Atkinson’s Former Team Outplays His New One from Start to Finish
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This was hardly the unkindest cut of all in a series full of them for the league-worst Brooklyn Nets.
But it had to feel a bit more personal for first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson.
Going against the team he helped build into a steady Eastern Conference contender, Atkinson watched his new squad struggle from start to finish en route to a noncompetitive 117-97 loss to the red-hot Atlanta Hawks in front of 13.279 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
Atkinson, who spent the past three years under Atlanta head coach Mike Budenholzer and four years overall with the Hawks before landing the Brooklyn job last summer, saw the Nets commit 17 turnovers, turning into a whopping 29 points for the Hawks (22-16), who cruised to their seventh consecutive win.
Brooklyn also was outrebounded, 53-48, outshot by nearly eight percent from the field and trailed by as many as 27 points in the second half en route to its seventh consecutive loss and 12th in the last 13 contests.
“We knew it was coming,” admitted Atkinson. “We knew that’s what they do. They’re long and athletic and they do a great job. I’ve seen it many times. They force you to get it out of the ball handler’s hands in the pick-and-roll. We’ve got to get it out of the pick-and-roll, and that was tough. They made it tough for us.”
With an NBA-worst record of 8-29, the Nets are well ahead of the pace that saw them go 21-61 during their fourth season in our fair borough following three straight postseason campaigns upon their arrival here.
In other words, the needle on this franchise isn’t pointing up just yet.
"Well, you feel a bit for Kenny Atkinson tonight,” Budenholzer admitted. “Brooklyn is trying to build something here. I care so much about him and I want good for him, so it is a little bit hard."
"I wish we were a little bit more competitive," Atkinson added after Brooklyn fell to 7-12 at Barclays Center this season. "They set the bar high and we can look at it and say someday we'd like to strive to be a similar program, but we have a lot of work to do."
Brook Lopez scored 20 points, Bojan Bogdanovic added 16 and Sean Kilpatrick had 14 off the bench for the Nets, who will host New Orleans here on Thursday night in the hopes of posting their first victory since edging visiting Charlotte, 120-118, on Randy Foye’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer back on Dec. 26.
Speedy guard Dennis Schroder had 19 points and dished out 10 assists for Atlanta, which will host Brooklyn on March 8 in the second of four meetings between the squads.
Despite the humbling defeat, Atkinson did express warm sentiments for the coaches and players who doubtlessly helped him land his first head coaching position.
“It is special,” Atkinson said before tip-off. “I don’t think you deny it. Just thinking about all the players you’ll see tonight that you grew so close to. Obviously [Budenholzer] and his staff. That’s what makes the world go ‘round.
“Relationships and a great four years. It’s just going to be fun. I just enjoy seeing them. I enjoy saying hello to everybody. Obviously, I respect how they play the game and the team that they are.”
Earning that kind of respect for his current squad may take a little more work.
Nothing But Net: After releasing Anthony Bennett on Monday, the Nets signed 6-foot-9 Quincy Acy to a 10-day contract on Tuesday. Acy got into Tuesday’s game with a minute to play, hitting a 3-pointer and a free throw to go with a rebound as Brooklyn prettied up the final score with a game-ending 9-2 run. A veteran of five NBA seasons with four different teams, Acy averaged 17.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.1 blocks in 31.9 minutes per game for the D-League’s Texas Legends this year. … After hosting New Orleans on Thursday, the Nets will visit Atlantic Division-leading Toronto on Friday before returning to Barclays to play Houston on Sunday and the Raptors next Tuesday … The Nets have lost four in a row in Brooklyn … Atkinson served for a year under former Hawks coach Larry Drew before Budenholzer took the reins for the Hawks in 2013.