Brooklyn Nets Notebook: Insights ahead of game vs. Charlotte Hornets

BROOKLYN -- Here’s what we learned after the Nets’ morning practice at the HSS Training Center on Wednesday.

Can the Nets Snap Out of Their Funk in Charlotte?

The All-Star break came at the perfect time for Brooklyn.

The Nets (19-40) haven’t won in the month of February and are currently in a seven-game losing streak. Coming back from a six-day stretch away from NBA games, the team appears to be refreshed and optimistic about the remaining 23 games of the season.

“I think anytime you can kind of get that mental clearance, clear your mind and just remove yourself for a second, come back and be able to re-focus, you can come back with a heightened intensity and a renewed sense of purpose,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “It has been very good for us.”

D’Angelo Russell believes with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert coming back soon (more on that below), the Nets could finish the season on a strong note.

“I think there’s plenty of time to make the right strides going into the end of the season that can carry on into next year,” Russell said. “I think everyone is coming on around the same time. I think the time is great for us to make something happen.”

The Nets enter Thursday’s matchup against the Hornets hoping to end their recent woes at the Spectrum Center. Brooklyn currently has a four-game losing streak in Charlotte, but could be catching the hosts in an interesting time. The team decided to move on from general manager Rich Cho after All-Star weekend, raising questions on the future of several players on the roster.

Regardless of whether or not that will be a factor, Kenny Atkinson wants to see renewed focus from his players – especially on the defensive end.

“I think defensively we’ve slipped,” the coach said. “That’s where it’s starts, that’s where it’s got to start for us.”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert Could be Close to Return

Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert have been ruled out for Thursday’s game, but there’s a good chance both could play in Monday’s home game against the Bulls, according to Atkinson.

“Rondae practiced yesterday, which is great. Caris did some stuff, not all of practice,” Atkinson said. “[They’re] not going to play tomorrow, but I think hopeful for Monday. Hopeful for the Bulls game.”

Once the two players return, it will give Atkinson a chance to evaluate a nearly-healthy roster for the rest of the season and gain positive momentum.

“I think it’s really important. A, for finishing the season well and B, for getting that grip on how guys work together and how it all fits. That’s the goal,” he said. “We’ve gotten there for periods of time during the season, but I really hope we finish with our full squad and can get a great feel for where everybody is and where they need to get better and where we need to go in the future.”

Dinwiddie agrees and hopes Brooklyn can finally build some momentum.

“With the injuries we’ve had, with the trades we’ve had, the constant shuffling, always evaluating, it makes for an up and down season quite honestly,” the guard said. “Even with us finally being healthy in this particular season, we’re still going to be missing Jeremy (Lin), which is a huge part. It’s just part of that growth process trying to find some consistency.”

Can Brooklyn Emulate Last Season’s Post All-Star Break Success?

The Nets picked up 11 of their 20 wins after the All-Star game last season and the team will be looking for more of the same in this campaign.

Despite the aforementioned injury issues that the team has dealt with all season, Brooklyn is just one win away from reaching its last season’s total of 20. The team’s final 23 games will be challenging as it plays 14 games on the road with just nine at Barclays. Yet, out of the final stretch, nine games are against teams with records currently under .500. There’s definitely the opportunity to get some positive results.

More Praise for Atkinson:

Atkinson’s work with the Nets has received plenty of recognition from his colleagues around the NBA, including Doc Rivers, Mike D’Antoni and Gregg Popovich. Now add Hornets’ head coach Steve Clifford to the list.

In post practice interview, the fifth-year coach complimented Atkinson’s development of young players and his dedication to stick with a style of play. You can watch his comments below: