Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on Monday had his best performance since returning to the Brooklyn Nets last week. With a return from injury, it always takes time.
It’s been a process for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Slowed by an offseason hip injury, the Brooklyn Nets’ fourth-year forward missed the entire preseason, as well as the first three regular-season games, before making his return Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Hollis-Jefferson struggled at the offensive end, even as he was his usually lockdown self on defense, hitting just 8-of-26 shots and missing a three of his 3-point attempts over his first three games.
He was one of the bright spots in Monday night’s 115-96 loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, scoring a season-high 16 points on 8-of-15 shooting to go with a team-high seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
Yes, RHJ airmailed his only 3-point attempt. But he was only a 23.7 percent career shooter from distance over his first three seasons, so if anyone had visions he would be Stephen Curry 2.0 after a long break … well, that wasn’t going to happen.
But he looked much more comfortable in the mid-range Monday, as well as getting to the rim, which has always been where his bread has been buttered.
The most difficult part of a return from injury is getting accustomed to the speed at which things happen under game conditions, something that can’t be truly simulated even in the most arduous practice sessions because the adrenaline rush of competition just isn’t there.
Hollis-Jefferson has always been an active player and he was again on Monday, covering anyone assigned to him from big man Enes Kanter to small forwards and shooting guards. He had three of Brooklyn’s 11 offensive rebounds in the game as well.
Most significantly for RHJ on Monday was that he played a season-high 27 minutes. He played 21 in his return against the Cavaliers before logging 16 in New Orleans Friday night and 17 on Sunday against the Golden State Warriors.
For the season, his averages are now at 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game on .390/0-for-4/3-for-6 shooting.
Last season, Hollis-Jefferson did a good job of expanding his shooting range out to the mid-range area, shooting a career-high 47.2 percent while dramatically expanding his comfort zone.
In his first full season in 2016-17, Hollis Jefferson took almost half of his shots — 48.3 percent — in the restricted area and attempted only 13.8 percent in the mid-range area from 10 to 16 feet out.
Last season, those numbers altered dramatically to 37.7 percent in the restricted area and 20.6 percent from 10-16 feet.
But his success rate was markedly improved in both ranges, as he made 59.7 percent at the rim and 47.7 percent in the mid-range.
Hollis-Jefferson may never be a comfortable option from beyond the arc; his shot mechanics just don’t seem fluid from that distance.
But against the Knicks, he was once again confidently squaring up and firing from mid-range. RHJ was 3-for-6 at the rim and 5-for-8 from mid-range, including 3-for-6 in that 10-16 area.
While Hollis-Jefferson may not be the spacing threat that Jared Dudley is, if he continues to produce like this, we may see RHJ eventually return to the first unit if coach Kenny Atkinson decides the defense and rebounding Hollis-Jefferson brings offset the lack of range.
It’s something worth monitoring, to be sure.