Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and the Nets will have their hands full defending Giannis Antetokounmpo on Friday in Milwaukee.
MILWAUKEE — The Nets say Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is as difficult a cover as there is in the NBA. Naturally, the Greek Freak is back from injury just in time to face the Nets on Friday.
“Your game plan gets all [messed up],” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “It’s so different, because he’s a five, a 7-foot guy handling the ball. He’s handling it, he’s setting picks and it’s not a 6-4 guy doing it, it’s a 6-11, 7-foot guy.
“I’ve seen teams just get messed up in their coverages because it’s so different from what they’re used to seeing, a big guy with that kind of versatility. … It makes it hard, it really does.”
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and DeMarre Carroll will get the bulk of the work guarding Antetokounmpo, but the Nets will run bodies at him, possibly even Jarrett Allen.
“He’s very versatile. He can get to the rim. When he’s in transition, he’s like a walking bucket. And he doesn’t settle for 3s. … He’s going to still try to get to the rim,” Carroll said. “He’s a freak of nature. He’s long, athletic. So it’s going to be a team effort. We’re going to throw multiple guys at him.
“The biggest priority is not letting him get in transition. If we can keep him at [a] halfcourt [game], we can help collectively. But when he’s in transition, one-on-three, he’s still going to score. We have to try to get back, not let him get in transition. Hopefully we can pressure him and get the ball out of his hands. We want him to get tired so he’s not making the same shots he’s making at the beginning of the game.”
Antetokounmpo is expected back after missing two games with a sore knee. He’s second in the NBA in scoring (28.2) and points in transition (7.2), with the Nets’ top priority not letting him get out on the fast break.
“In transition is where he gets going, his energy,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “If he gets a Euro-step dunk, his team is amped up, and that gets the momentum going. … Instead of him getting multiple [dunks] a quarter, we try to limit that. Then we’ll be good. His wingspan is 7-7 or something if you include his fingers. … He’s just naturally gifted.”
Atkinson had nothing but praise for ex-Nets player and coach Jason Kidd, who was fired as the Bucks’ headman Monday.
“I’m a big fan; loved watching him as a player. When I first got the job with Brooklyn, he came down from the other side, which coaches don’t normally do. This is Jason Kidd. He shook my hand and said, ‘Good luck Kenny.’ I didn’t even know he knew my name. It was a first-class gesture,” Atkinson said.
“I loved the way he carried himself on the bench. I don’t know him intimately. Obviously I respect Nets history and what he’s done. I loved watching those Nets teams with him. That was fun. Obviously, professionally, I have a lot of respect for him.”