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Frustrated with Nets' spirit, interim coach Tony Brown changes starting lineup

D-League signing Sean Kilpatrick has the hunger and passion that Nets coach Tony Brown is looking for. His teammates? Not so much. AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets interim coach Tony Brown was not happy after an uninspired first half on Tuesday night in which his team scored just 36 points, committed nine turnovers and was outscored 24-10 in the paint. And Brown relayed his displeasure to his players.

Following Brooklyn’s 105-100 loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Brown said he was going to play only guys who showed spirit on the court the rest of the season.

“I just wanted them to know it’s not acceptable,” Brown said after Wednesday’s practice. “If you get a chance to be on the court, you have to play your minutes hard. We know we’re not going to the playoffs, but these guys are still getting evaluated. You have to go out there with that in your mind to prove that you belong on this team or you belong in this league.”

D-League signing Sean Kilpatrick quickly turned his hunger and passion into a three-year contract with a full guarantee for next season. Brown would like to see that effort from the rest of his players.

“(Sean) came in here, made the best of his opportunity and got himself a new contract based on his play. And if they can’t see that, something’s wrong with them,” Brown said. “I’ve been there -- I’ve played in the NBA, I’ve played semi-pro to hopefully get called up, so I’ve been in that situation, and you always want to have an edge when you play. You’re always trying to prove yourself, so this is an opportunity for guys to do that. If they don’t take advantage of the situation, that’s on them.”

To that end, Brown, who has had to make do with a makeshift roster largely devoid of defensive talent, is going to change his starting backcourt, removing Donald Sloan and Wayne Ellington and inserting Shane Larkin and Sergey Karasev.

Ellington, in particular, won’t be receiving as many minutes as he’s typically accustomed to; he has scored just three points in his last two games combined on 1-for-7 shooting.

“I’m going to give Shane Larkin a chance to start the rest of these games toward the end of the season and I’m going to give Sergey Karasev a chance to start the next couple games to give him some quality minutes, so I’m going to keep shifting it around,” Brown said. “It’s not going to be the same guys every night. At this stage that’s kind of my mindset. There are going to be nights where our main guys -- Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic -- are not going to play as many minutes, but we’ll just have to see how it goes.”

This seems like the right approach. The Nets are 19-51 -- giving new GM Sean Marks 12 more games to evaluate the roster heading into the offseason.

The only Brooklyn players fully guaranteed under contract for 2016-17 as of now are Lopez ($21.2 million), Young ($12.1 million), Bogdanovic ($3.6 million), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ($1.4 million), Chris McCullough ($1.2 million) and Kilpatrick ($980,000).

It’s still unknown exactly what type of direction Marks wants to go in, but he’s certainly been preaching patience.

McCullough still trying to figure it out: McCullough hasn’t played the last two games. Brown explained why. “Well, listen, he has to continue to work at learning schemes on defense and continue to work on knowing the play sets,” Brown said. “We can’t have lulls with him not remembering stuff right away. He’s struggled with that of late, but he’s going to get to play. He’s going to get back out on the floor, but he has to take advantage of those situations where even though he’s not playing as many minutes as he would like, he still has to keep his game sharp mentally and physically.”