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Nets steer clear of politics, stick to basketball in first media session since China

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Brooklyn Nets

In the team’s first full practice since returning from China, the organization kept the focus on basketball and the positives of the experience.

“In four years here, I’ve never commented on a political issue or a social issue. I’m just going to continue that way,” Kenny Atkinson said. “I would love to keep it to the Nets and the on-court stuff, anything you want to know about how we played, our rotations, our pick-and-roll defense, I’d be more than willing to answer that.”

Caris LeVert also kept the focus on the court: “I feel like as a team we got a lot closer. Obviously I don’t want to talk about the other stuff that went on there, but as a team it was a very successful trip for us.”

The Nets went 2-0 in China, taking a pair of games against the star-studded Los Angeles Lakers in Shanghai and then Shenzhen, but were forced into the middle of a piping hot political feud between the NBA and China following a tweet from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey in support of Hong Kong protesters.

Various outlets since have reported that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver met with members of the Nets and Lakers while in China where high profile leaders such as Kyrie Irving and LeBron James expressed their feelings.

Talking about the meeting, Joe Harris said he believes the media has made it out to be more dramatic than it was.

”To be honest, everybody’s kind of making a big deal about all of that, but what happened was internal and didn’t really have anything to do with the politics of the situation… (Irving) was really just focused on trying to get ready for the games. It was more, not trying to make a political statement or anything like that. It was more just like, we’re here to play basketball. Just try to prep and get ready for the regular season.”

When asked if players are worried about the NBA-China relations affecting future contracts, Joe Harris again downplayed the situation, chuckling, “To be honest, personally, I already get paid way too much to play a game. I’m not too worried about it.”

Harris’ agent Mark Bartelstein is sure to try and sweep this quote under the rug with his client set to be a free agent in July.

Harris also noted that the presence of owner Joe Tsai made the team feel more comfortable. “He was with us the whole week. He had a number of different events, dinners. He was definitely engaged with the team.”

Tsai, of course, provided one of the week’s more controversial moments when he penned an open letter to fans on Facebook (which is not the Nets own website) that attempted to explain why Morey’s tweet was so offensive to China. Harris said Tsai spoke to the team about his post and advised them all to read it.

In basketball-related news, Irving practiced fully Wednesday and looked good according to Atkinson. He declined to speak with the media.

The Nets had a practice that included a heavy dose of scrimmaging to try and get Irving up to game speed after all the time he has missed this preseason. Irving is expected to play Friday against Toronto.

Finally, Dzanan Musa was the talk of camp today with Atkinson praising the leap that the second-year player has taken.

Atkinson said of Musa, “He has surprised. Offensively, I think he can help us… very impressed so far.”

Musa is second on the Nets in scoring this preseason, averaging 13.7 points per game.

Nets will be back in action for their fourth and final preseason game on Friday against Toronto.