Nets Coach Kenny Atkinson On WFAN: Caris LeVert Has 'Made A Jump'

Mike's On
October 18, 2018 - 6:34 pm
Caris LeVert




On Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets officially got their 2018-2019 season underway. The team put up a solid effort on the road, but ultimately fell 103-100 to the Detroit Pistons.

On Thursday, head coach Kenny Atkinson called in to “Mike’s On” to discuss the Nets opener, the rest of the landscape in the Eastern Conference, and the NBA as a whole. Despite the loss, Atkinson was encouraged by what he saw in Detroit, especially from some of the younger Nets. 

"Early returns last night, I was pleased. We had a few guys out with injuries, but I thought our young guys stepped up," said Atkinson. "You know, LeVert coming out and having 27 points, kind of confirming what he did in the preseason. Jarett Allen, 20-years-old, starting center ... had another monster block against Griffin and did some great things. We have some bright spots … I compare it to when we used to go to the playground and play against the older guys in the park. They’d kick your tail, they’d push you down, they’d hit you, and you’re trying to figure out a way to beat these older teams. We just gotta keep banging our head against these guys and figure out a way to close games and beat teams like that on the road."

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Caris LeVert's season certainly got off to a good start. The 24-year-old's 27 points were a career high as he almost willed the Nets to victory. Atkinson couldn't help but rave about LeVert after such an impressive performance. 

"I think that confirms what we’ve seen all offseason, and then the preseason; he’s made a jump. I think he can play with the ball in his hands. He can play off the ball. He’s a heck of a competitor. And really, Mike, his physical maturity; he just spent a ton of time with our performance team in the weight room, and he’s gotten stronger. I’m really excited about where he is now and where he can go."

Much of the attention will be on LeVert, but Jarrett Allen also showed some promising signs in the season opener. There was one moment in the game where Blake Griffin tried to dunk on the young center, but Allen held his ground and blocked the attempt at posturizaion. Coach Atkinson liked what he saw from the second-year player. 

"He’s a talented, talented guy. He hit two corner threes last night. I know that’s not what it used to be in this league, but he can roll to the rim, catch lob dunks, and … he’s a fearless rim protector. He does not care who is going at him. He’s going to get dunked on here and there, but he’s fearless protecting the rim. He’s already one of the elite rim protectors in the league. He kind of fits what the modern center looks like today."

Francesa and Atkinson discussed some of the other talented young players in the NBA, Lebron's absence from the Eastern Conference, and then Friday night's renewal of the crosstown rivalry between the Nets and Knicks. Both teams are in transitional years, but there's still plenty to play for. Coach Atkinson was particularly worried about the threat of Tim Hardaway Jr., who exploded for 31 points in David Fizdale's first win as Knicks coach.

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"I was shocked at the pace they play at … I felt like they ran the Hawks out of the gym. Listen, when Hardaway, I know Timmy having been with him in Atlanta, when he’s on a stretch, and he gets in these stretches of games where he’s lighting it up. That’s an x-factor for us. If we don’t control that, we’re going to be in for a long night.”

The Nets and Knicks will face-off at Barclays Center on Friday night.