(Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – @BrooklynNets)
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made his return to the Nets on Tuesday night and picked up right where he left off.
Hollis-Jefferson was acquired by the Nets on draft night last June from the Portland Trail Blazers for Mason Plumlee.
RHJ played in the starting lineup for the first month of the season,and averaged 5.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.
On December 5, he went down with an ankle injury in practice and was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture of the posterior talus in his right ankle. He had surgery on December 9 and missed 50 games.
On Tuesday night against the Charlotte Hornets, Hollis-Jefferson was the first off the bench for the Nets, and he played well. He played a solid 15 minutes, with five points on 2-4 shooting, three rebounds, two assists, and was a +8, meaning the Nets scored eight more points with him on the floor.
Hollis-Jefferson said of what it was like to be back on the floor, “It felt good to be out there playing with the guys. Even though we lost, I felt like we fought. There were times when we had a mental issue, but I felt like overall we fought and there was some spritz in the game and we were like, ‘wow, we can win this.’ I just appreciate the guys battling with me.”
RHJ said of possibly being surprised at how quickly he re-acclimated himself, “A little bit, but then again, I think back to practice and how active I am. You know, the guys kind of listen to me sometimes, so it was definitely good to be out there and you know, be going against someone other than your teammates. It felt good to be a part of that.”
Nets Interim Head Coach Tony Brown said of what allows Hollis Jefferson be a spark for the team, “It’s his personality. He’s a bubbly young man, and he displays that when he plays. His energy level is something that we missed since he’s been out, and I’m happy to see him.”
Brown said of RHJ’s return from injury, “I wish I could have played him more, but it’s just unfortunate. Like I said, I think that his spirit was great and it’s nice to have another guy that plays with a lot of energy and with passion.”
RHJ was on a minutes limit, and he said of that, “In between 14 and 16 minutes. I wasn’t really paying attention to how long I was out there after the first quarter because I was like, ‘oh, might be winding down,’ but I just had to make the best of what I could while I was out there and that’s what I did. I also would have liked to play more, but you’ve got to look to the people who are in control of that.”
On whether his conditioning was up to speed for him to be able to play more, Hollis-Jefferson said, “In the beginning, no. I was like (breathes heavily), but as the game went on and as the second half came, I felt more relaxed. It was just a lot in the beginning, my first time back and I was rushing – I didn’t want to mess up, but after that I calmed down and was like, ‘yeah, you can do this, you’re good,’ so I feel like I could have played more.”
Another young player that the Nets are seeing emerge is Sean Kilpatrick, who they signed earlier this month.
Kilpatrick lit it up on Tuesday night for 25 points on a superb 9-12 from the field and 4-5 on threes, with two rebounds and an assist.
Kilpatrick has scored in double figures in six straight games and eight of the last nine games. In his last five games, he is averaging 18 points per game, and scored 19 points twice, against Milwaukee on the 13th and two nights later against Philadelphia.
Brown said of Hollis-Jefferson and Kilpatrick in relation to the rest of the team, “I like the spirit of Sean Kilpatrick, I love the spirit of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He’s getting a chance to play again, and they play their butts off when they’re out there. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough guys pulling the rope in that direction and it’s frustrating because I know they can do better. But I’m in a point in this season where I’m just going to play the guys that want to play more spirited basketball. And I can’t sit and watch guys not give 100 percent and make the same mental mistakes that we do. I’m a little frustrated, but that’s just the way I see it.”
The Nets were dominated by Charlotte for vast stretches of the game Tuesday, trailing by as much as 17 early in the third, but went on a big run and entered the fourth down 67-64.
The Nets took a 68-67 lead early in the fourth, and Jeremy Lin led Charlotte on a 12-2 run. Lin had eight points in the stretch and finished with 21 overall.
The Nets rallied, with Kilpatrick a big part of it, and a Bojan Bogdanovic layup made it 98-97 Charlotte with 50.1 seconds left.
Charlotte did not budge, and they went on a 7-0 run until a Bogdanovic three made it 105-100 Charlotte in the final seconds, which was the final.
Brook Lopez led the Nets with 29 points on 11-19 shooting, nine rebounds, and six assists. Bogdanovic finished with 20 points on 4-8 from the field, 3-5 on threes, and three rebounds.