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Brooklyn moves towards respectability

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Nets fans are hungry and Sean Marks is putting together a team they can get behind.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Toronto Raptors Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

“Been down so long looks like up to me.” The Nets way.

Slowly but surely the Nets are climbing back to relevance with strategic moves from the front office. The moves aren’t going to move the needle in the short term, but they give fans a reason to be excited to watch this team. Brooklyn basketball should be fun.

The fans, the players and the coaches are hungry for it.

In three trades, Marks landed D’Angelo Russell, DeMarre Carroll, Timofey Mozgov, Andrew Nicholson two first-round picks and a second-round pick. They gave up Brook Lopez, an expiring Bojan Bogdanovic, a first-round pick, Justin Hamilton, and Chris McCullough.

All three moves were salary dumps. The Nets happen to be in a position where they can take salary back without completely strangling their cap. They haven’t chased any of the best free agents for a reason: two years might be a realistic amount of time to get this organization back to where it wants to be, and that’s how long two of the three salary dumps are signed for.

Again, while it may not move the needle – the Nets and its fans have something to be excited about going forward. They’re still in “talent acquisition” mode, as Marks has called it, and any talent added to this team is a huge plus.

So what do they get from losing a few assets and taking on some hefty contracts?

Start with D’Angelo Russell. He’s 21-years-old and was the second overall pick just two years back. He is one of the most exciting players to watch with his wide array of offensive weapons. He fits the whole “combo guard,” position-less style the Nets want to play. Not to mention, he is one of the most popular players in the league. Fans flock to him and the swagger that he plays with. That whole ‘ice in my veins’ thing? Yeah, that’s the type of stuff that fans – especially in Brooklyn – love to see. Streetball swag.

Talent is not the issue for DLo. The question that lingers among team insiders, however, is whether he can keep his head up during tough times. There isn’t worry about his character, but rather how he and his younger teammates react during down days. He said he's all-in, no matter the plan is. It's a “new start.”

That’s where the veterans come in or as they’re being called - “salary dumps”.

They took on Andrew Nicholson’s contract and he didn’t contribute much in very limited time last season. They still owe him $13.5 million. Timofey Mozgov and DeMarre Carroll are a bit of a different story. Mozgov, owed $48 million, is still a good player, but is criticized because of his big contract. Not a worry here.

Carroll, owed $30.2 million, played under Kenny Atkinson in Atlanta. He tore his ACL two seasons back and the Nets are hoping this is the year he fully recovers. In a Hawks-like offensive system, Carroll should see better days. His veteran leadership will be key to the younger guys, and his style of play fits the “Brooklyn Grit” script.

Of course the most important aspect of all three trades, aside from D’Angelo Russell, is the acquisition of two first-round picks. The Nets had one pick between the 2013 and 2019 drafts, the swapped pick in 2017. Marks acquired three more, permitting him to trade another pick as a sweetener in the Russell trade. They had no picks in 2018 and now they have a first. It’s lottery protected and likely to be high, but one pick certainly beats no pick. They’ll likely have two second rounders, too, both in top half of the round.

It isn’t a complete game-changer and they likely aren’t done. Whatever moves they make probably won’t turn a 20-win team this into a playoff team. It’s all about the future. However, fans are hungry. The players are hungry. The coaching staff is hungry, and management is being strategic.

It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say that.