Nets vs. Sixers: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's NBA Playoffs Homecoming
Nets forward grew up outside Philadelphia in Chester, Pennsylvania
It's been a rugged road, but Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is finally headed to the playoffs — and headed home as well.
The fourth-year Nets forward will suit up for his first career playoff game at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, just 13 miles from where he played his high school ball outside the city in Chester, Pa.
"Looking forward to it," said Hollis-Jefferson. "It's exciting man, especially with being in the playoffs. Extremely grateful, humbled, and just excited to see what's in store."
A first-round draft selection in 2015, Hollis-Jefferson is one of four Nets remaining from coach Kenny Atkinson's first season, but the only one who was on the roster when GM Sean Marks took over in February 2016. Over his first two seasons, the Nets won a total of 41 games, the same amount they won this season.
"To sit back and actually think about the long four years being here and everything that we went through, the highs the lows, the fun, the bad, it's definitely great to be able to experience this and go through it with these guys, this coaching staff, the organization, my teammates, they're all wonderful," said Hollis-Jefferson. "Wouldn't pick a different group to go through it with."
After playing for three coaches in his first two seasons, Hollis-Jefferson blossomed with some stability in his second full season under Atkinson, averaging career highs of 13.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 47.2 percent shooting.
The 2018-19 season has been more uneven for Hollis-Jefferson. A summer adductor strain slowed his preparation through preseason. He moved into the starting lineup in late November but was sidelined again for the first half of January.
He's had a limited role since late February, but Atkinson hasn't hesitated to turn to Hollis-Jefferson when he's looking for some defensive focus or a jolt of energy. In that role, Hollis-Jefferson helped deliver one of the highlights of Brooklyn's season, the 28-point comeback win against the Sacramento Kings on March 19.
Hollis-Jefferson scored 14 points while making 6-of-7 shots, including the drive for the game-winner in the final seconds as the Nets outscored the Kings by 27 points in the fourth quarter. In Philadelphia a week later, Hollis-Jefferson came off the bench to charge up a Brooklyn comeback, scoring 19 points with 10 rebounds and shooting 7-for-14.
Against the Sixers back in November, Hollis-Jefferson had his highest scoring game of the season, pouring in 21 points in a 25-point Nets win. Against center Joel Embiid, the Nets have sometimes opted for a smaller lineup to create beneficial matchups of their own on the offensive end.
"I feel like at the end of the day, you want to go with what works," said Hollis-Jefferson. "I'm sure the coaches are ready to move on the swing and make adjustments when they need to. So whatever way things start to jell and mesh at that moment, then I'm sure the coaches will ride that wave."
Regardless of role, Hollis-Jefferson has been a core piece of a team that has defined itself by its togetherness and focus on the big picture.
"We're a bunch guys working hard, trying to better ourselves, our teammates," said Hollis-Jefferson. "It's awesome to watch. If you watch our games you see us dancing, you see us having fun. It's genuine. It's real, and we love that. We love the fact that we can go out every night, compete with each other, laugh with each other, even butt heads sometimes, but that's a brotherhood, that's a family, and we love it."
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