After missing six games to an ankle injury and playing one game with Long Island, Rodions Kurucs was back in the Brooklyn rotation Friday night, getting minutes early and often with two players ahead of him down with injuries.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (ankle) and Treveon Graham (hamstring) were both out. So the 6’10” Kurucs got playing time — nearly 21 minutes, his highest total yet, and made the most of it. He finished with nine points on 4-of-8 shooting, going 1-of-2 from deep and grabbed three boards.
Kenny Atkinson thought the 20-year-old Latvian was crucial to the win.
“Oh man. It’s early, but I’m excited. I am. I think he can help us. Rondae was out tonight, and his athleticism is a pleasant, pleasant surprise. His poise, composure, activity … very very pleased,” Atkinson said of Kurucs. “I’m not sure we win without him.”
Indeed, Atkinson surprised a lot of people, including the Wizards apparently, by inserting Kurucs at the 4:43 mark of the first quarter. Kurucs in, Jared Dudley out. Two minutes later, he hit a driving layup off a neat feed from D’Angelo Russell for his first points. Then, within three minutes in the second quarter, he hit a three-pointer and a layup, giving him seven points in his first eight minutes of play.
In the fourth, with the Nets lead falling into single digits, he scored his final two points when Washington failed to box him out leading to an offensive rebound and tip-in. From that point on, the Nets coasted.
That’s the kind of game the 40th pick in the Draft was having before he went down vs. Indiana in the Nets’ fourth game. In their first three games, he played a total of 43 minutes, scoring 26 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and shooting 9-of-19 overall, 4-of-10 from deep. Since he returned from injury, he hadn’t played much, getting in games during garbage time and playing 20 minutes in his lone G League appearance.
Impressive for a kid who F.C. Barcelona hid the last two years. In fact, as a Spanish League fan pointed out Saturday, Kurucs has already played more minutes for the Nets this season —despite the injury— than he did the last TWO years for Barcelona and its junior league affiliate … 81 in seven games for the Nets vs. 62 minutes in 11 games for Barca.
Will he see more minutes now? If RHJ is out again vs. the Clippers, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Kurucs in fact has been all about surprises so far this season, one that many thought would be mostly played out on Long Island. Kurucs was willing to accept that but on Media Day, he offered this…
“But maybe I’ll show something up here,” he told NetsDaily with a smile. “Maybe I’ll be something like a surprise.”