Dec. 21: Rodi leaves no doubt he belongs
Perhaps the biggest surprise in this year’s NBA rookie class has been Brooklyn Nets forward Rodions Kurucs.
The 6-foot-9 Latvian, who just celebrated his 21st birthday earlier this month, was the 40th overall pick in the second round by the Nets after a season in which he barely placed for FC Barcelona in the club’s Spanish ACB or Euroleague campaigns.
Kurucs showed enough in the preseason to earn a spot in coach Kenny Atkinson’s season-opening rotation, but fell out of the mix after an ankle injury sustained in the third game of the season against the Indiana Pacers sidelined him for five games.
Finally in early December, he was back in the rotation and the Nets started winning — a lot. And after Allen Crabbe went down with a right knee injury on Dec. 12, it was Kurucs who got the call to move into the starting unit.
Despite the fact the Nets lost to the Pacers at home on Dec. 21, snapping their seven-game winning streak. the game served as something of a break-out night for Kurucs, who set a career-high with 24 points to go with a steal and a block.
His defense was aggressive and he went to the hole relentlessly, attempting 10 free throws. He helped keep Brooklyn in the game on a night when leading scorers D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie shot a combined 5-for-20 with 18 points between them.
Kurucs wound up being the lowest draft pick from 2018 to be selected for the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend and he made a strong accounting for himself against the NBA’s top first- and second-year players with 10 points and five assists.