games they’ve shot a ton of threes. We’re really going to have to guard the line. We’re going to have to rebound.
“Right off the bat and on the road, you have to come with the physicality and an assertiveness – whether is Drummond or Kanter or Blake Griffin,” he added. “I think we’re going to have to do it as a team. No one guy is going to go get 40 rebounds. We have to get in there and really fight.”
Of course, yes, rebounding is a team effort, but the burden will rely heavily on “The Fro,” the starting center of this year’s Nets, a title he didn’t earn as a rookie until this past January … and he had been behind Timofey Mozgov and Tyler Zeller beforehand.
“It’s a hell of a challenge,” Allen said of opening the season against Drummond in particular. “He’s one of the best bigs in the league. He’s almost twice my size, so I have to learn the small ways just to get around him just to get physical with him so it’s going to be a great challenge for me.”
Atkinson says he told Allen to be aggressive and assertive, stressing that he needs to strike first for the Nets to have success.
“Let it all hang out,” he said. “You’ve got to have kind of a head first mentality. If you let them be the aggressor you’re going to be in trouble. I think we always say that the more aggressive team has the advantage. So the more aggressive player will have the advantage. I’ve been very pleased with that aspect of the game in the preseason. He’s been aggressive, assertive.”
“I always say he’s a prideful guy,” he continued. “You question his aggressiveness, his assertiveness, or really anything about his game, his 3-point shooting, it’s almost like he’s out to prove you wrong. You’ve got to twist sometimes Jarrett a little to get him really going. But again, I think as he, part of his growth, that’s got to come from within all the time, like, ‘I have that edge,’ 82 games a year.”
But again, it can’t only be Allen. It only literally starts with him.
“I think it’s important who gets that contact first. Like I said with the elite rebounders, it can’t be one guy,” Atkinson said. “It can’t be just Jarrett. It can’t be just Ed Davis. It’s going to have to be Joe Harris coming from behind. D’Angelo. Spencer. We always talk about guard rebounding. It’s a big part of what we do. So we need our guards at the end of that game tomorrow night, Spencer’s got 5, D’Angelo’s got 6, Joe’s got 4. We have to do it in that manner. We have the size at the guard position. Spencer’s 6-6. Joe’s a tight end. D’Angelo’s long. So we should be able to do it collectively.”
Speaking of D’Angelo (Russell), he is also looking forward to beginning the season in Detroit. Asked of his goal for the year, he simply said, ‘Win more games.’
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to get it going,” Russell said. “Nothing (better) than winning one on the road to start the season off and then coming back home and taking care of business as well. They’re going to be fired up, but we’re going to be ready.”
Asked if Detroit is a good barometer to show or prove how much better the Nets have gotten, because the team troubled them last season, Russell’s response was a blunt one, with a hint of optimism.
“I mean everybody’s troubled us if we’re being honest,” he offered. “I think going against any team, getting that win to start the season off is a great test all together. Whatever they’re doing throughout the game, whatever we’re doing, we’ve got to adjust if they’re killing us on the board and whatnot. We’ve got the pieces to match that. I think anything can happen.”