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Nets identity is competitiveness. Is that the surprise of the NBA so far?

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Rohrbach, writing for Yahoo! Sports, looks at the Nets first three games and thinks there is something there. After repeating all the negative punditry, Rohrbach suggests, “If we’ve learned anything from Brooklyn’s first three games, it’s that these Nets won’t back down. And their competitiveness might be the surprise of the season so far.”

Yes, it’s only three games and they have only won a single game, but Rohrbach doesn’t seem to be alone. In tweets and other social media and occasional comments on radio and TV, the pundits seem to be taking a step back. A lot of the new praise is for Kenny Atkinson.

Rohrbach talked with Atkinson, Marks and players and finds them (mostly) ignorant of the doom-and-gloom predictions ... and the Nets miserable draft situation ... no control over first round picks until 2019, no control over second round picks until 2021.

“That’s a management thing,” said Justin Hamilton. “For us, it’s just getting better and winning and trying to perform at the highest level for Kenny and those guys, because they put the trust in us, and we want to produce for them.”

Of course, that “management thing” does affect how the front office handles the roster, plans for the future. As Rohrbach notes...

These Nets are in the strangest of positions, with the longest of odds to win in the now and no reason to tank for the future. They’re in limbo, destined to live out 82 games in NBA purgatory.

And so, development of the current roster is the top priority, with all the sports science and emphasis on character. But that’s long term. Short term, it’s about winning.

“We’re competitors. All of us, all of those guys in the room, they’re coming in here to get a win, so all those long-term projections and building and all that goes out the window,” said Atkinson. “When that ball’s tipped up, we’re going to compete as hard as we can to win the game.”

Rohrbach thinks the Nets realized their identity in the fourth quarter of Opening Night, when after being down by as much as 23 points, Isaiah Whitehead and Chris McCullough led a comeback that got them to within three points with less than one minute left.

“Did I expect it to be a three-point game with 46 seconds left? No, I didn’t,” said Lin. “But that’s what happens when you play the right way and you play hard. That’s the game of basketball. “

As virtually any Nets fan can tell you, this is a lot different from last year. Rohrbach, in an aside, writes of a conversation among Nets staffers. vi

Nets employees joked about the least in-shape player on last year’s 21-win team — one who prioritized smoking cigarettes over working out and actually started for the team at one point.

That player, who Rohrbach didn’t identify, wasn’t retained by Sean Marks.