Nets’ task for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: “Muck up the game” on defense

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (left) taking a selfie on draft night. (AP)
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (left) taking a selfie on draft night. (AP)
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (left) taking a selfie on draft night. (AP)

Newest Nets wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has played as advertised through three summer league games. His jump shot, though a little less hitched than in Arizona, has been shaky. But his calling card — the work he can do on the defensive end — has been there.

Greg Auman of the Arizona Daily Star had a chance to speak with Hollis-Jefferson, who went to Arizona for two years in college, and the two Nets assistant coaches running Summer League: Joe Wolf, who normally coaches big men, and Jay Humphries, who works with point guards. Both had positive things to say about the rookie:

“We needed somebody to provide a spark, and he took Kaminsky out of the game,” said Joe Wolf, a Nets assistant and Brooklyn’s Summer League coach. “He had good energy, and I thought good things happened. That’s why he was drafted, but he’s got a lot of work to do. It’s his first test of having to play somebody very capable from his draft class, and he was up to the challenge today.”

“He has a great attitude. He’s done everything we’ve asked when it comes to stepping up defensively,” said another Nets assistant, Jay Humphries.

“We don’t need him to be a scorer. We didn’t draft him to score 20 points a game. What we need to do is muck up the game a little bit, to guard some of their best players and be a force that way.”

Hollis-Jefferson leads the team with seven steals over three games, tying him for sixth among all Summer Leaguers in steals per game[note]Yes, Summer League stats mean close to nothing, but it helps that he had a defensive-minded reputation coming into the league, and averaged over a steal per game at Arizona.[/note] and has shown off his versatile defensive ability. As Wolf said, he was switched onto 9th overall pick Frank Kaminsky in the fourth quarter of their 64-55 loss to the Hornets Tuesday, and the 6’11” Kaminsky — who can score inside and out — didn’t hit another field goal.

Hollis-Jefferson’s upcoming role isn’t clear yet. The Nets still might clear their decks by trading Joe Johnson, freeing up minutes on the wings for the rookie to develop. They might slot him behind Markel Brown, another lanky defender with a shaky outside shot. But if he can continue to provide energy and chaos on the defensive end with his length and timing, he’ll earn more and more minutes in Brooklyn.

Arizona Daily Star — Rondae’s task: ‘Muck up the game’ with defense