Nets coach Atkinson envious of Sixers success, talent
The Philadelphia 76ers won their 11th straight game on Wednesday night over the lowly Brooklyn Nets by 26 points. It's their longest win streak since notching 12 straight back in 1990, 28 years ago. It's their first time 17 games over .500 since April 2001. It's the first time in Sixers franchise history that they've won nine in a row by double-digits and they are the ninth team to ever do that in NBA history.
The Brooklyn Nets are in the process, or rather a process, to develop a a group of young players that include D'Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. With just 25 wins on the season, an organization would normally be looking to see what top draft prospects might be a fit with their team. Unfortunately, the Nets first-rounder, which could end up in the top-3, is owned by Cleveland in 2018. Brooklyn will still likely get Toronto's first-rounder, acquired in last year's trade that brought DeMarre Carroll to the Nets.
Brooklyn has some strong pieces to move forward with, but developing the core will take some time, as it did with the Sixers. Wednesday's game in Philadelphia showed Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson once again what the Nets hoping to build towards, referencing Philadelphia's program and its success through the process.
“I think they’re a juggernaut right now,” Atkinson said of the 76ers. “I think they’re playing great. Brett (Brown) is doing a heck of a job. Obviously, they’ve got great continuity. They’ve got guys that have been there three or four years. They know what Brett wants. They know what they need to do. When you’ve got two guys out, the next guys step up because they’ve been around and in the program. I’m jealous. They’ve really developed a true program. We’re chasing. We’re trying to get there. It was evident tonight. They’re a couple of steps ahead of us.”
Atkinson compared guys on Brooklyn's roster like Joe Harris to Sixers process soldiers Robert Covington and TJ McConnell when it comes to development, hoping eventually a player like Harris will become a key player in the Nets future.
“I think of Philadelphia, like when Covington and McConnell and those guys were starting out,” Atkinson said. “It’s a little bit similar. It just takes time in this league to get your footing, and I think those guys are growing day by day. I’ll throw Joe Harris into that. Joe hadn’t really made his footprint in this league, and now it’s year two. Late in year two, you’re saying, ‘Man, this guy is a pretty good NBA player.’ Let’s face it, a lot of that has to do with opportunity. Much like Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell, those guys had opportunities to make mistakes.”
Brooklyn has four games remaining with three of them coming on the road. They'll travel to Milwaukee and Chicago before hosting the Bulls to finish a home-and-home before concluding the season against the Celtics on April 11.
Brandon Apter is a contributor to 97.3 ESPN and managing editor at SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23