PORTLAND, Ore. — Missing three big men, not to mention Jeremy Lin, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson has been forced into shuffling lineups like a casino dealer shuffling cards — and admits the players aren’t fond of it.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Trevor Booker, who both practiced Thursday and are listed as questionable Friday against the Blazers, can’t come back fast enough.
“Hopefully they’re ready to go. We need those guys back,” said Atkinson, who has had to mix and match lineups, like starting DeMarre Carroll at power forward despite his unfamiliarity there.
“Yeah, and the players don’t like it,” Atkinson said. “D’Angelo [Russell] said something to me the other night. So I’ve got to do a better job even when we do have some guys out, just keeping more consistent. … Just with DeMarre at the four, I don’t think we’re at the point where we can mix and match like that. I anticipated a little too early that we could do that. … We’re not there yet.”
Hollis-Jefferson missed one game with a right hip contusion and Booker the past three with a sore back. Rookie Jarrett Allen has already been ruled out of his fifth straight with a strained left foot.
“I’m getting there. I’m working on it,” Booker said. “I practiced, so I guess that’s a step in the right direction. I’m taking it day by day. … I honestly have no clue [if I’ll play]. I’ll see how it feels. After this practice, I’ll see if it stays down or loosens.”
“I’m feeling good. … I feel good. I’m taking it moment to moment, seeing what the trainers say,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “I’m just taking the proper precautions leading into the game. I’m getting padded, compression stuff and protecting the area, not just that area but your whole body because that’s the way I play.”
Atkinson spoke at length with Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, and likes the idea of playing the point guards together and using Isaiah Whitehead as a backup.
“I like it. I liked them together. Isaiah was really good the other night,” Atkinson said. “Out of our whole group, he was probably our best one. He really did a good job. So that’s something I’ve thought about. He earned himself some credibility. Really good job.
“You need that third point guard to get those guys together a little more. … But I do like Spencer and D’Angelo together. I like having two pick-and-roll ball-handlers. That’s what I missed about Jeremy, that was cool that we could go either side. I like it, if they could be a solution.”
The big-man crisis has led to more court time for two-way player Jake Wiley, who played at Eastern Washington and has host of ticket requests.