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Kenny Atkinson: ‘I feel like we’re starting to turn the corner’

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

As any Brooklyn Nets fan can tell you, at any moment, things can turn to schmutz (Brooklyn word).

But things are indeed more positive than they’ve been in several years. So much so that in an interview with Frank Isola of The Athletic, Kenny Atkinson was giving up just a little optimism.

“I feel like we’re starting to turn the corner,” Atkinson told Isola. “It’s taken three years, but you can see that the culture has changed. It takes time. We lost (Caris) LeVert to an injury (in November) and that was a huge blow. I thought we would struggle, but we’re bobbing and weaving and keeping our head above water.

“Look at our starting lineup. Our center (Jarrett Allen) is 20. Our 3-man (Rodions Kurucs) is 20. Our point guard (D’Angelo Russell) is 22. We’re young and we’re starting to see results.”

Young and seeing results. Hard to dismiss that. And you all know the numbers: 9-1 over the last ten, including wins over four playoff contenders (and one playoff pretender, the Wizards). Now only a half-game out of the eighth seed, a game-and-a-half out of sixth and an offense that is balling. Then, there’s the other number: zero lottery picks over four years.

There are a number of reasons for the recent success (which has yet to prove sustainable), but Isola cites the Nets development projects as an avatar for the resurgence. He notes the bargain contracts agreed to by Spencer Dinwiddie ($34 million over three), Joe Harris ($16 million over two), and Rodions Kurucs ($7 million over four).

The former Daily News writer believes the Nets will be tested in the offseason. With so many teams having cap space, and the Atlantic Division suddenly competitive, it will be a struggle to turn that cap space into big-time players and stay apace of teams like the Celtics, Raptors, and 76ers.

“When you look at those teams and think about what they can be in the future, it’s daunting,” Atkinson added. “They’re all getting better. That’s the business.”

The Nets coach also concedes that good times can be transitory, reflecting on the craziness of Wednesday’s double overtime win vs. Charlotte.

“I walked into my office and slumped in my chair. This is a crazy business. It’s a constant reality check. You can never get too happy,” he told Isola.

Finally, Isola notes, “Success and growth are measured in small steps, not giant leaps.” Still, the Nets are starting to get recognition across the board for getting to yet another point in their rebuild. What’s next? Will Sean Marks shorten his timeline from “very, very far” or “so far” to go, to just “very far” or “far?”