After Rodions Kurucs went through a crisis of confidence – involved in a criminal court and toiled in the G-League – Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told the young striker that he needed the old Kurucs back.
Recently Kurucs has finally shown signs of doing just that.
The 21-year-old Latvian was brought before a criminal court for assault on Wednesday and started against Oklahoma City hours later. On Friday, he entered 19 points – more than double his seasonal high – to overcome personal discomfort and help the Nets lose seven games in a 117: 113 win over the heat.
"It feels good to be back [in the lineup], for sure. I'm just trying to play my part what Kenny wants for me. But of course it felt good to be back with these people and I just like to play better on the grid, ”said Kurucs, who admitted to struggling with his extrajudicial problems.
"He told me when I got back from the G-League that I should just play my game, play with energy, bring that energy into the team, and just play hard, bring that Rodi back."
This Rodi was added to the Rising Stars game as a rookie last season, became a strong player in the lineup and gave the Nets the much-needed boost of energy. However, after he was arrested for a suspected domestic attack that resulted from an incident in June with his friend, he started this season on the radio.
It only took seven games for Kurucs to drop out of rotation. In the next 17 games, he only appeared three times and admitted that he was struggling with both his new role as a substitute and his legal problems.
"New season. Of course this conflict, which I had 100 percent, hit me," admitted Kurucs, who will be on trial again on February 11th. "But I came back – that's the best, the most positive. I'm back and that's the most important thing. "
After being limited from 17 games to a total of 16:28 in this period, Kurucs has played in the last 13 games except for one of the networks. He started three of the last five games and played his best game of the season on Friday.
"I hope that's the spark because the talent is there. We saw it last year," said Atkinson. "He decided to come out and defend like he did last year. We gave him the job of Jimmy Butler, that excited him.
"But to see how the shots go down, he doesn't hesitate. We all saw at the beginning of the year that he really, really struggled with it, really struggled with his confidence. Only to see the thing come in and without hesitation helped him the whole game. "
Kurucs shot 7 out of 9 and 4 out of 5 on Friday. He scored three times in the first quarter and played a lively, long-armed defense against Butler.
"Rodi did a great job," said Joe Harris. "He gave a huge spark to start the game – whether it was gunfire or his defensive activities, he seemed very committed. He guarded Jimmy and made it difficult for him. He did a good job from the start. "
Nowhere was Kuruc's crisis of confidence so visible as in his attitude. Pump fakes where they were not needed, hesitation where it was unwise.
"He's got a beautiful shot with an arc on it. Sometimes it falls in there and never hits an edge. We want him to shoot," said Spencer Dinwiddie. "If he shoots – and shoots, does, or misses with confidence – he becomes so much more a dynamic player because then people have to act on him, he gets these back door cuts, he gets these praises.
"All the stuff opens up because he shoots it with confidence. When he's out there, he just highlights everything he does with the energy, takes full throttle and all that stuff. He plays like Rodi from last year. That is an enormous boost for us. "