Kenny Atkinson is surprised, but he also believes.
The Nets coach said he doesn’t think Rodions Kurucs will be a one-hit wonder after the rookie poured in a career-high 24 points Friday against the Pacers.
“He’s just confirming, it doesn’t seem like this is a flash in the pan,” Atkinson said Saturday. “This is sustainable to me.”
Expected to make his sixth straight start Sunday against the Suns at Barclays Center, Kurucs has impressed his coaches and teammates alike, bringing a spark to the Nets whenever he gets on the floor.
Though he has gotten involved offensively, the Nets’ second-round pick has also surprised Atkinson defensively. He spent much of Friday defending Victor Oladipo and doing “a pretty darn good job,” Atkinson said, making the coach wonder if he can be a defensive stopper with his length and athleticism.
“Normally with 20-year-old guys, there’s a lot of mistakes — coverage mistakes and what-the-heck-are-you-doing mistakes,” Atkinson said. “I only think I had one of them on the [film session Saturday]. … That’s shocking. Normally with a young player like that, you have 10 clips where you’re like, ‘Man, what are you doing?’ ”
DeMarre Carroll compared Kurucs’ impact to the one Raptors guard Norman Powell had in his own rookie season four years ago — playing hard, doing the little things and guarding his opponent’s best player.
“When people really sleep on you and they really don’t know who you are, you got to come in, play as hard as you can and let people know,” Carroll said. “Make a name for yourself. I think that’s what [Kurucs] is trying to do.”
The NBA fined Atkinson $25,000 for “verbally abusing game officials and failing to leave the court in a timely manner” against the Pacers, the league announced Saturday.
Atkinson was ejected with 69 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter after leaving the bench to confront referee Tony Brothers.
Jared Dudley spent seven of his 12 seasons in the NBA playing for the Suns, including the past two years. Though plenty of faces on the roster have changed since he last played for Phoenix, he was looking forward to doing some trash-talking with former teammates such as T.J. Warren and Devin Booker.
The Suns had a rare (for them) four-game winning streak before losing 149-146 in triple overtime Saturday night in Washington.
“I’m glad to see them get that four-game winning streak because it’s too long of a season to be tanking so early,” Dudley said. “I understand February and March, April. But when you’re in December, I remember when they told me I was done playing in December. That makes for a long, bad year.”
Allen Crabbe will miss his sixth straight game Sunday with a sore right knee.