Dzanan Musa essentially spent his rookie season in the G-League, chafing and champing at the bit to get to Brooklyn.
Now backcourt injuries over the past week have finally given him his chance. And the Nets’ youngest player hasn’t been shy about taking it.
“These are opportunities for these guys. Players are born out of situations like this. I thought he was really good,” Kenny Atkinson said.
“Musa is not afraid.” You can say a lot of things about Musa, but he’s not afraid of the moment.” He relishes it quite honestly. I love his spirit, how he gets after it.”
Musa has a chance to get after it with Caris LeVert expected to miss five weeks and Kyrie Irving’s status up in the air. After totaling just 39 minutes his rookie season, he logged 29 on Saturday and could figure prominently Monday versus Indiana if Irving is still sidelined.
“I’m not afraid of the moment. I’m built for this. I’m only afraid of God, so it’s my time. … I take advantage of my opportunity every time I step on the court,” said Musa, who has spent extra time before practice working with player development coach Tiago Splitter and recognizes the need to prove to the coaches what he can provide.
“To do the right things, coming into practice before time, getting shots up, be focused all the time. … Of course I know what I can do, but they don’t know yet, and from the day-to-day, I’m trying to gain their trust.”
Long term that means defending and learning how to play off the ball in catch-and-shoot situations. That’s how he’ll fit into a team with Irving, LeVert and Kevin Durant.
But for the moment, with that entire group sidelined, the Nets have required something else from Musa. They’ve needed him to step up as a second scoring option and floor spacer on the second unit, taking some of the burden off Spencer Dinwiddie.
“Spencer is a fast player, a player who can get buckets for us, so I want to give him space. I will do anything to help my team win,” said Musa, who had five points, seven rebounds and five assists in the win over Chicago.
“We need his scoring on that second unit now, with no Caris,” Atkinson added. “You can’t just have Spencer out there taking every possession.” We’re going to need Musa to play well.”
Musa averaged nine points and 3.8 rebounds in 21 minutes over his past four games after scoring just 19 total as a rookie. He credits his offseason work — essentially staying stateside rather than going home to Bosnia and Herzegovina — for his improvement.
“I’m living 16, 17 hours flight from here, and I was home for 14 days,” Musa said. “I came in here and put in a lot of work, the weight room, I was in [L.A.] with the team, a lot of work in the offseason. That helped me a lot.”