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For Nets, big trade means balancing brotherhood with business

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Brooklyn Nets v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Nets have tried to install a culture that is built on developing a family atmosphere, a brotherhood, inside the team’s locker room. But no team is immune to the business side of basketball, the movement of players in and out of that locker room.

So, last Thursday, as the front office moved two of the team’s most popular players —Trevor Booker and Sean Kilpatrick and brought in Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas— it also tried to insure that everyone understood why things had changed.

“The plan going forward is to always inform these guys of important decisions like that, change of roster,” Atkinson told reporters before the team left Mexico City. “Yes, I agree; Sean and Trevor were loved in that locker room. But there’s also the business side of this. It happens with every team and it’s difficult.”

So Atkinson and Sean Marks sat down with players, individually, explaining the moves, trading away Booker and waiving Kilpatrick. It was doubly emotional since the transactions took place while the team was in Mexico City which wasn’t just about basketball but bonding.

“We were devastated. They were like one of our brothers, both of them, SK, Sean Kilpatrick and Trevor. But they came to talk to us and try to make us see the bigger picture, see why they did the trade,” DeMarre Carroll said. “In the end, hopefully those guys can latch on and take advantage of the opportunity.”

“Obviously, it’s mixed. Trevor and Sean are our brothers, even to this day. It always hurts to see guys you grew with leave,” Spencer Dinwiddie added. “But at the same time, we’re excited about the future. Obviously, management does everything with the future in mind, trying to make our team as good as possible. So we’re excited about that.“

Dinwiddie, as the current starting point guard, noted a lot of the on-the-court adjustment will fall on him, starting with Tuesday’s game vs. the Wizards. He said he was excited about working with Okafor and thought the two new players’ intelligence would help.

“Okafor went to Duke, Stauskas went to Michigan, so they’ve got to be smart guys. I’m sure they’re going to hop right in and be great pieces,” Dinwiddie said. “They were high picks in their respective drafts. Blending depends on basketball IQ and willingness to do it. I’m sure those guys have the first and I’m presuming they’re going to have the latter as well. They’ll be fine and we’ll be fine.“

Okafor and Stauskas will join the team Monday at practice then face the media at 3:00 p.m. For one thing, the team is trying to determine the two players’ level of conditioning. Okafor has played 25 minutes this season, Stauskas 45. In fact, Okafor has played only three minutes in the last seven weeks. Then, they’ll have to teach them the motion offense and their defensive responsibilities.

Knowing how the Nets work, don’t expect either to get big minutes early. One advantage: with the exception of a quick trip to Indianapolis, they’ll be home for the next week and a half.

Transitions take time and what’s lost is often more difficult to predict than what’s gained. One thing is for certain, though. This won’t be the last time a move will need to be explained. The Nets had 22 players on their roster last year. They’re up to 19 already.