The injury-riddled Brooklyn Nets have started the New Year strong. Can they continue to thrive despite injuries to core players?
Without Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, little-used players such as Theo Pinson and Mitch Creek were forced to play significant minutes against an experienced Celtics team. The Nets ultimately lost 112-104.
Both Dinwiddie and LeVert will miss almost the entire month of February, if not longer, which begs the question, what can we expect from this team in their absence?
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The Nets have one game left in January. They play the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, a well-coached, playoff-tested team. Fortunately for the Nets, their schedule for the month of February features several beatable teams.
Only one team, the Milwaukee Bucks, has a record over .500, and one other even in the playoff race, the Charlotte Hornets.
It would be unwise to write off a game as a Nets victory before it even starts, but matchups against the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards are certainly ones that the Nets should be able to win.
Not to mention, the Nets sport one of the hottest players in the league, D’Angelo Russell.
On that note, Kenny Atkinson must realize that he has to trust D’Angelo Russell to play significant minutes in close games. Earlier in the season, it was almost customary to see D’Angelo on the bench for the fourth quarter of close games, with Dinwiddie taking his spot at point.
After D’Angelo began the incredible hot streak he is currently on, Nets fans saw some encouraging signs. Tight wins versus the Celtics and Magic in January featured Dinwiddie and Russell sharing the court in the closing minutes of the fourth.
Neither player is a defensive whiz, but this duo is ultimately the two Kenny Atkinson must have out there in a tightly contested game.
Against the Celtics on Monday night, Russell was subbed out for good with 8:42 left in the fourth quarter.
Shabazz Napier is a hell of a player and deserves to pick up the majority of Dinwiddie’s minutes, but he should absolutely not be on the court in place of D’Angelo Russell with the game on the line.
Riding Russell’s hot hand and trusting him to lead the offense in close games is how the Nets will survive the injuries to Dinwiddie and LeVert.
We are lucky that the month of February is kind to us in terms of matchups, but no game is a given and Kenny Atkinson has yet to realize that playing D’Angelo Russell in the fourth gives the Nets their best chance to win.
Let’s hope that the defeat against the Celtics knocked some sense into Kenny Atkinson.