In Tuesday’s edition of the Brooklyn Nets Morning Dish, it turns out that new Nets center Ed Davis is having an impact on both New York NBA teams.
Ed Davis came to the Brooklyn Nets over the summer as a free-agent bargain, signing a one-year deal for the Nets’ available biannual exception of $4.49 million. His impact has been big already, as he’s leading the club with 8.3 rebounds per game in just 17 minutes a night.
That Davis would be making that sort of contribution on the glass isn’t a surprise — no player in the NBA has more rebounds in a reserve role since 2010 than Davis does.
But as Moke Hamilton of The Athletic (subscription required) learned, the Davis effect extends to New York’s other NBA team. Noah Vonleh signed a make-good deal with the Knicks over the summer, based in large part because of the advice he received from a former teammate.
Davis and Vonleh played together in Portland for the better part of three seasons, with each arriving in the 2015 offseason. Vonleh was acquired in a trade from the Charlotte Hornets and Davis signed as an unrestricted free agent after a season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
They have similar career arcs — both are former lottery picks that have bounced around the NBA. For Vonleh, entering his fifth season, the Knicks are already his fourth different team. Davis is entering his ninth NBA campaign with his fifth different organization.
Kurucs could be odd man out of rotation
The offseason talk around Brooklyn Nets second-round pick Rodions Kurucs centered around how much of the season he would spent in a learning role with the G League’s Long Island Nets.
But after impressing in training camp and the preseason with his energy and his ability to make positive things happen on the floor, Kurucs opened the season with a regular rotation spot.
That ascendance was due in part to injuries that sidelined fellow forwards Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and DeMarre Carroll in the early going, but Kurucs is averaging 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in only 14.3 minutes per game so far.
He left the loss to the Indiana Pacers Saturday night after spraining his left ankle early in the fourth quarter and has been ruled out for Wednesday’s tilt in Cleveland.
But even without the injury, Brian Lewis of the New York Post reports Kurucs’ playing time could see a dip. Hollis-Jefferson will be available against the Cavs for the first time this season and the Nets have been starting Jared Dudley at the 4 through the first three games.
Coach Kenny Atkinson indicated Dudley may remain with that group, even with last year’s incumbent at the 4, RHJ, now available.
"“I like Jared with that unit. Most of all, Jared Dudley, he moved it, he gets the ball cooking and we need that with that first group. He’s important for that group right now, so we’ll probably keep it like that for now.”"
That would put Hollis-Jefferson onto the second unit, which could bite into the minutes that had been available for Kurucs.
LeVert’s growth reminiscent of another emergence
Caris LeVert has taken the NBA by storm in the early going, averaging 24.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game through the first three games for the Brooklyn Nets, with a ridiculously good 75.1 true shooting percentage.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer points out that this is exactly the reason why the Nets were not willing to include LeVert in any potential trade package to get Jimmy Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
O’Connor notes the biggest change in LeVert’s game this year is about balance, particularly on his release. With that and added strength enabling him to absorb contact instead of shying away from it, LeVert is finding all sorts of ways to put points on the board.
O’Connor says the biggest takeaway from LeVert’s breakout is that it makes Brooklyn a viable free-agent destination. Because of LeVert’s versatility, he would be able to adapt to playing with just about any style of incoming star player.
Atkinson remembers his influencers
Kenny Atkinson recounted his life in basketball in an interview with Tom Dowd of Nets.com, remembering specifically the coaches who have influenced his style.
Atkinson played his high school basketball at St. Anthony’s on Long Island before heading to the University of Richmond, where he was the point guard for a Spiders team that upset defending national champion Indiana on its way to the Sweet 16 in 1988.
He spent 14 years playing on the fringes, never making an NBA roster. Instead, he plied his trade in the old Continental Basketball Association and the U.S. Basketball League, as well as overseas in Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands from 1990-2004.
He immediately stepped into coaching from there, spending two seasons as an assistant coach with Paris Basket Racing in France before getting to the NBA in 2006 as a player development coach with the Houston Rockets.
In 2008, Atkinson moved to an assistant role with , moving in 2008 with the New York Knicks for four seasons. After four seasons as an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks, Atkinson landed the Nets gig in 2016.
The list of coaches Atkinson cites is a long one, going all the way back to his prep days under coach Gus Alfieri at St. Anthony’s