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The strange and unique path of Chris McCullough

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Long Island Nets

The Long Island Nets will try to break their own losing streak this afternoon when they face the Santa Cruz Warriors at Barclays Center, starting at 1:30 p.m. They’ve lost six straight since edging Canton in the third game of the season.

And like their parent club, Long Island has had its share of injuries and roster shuffling. Three players are out this afternoon: Donnie McGrath, their starting point guard (illness), Egidijus Mockevicius, their starting center (shoulder) and Lazar Hayward, one of their more experienced players (hand).

But they’re getting three other players to help out: Chris McCullough, now on what (we think) is his seventh assignment; Yogi Ferrell, on his first since being called up; and an intriguing addition brought in Wednesday: Waly Niang, a 6’9”, 20-year-old power forward from Senegal. He’s one of two D-League players who are eligible for the NBA Draft in June.

But as anyone connected with the D-League club will tell you, it’s all about McCullough and Ferrell, using the D-League for what it’s name says it is, a development league.

Filip Bondy, writing for the Times Thursday, takes a look at McCullough who has he notes is working days and nights for the Nets, toiling for Long Island in the afternoon , then for Brooklyn in the evening when both clubs are in town. The shuffling doesn’t seem to bother the Nets big man, who’s averaging 18.4 points 6.4 rebounds in 3o minutes over five games.

“We run the same offense, the same defense, in the same building, so it’s practically the same feeling,” he told Bondy, who notes there are differences, of course, like the salary McCullough earns, over a million dollars, and those of his D-League teammates, who make between $19,000 and $26,000.

Doesn’t matter, says McCullough. There’s no teasing, no jealousy.

“It’s like a family, a brotherhood,” McCullough said. “We push each other, compete to the highest level. That’s what it is.”

His boss likes being able to watch McCullough (and his teammates) day in, day out. He knows it can work. He has Sean Kilpatrick to prove it.

“We’re very fortunate to have the D-team based in our building,” said Sean Marks. “Our coaching staff watches them. Our front office is able to watch practices. They’re really under our noses.”

Marks knows what he wants to see from McCullough, whether in a Brooklyn or Long Island uniform.

“Chris has still got to be more aggressive,” Marks said. “He needs to feel more comfortable out there on the floor.”

So, once again Thursday afternoon, Nets fans will, if they choose, get to watch development of McCullough and Ferrell and even Niang. Game starts at 1:30. Tickets start at $15.