Rodions, aka Rodi, Kurucs was bound for Long Island, everyone thought. He even said he’d be willing to spend time with the Nets G League affiliate, calling the possibility a “great opportunity,” part of his development.
“But maybe I’ll show something up here,” he told NetsDaily with a smile on Media Day. “Maybe I’ll be something like a surprise.”
Kurucs may not turn 21 until February and may be the Nets third youngest player after fellow rookie Dzanan Musa and Jarrett Allen, but he’s turned heads in preseason. Per 36 minutes, he’s averaged 22.8 points, 13.2 rebounds and 4.4 steals, while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor (missing all five of his three’s).
Kenny Atkinson is still trying to figure out his rotations, amid a number of nagging injuries, but has liked what he’s seen from Kurucs.
“This guy is showing signs he can play at the NBA level,” Atkinson told Greg Joyce and Greg Logan Sunday. “He’s long, he’s tall, he’s fast. He’s obviously gotta get stronger, we know that, but pleasantly surprised how he’s fit in.”
In the past, Atkinson has admitted that he’s “excited” about the 6’10” Kurucs. The Latvian import has said he can play the 2, 3 or 4 … and Atkinson has used him as a stretch 5. With a 7’2” wingspan and an 8’11” standing reach, not mention NBA level athleticism, Kurucs fits Atkinson’s desire for “position-less” players.
Kurucs’ biggest moment of the preseason —other than his role in a leading a failed comeback against the Knicks in Game 1— was his putback of a Joe Harris miss Friday at the Garden. His decision to hang on the rim and slap the backboard got him a technical and quite the reaction from his teammates.
Neither bothered Kurucs.
“I just was hyped up,” Kurucs said with a grin Sunday after practice. “That was my first put-back in my life. I was just enjoying the moment. And I always wanted to slap the board.”
Spencer Dinwiddie promised that in the unlikely event he was fined, someone on the team would pay it.
His preseason performance not only surprised the Nets. It’s surprised Kurucs as well. After all, last season he sat and sat after F.C. Barcelona made a corporate decision to bench players like him with NBA ambitions. Nets stash Aleksandar Vezenkov suffered the same fate.
“Actually, the guys and coaches and all the people here give me this energy,” Kurucs said. “I feel way different than I felt in Barcelona. I’m just enjoying every day here with this club . . . I just adapted so fast. It’s my game. I know how they play here. I think that was the easiest part.”
Like he said, “surprise!”