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Looking at Nets moves through prism of culture ... not numbers

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

And in the end, loyalty won out. The player’s loyalty to the organization that gave him a chance and the organization’s loyalty to the player who played his heart out.

Spencer Dinwiddie’s three-year $34 million deal is, probably, a bit less than what he could have gotten in free agency this summer, particularly if he continues his development. As he told us last year, “I’m fully indebted to Brooklyn” and he meant it, adding this year, “I’d love to be here. This organization has shown me hospitality and given me an opportunity like I haven’t had in the NBA before, so I’m definitely indebted to them, and if they decide to sign me, I’d be one of the happiest players in the league.”

It is indeed special, the sort of thing, dare we say it, that Spurs players did to help the team fit into the NBA’s arcane salary cap rules. But the players who agreed to take a haircut for Pop and R.C. had already made their money. This was Dinwiddie’s first contract, his first chance to make the big bucks every young NBAer dreams of.

What makes it doubly extraordinary is that it’s the second time a Nets player has left money on table by re-signing in Brooklyn. Joe Harris, faced with the same set of facts, agreed to a two-year, $16 million extension. He even admitted he took a hometown discount.

“I could’ve got a longer deal. But I talked about the relationship I had with Sean, with [coach] Kenny [Atkinson], with all my teammates,” Harris told Brian Lewis back in August. Longer deal = more guaranteed money.

Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson have yet to speak to the Dinwiddie deal, but what he said last summer about Harris applies.

“You get a guy like Joe who could’ve gone elsewhere for more money,” Marks said. “That makes us feel special that a guy is saying I appreciate what you guys have done, but I want to come back here and help you build this, not give up on Brooklyn. He’s here and he wants to be a part of it.”

“This is not some miracle of some guy who couldn’t play,” Atkinson said of Harris. “He could play. But he got an opportunity here.”

Indeed, the Nets now have a bona fide record of developing players other teams dumped. It’s not just the Dinwiddie and Harris. It’s also Caris LeVert going from a broken body at Michigan to stardom in Brooklyn or DeMarre Carroll telling anyone in earshot that the Nets performance team resurrected his career or Jared Dudley talking about the differences between Brooklyn and other clubs he’s played for. Not to mention a Latvian kid who scored one more point in the 76ers game Saturday than he scored all of last year in Barcelona.

And with Dinwiddie and Harris’ signings, the Nets have tangible proof that their culture works. It’s not just about players praising the organization and loving their teammates on social media. There is now an effect: getting players to take less, a little or a lot, for the better of the team’s future.

Does it get noticed? Of course, it does. Free agents wonder what’s going on in Brooklyn that makes their players so willing to do this, in a world of “now”? (Contrast the last few days in Brooklyn with the last few weeks in Chicago ... or Philadelphia). Moreover, player agents now see there is a record of even-handed dealings. Lets not forget that Dinwiddie and Harris are the first two players from the Markinson era to re-up.

And it adds to the Nets reputation of development which is not lost on agents from draft prospects who can, depending on their power, steer a pick. Who doesn’t want to see their clients succeed.

Yes, the Nets face questions about how they will handle D’Angelo Russell’s free agency come July and yes, there are a lot of numbers out there, some of which will undoubtedly change before the summer. The issue right now is not numbers. It’s about culture. The numbers can wait.