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“So, about the free throws, coach . . . ”

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Golden State Warriors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The 15 feet between the basket and foul line have been problematic for the Nets. Despite development and improvement across the board, the Nets have had increasing problems with one of the game’s most basic skills, free throw shooting,

The most telling data point in the Nets puzzling inability to make foul shots came in their otherwise impressive 109-104 win over the Mavericks two nights ago. Brooklyn went 14-of-25 — 56 percent — from the line, missing three foul shots in the final 10.5 seconds, two by Spencer Dinwiddie with 7.4 seconds left.

“If anybody asks me about the free-throw shooting,” Atkinson joked post-game, “I’m leaving.”

He wasn’t getting away with it that easy.

“We’re concerned,” Atkinson said. “I will say we’re working on it,” said Atkinson, turning half-serious. “I don’t know if we can get them in the gym [Thursday] morning. They get in at 3 a.m. I’m not sure we can get them in. That’s what you do in junior high, right? You get them in before school starts and you shoot 100 free throws. Listen, we’ve got good shooters, so it’s a little quirky right now. Hopefully we pick it back up.”

Brooklyn is 26th out of 30 in free-throw shooting at 72.8 percent. At the same time, the Nets have taken the second most in the league at 28.8 per game. It’s sort of like last season when the Nets took 32 three point attempts per game, but made only 33.8 percent of them. If you can’t make shots, your plan falls apart fast.

Whether it’s mental or physical, the problem has to be fixed. No team has missed more free throws in the fourth quarter than the Nets as Brian Lewis points out. That’s ugly.

Of course, the Nets free throw shooting is one of the team’s few black marks at a time when their “next man up” mantra is helping them play opponents tough, sometimes winning, sometimes making a game of it.

“I feel like we’re coming together as a group. When you have guys out, I think everybody realizes that anybody can contribute. Isaiah we called up from the G League. Caris and Joe are getting more minutes. That’s when a team starts to gain confidence. To me, it breeds unity and more camaraderie. That’s how teams start to get good, so I’m excited about that.”

Just not about the free throws.