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In New York Post’s NBA previews, some hope for the weary

NBA: Preseason-New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

In both Brian Lewis’ Nets preview and the staff’s NBA preview, the New York Post offers Brooklyn fans some hope for improvement this season after the worst two-year stretch in team history.

The previews are unanimous in putting the Nets ahead of their crosstown rivals, with Marc Berman, the Knicks beat writer, and Mike Vaccaro, the columnist, even predicting the Nets will make the playoffs!

As Lewis writes in one of his “Three bold predictions,” the Nets “will outpace expectations … and the Knicks.”

After they added depth and shooting, then watched their crosstown rivals deal away Carmelo Anthony, don’t be surprised if they edge out the Knicks in the standings — especially with teams such Atlanta, Chicago, Indiana, the Knicks and Orlando not incentivized to win.

The Nets beat writer also predicts different fates for Brooklyn’s Backcourt. D’Angelo Russell is likely to “break out,” and Jeremy Lin “may be gone” by the deadline.

D-Lo will break out. The Lakers were quick to cast Russell aside after just two tempestuous years. But after leading the Nets in points (17.0), assists (4.0) and steals (2.3) this preseason — numbers he could match or better — he looks poised for a career year....

Lin may be gone by then. Marks has shown Michael Corleone ruthlessness in moving veterans for assets before he loses them, turning Thad Young into Caris LeVert, Bojan Bogdanovic into Allen and Lopez into Russell. Lin is a bargain at $12 million and can opt out; holding an economics degree from Harvard, would he leave money on the table? Does Marks seem the sort to let an asset walk for free?

Lewis has the Nets finishing at 30-52, which is a huge improvement in NBA terms.

Yes, it’s madness to bet against Vegas, which got Brooklyn’s record last year within a half-game. But even with this year’s projections hovering around 28, take the over. There are too many bad teams in the East intent on tanking,

In a separate story, Lewis quotes Kenny Atkinson as saying it’s time to win some games. While last year was “staying positive,” this season “we’ve got to take a step.”

“Playing hard isn’t enough. We’ve got to play a little smarter,” Atkinson said. “There’s a step to make. I’m not sure what exactly that looks like. Utopian [conditions] I do, but I think we have to make steps where we don’t have to talk about, ‘Hey, they play hard.’ They’re really executing, and really playing smart basketball. I think that’s the next step.”

Meanwhile, in the staff’s league wide predictions, the Nets fare better than they have elsewhere. Fred Kerber has the Nets at No. 21 in his Power Rankings, four spots ahead of the Knicks.

The Nets should be the best team — in New York. As they recover from the worst trade since Manhattan went for $24 in trinkets, they are woefully guard/wing heavy. They’ll miss Brook Lopez’s 20 points. Health is huge: they had ONE game last year with a healthy roster. Here’s D’Angelo Russell’s opportunity. They landed some key vets, notably DeMarre Carroll, who’ll make it interesting. They have a plan and a great teaching coach in Kenny Atkinson.

Kerber also predicts Atkinson will win the Coach of the Year, the only post-season award any of the four staffers give the Nets. Neither Kerber nor Lewis have the Nets in the playoffs but Berman and Vaccaro both have them winning the eighth seed.

There’s a lot to read.