The Nets may be in a rebuild, but that doesn't mean head coach Kenny Atkinson can't get angry when his team underperforms.
Brooklyn has been reeling of late, losing six of their last seven games. And they haven't been close losses with four of them by a 14-point or more deficit at the final buzzer.
A rebuild is fine as long as the team is giving their all, and understands what kind of team they are together. Atkinson feels as if his team has lost their identity during this skid.
"We can live with mistakes, but I think there were a lot of 50-50 balls, a lot of rebounds, you're talking about physicality, defensive competitiveness, that's got to be our identity," Atkinson told The Post's Brian Lewis. "That's been our identity and these stinkers we've had, you lose a little bit of your identity, so we've got to get that back. We've got to have that, No.1, and above all, a competitive culture, and I'm not sure what happened out there [Sunday]."
The Bucks manhandled the Nets in their own building in a 109-94 loss that saw Atkinson get visibly frustrated on the sideline. And he says his players understood why he was like that.
"It's perplexing, just frustrating. I know the players are frustrated," Atkinson said. "They're not saying, 'OK, Coach is crazy.' They understand it when you show them the film, whether it's a missed box out, or a 50-50 ball. I don't ever remember in the two years talking about 50-50 balls and not getting them. We're not competing to get them. We've got to get back to our identity."
The Nets certainly need to find their identity on Tuesday as the Rockets come to town. Led by James Harden, this group pours in 114 points per game, which ranks second in the NBA.
Atkinson, though, has hope in his group to compete tonight, and is hoping his veterans like DeMarre Carroll can lead the young corps to an upset.
"I know them. Almost every time we go through this they wake up and react and come with a great competitive games, but now they kind of have to take ownership of this themselves," he said. "Hopefully they can start grabbing that themselves, and that's a little bit on our leadership group. I'd like our older guys -- DeMarre, Quincy [Acy] -- leading, getting us through games like that...Instead of me yelling at them...It doesn't have to be berating the guy, but huddle up like in college...I tihnk it's even more striking when it comes from a player than when it comes from me, more impactful.
"Houston poses a whole other problem with the way they spread the court, with Harden, [Chris] Paul, their two-headed monster there. you can compete at a high level and still have a lot of difficulty. You can really be competitive and tough defensively and they can still put 120 on you. I'd bet on our group reacting, though. I think you'll see a better representation of who we are."
The Nets have faced the Rockets in Houston this season, where they suffered at 117-103 loss. Harden notched a double-double with 37 points and 10 rebounds, while Paul racked up 14 assists.