DeMarre Carroll didn’t hold back about how excited he was to join the Brooklyn Nets.
“You don’t know how excited I was when I was traded,” Carroll said on Tuesday. “It was like a rush of joy just ran through my body.”
A lot of that has to do with Coach Kenny Atkinson, who seems to have a gravitational pull on the players he’s previously coached. Carroll and Atkinson were together for two years with the Atlanta Hawks, with the Nets coach helping the small forward develop into a 38% three-point shooter and average 11.8 points in his two years there. Carroll’s best season came in 2014-15, where he scored a single-season career-high of 12.6 ppg.
Those numbers took a dip over the past two seasons in Toronto, with Carroll averaging 8.1 points and shooting 34% from deep last season. Injuries – he was limited to 26 games in his first Raptors season – played a role, but Carroll figures the way to play to his full potential is to re-team with the coach who unlocked it in the first place.
“[He helped with] my shot and even my slashing, my timing of understanding when to slash and when to play on the move,” Carroll said. “Me being in a system where the coach gets me and now I can do what I do, play defense and shoot the three ball, I feel like this is the best environment for me.”
Carroll said Atkinson’s communication style is one of the reasons players – including Jeremy Lin – have strong feelings for the coach. The two have already been in contact as Carroll visited his new team at summer league last week and the newest Net said the coach just wants him to be the player he was in Atlanta and take on a leadership role.
That’s no problem for Carroll, who said he’s a middleman in the room and works to keep everyone connected. At 30, he – along with Timofey Mozgov – are the elder statesmen on the young team. Carroll comes from a pair of winning programs, playing 53 playoff games over the past four seasons. He knows he’s expected to help guide the likes of Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead – whom he heaped praise on.
“Even though Brooklyn didn’t have the best record last year, I feel like there’s a good foundation being laid and it’s only going to improve,” Carroll said. “We just have to put it all together and keep trying to win and keep trying to compete. At the end of the day that’s all it’s about – competing every night – and not taking one game for granted.”
The prospect of playing alongside Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell added another layer of excitement for Carroll, who could benefit from Lin driving and kicking the ball out to the perimeter this season.
“Jeremy Lin, he’s a great player and he’s very underrated for what he does,” Carroll said. “His IQ of the game, the way he moves the ball, passes the ball and puts us in a position to score the ball is underrated.”
“And Russell, he’s scored 40 points in a game, so he can throw it up and do a lot of things. There are a lot of guys on the team I’m excited to play with,” Carroll added.
It’s been a busy summer as GM Sean Marks re-shapes the Nets roster and Carroll is the latest impact move. Marks dealt Brook Lopez, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and starting center, for D’Angelo Russell, a talented 21-year-old guard ready to fully blossom and Mozgov, an established center. If all three start, that will be a major overhaul of the team’s first lineup and a new look for the Nets.
For his part, Carroll is happy to be a part of the turnaround.
“I told everybody we all have a lot to prove in each individual aspect,” Carroll said. “Everybody has been kind of cast off in their own little way and we should all play with a chip on your shoulder and have a lot to prove and come out and compete at a high level.”