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Nets talk about the summer’s big prize in free agency: Kevin Durant

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Golden State Warriors John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant — you know who he is – will (more than likely) enter free agency on July 1, in search of a team he can call “his own,” similar to LeBron James’ reasoning when he returned to Cleveland after winning in Miami.

The Nets will have at least one max slot waiting for a big star ... with the possibility of a second out there as well. So, naturally, when Nets players gathered for their exit interviews, Durant questions would arise.

Caris LeVert’s well-documented relationship with Durant was a focal point of the questions.

“He’s his own guy,” LeVert insisted on Wednesday. “He’s obviously in the middle of a season right now. He’s trying to chase a championship. Whatever he does, I’ll be happy for him.”

But pressed, he admits it’s more than that. It started when LeVert was at Michigan and underwent his third foot surgery, but his first with Dr. Martin O’Malley, the Nets foot and ankle specialist, wielding the scalpel.

Durant, who had undergone similar surgery, had reached out to the young LeVert while he was recuperating and assured him that he’d be better than new when “Doc O’Malley” was done with him.

“Obviously, we had similar injuries and things like that and the same surgeon. He’s like a big brother,” LeVert said. “He’s obviously played on a huge stage right now repeatedly for a couple of years playing in the Finals and things like that. He gives a lot of good advice.”

Cementing the relationship, the two have worked out together in California the last three summers.

Spencer Dinwiddie doesn’t know KD personally, but he’s ready, willing, and able to help recruit if Sean Marks calls. And he practiced his pitch.

“Obviously, I’m sure everybody is going after KD. That’s all over the news,” he said. “If Sean calls me in and says, ‘Hey, we need some help,’ I’ll be there. And if he doesn’t, then I won’t. I’m excited to see whichever direction we go. I want to stay here and be a part of it, and that’s why I re-signed.

“I’ve been in two other places in my tenure in the league,” he added. “This is a fairy-tale experience, man. They really care about you. It’s easy to come to work every day. It’s a joy to come to work every day, and that’s top down from management to performance staff, all that.”

Dinwiddie, being Dinwiddie, went on.

“In terms of practice, we’re very cognizant of the body and trying to keep guys healthy, keep them strong throughout the year. So, you’re going to have all the (personal trainers), all the soft-tissue (massages), everything that you’re going to need. We’ve got a nutritionist who’s going to help us in that area, too.

“It’s just a very players-focused situation. Even in regards to your family. They’re going to send flowers to your parents, they’re going to make sure that, if you have a newborn, he gets to come to as many games as possible ... it is players-first. That’s the culture they’ve built here, and it’s been a pleasure to be a part of it.”

Regarding KD specifically, Dinwiddie says there’s no overpaying someone of that caliber. The belief is that for someone who warrants any contract he wants, the search is for happiness, culture, fit, and winning. But that’s an educated guess, because again, he and KD don’t know one another (yet?).

Jared Dudley came into the league in the same draft class as Durant in 2007. Having experienced Brooklyn, the 12-year veteran suggested that the team has a lot in their favor when, in theory, they’ll have a seat at the table with some of the NBA’s elite this summer.

A lot of that has to do with the team’s current roster, which is much improved, but isn’t without its stable of questions.

“As you saw (D’Angelo Russell) going to an All-Star (level), can he maintain it? Caris coming up there. I thought Caris was on pace to be an All-Star. Can that backcourt make it to the All-Star (Game)? Can Jarrett Allen come back (with) seven, eight pounds more weight, more muscle, stronger?” Dudley said.

Dudley also, at great length, compared the two New York teams and their situations. Both NY teams are in the running for Durant, with the Knicks as the favorites, according to rumor.

“It’s advantages and disadvantages. The advantages the Knicks have is the history. There’s a lore that they have about playing in the Garden, you know, having that Knicks jersey, even though they might not have been good for the last, you know, 15, 20 years and stuff like that. But it’s the Knicks,” Dudley added.

“And nothing is going to change there. I don’t care, Dolan could burn down Manhattan and they’re going to talk about the Knicks, let’s be honest … And so for us, the advantages they have here is, for one, the foundation and the culture we have. And not just in New York and in the NBA, one of the best young cores here. They have draft picks, they have cap space...

“The advantages depend on the player. And I would say that they have, right now, Brooklyn has put [itself] in fighting position to be able to land somebody.”

It’s not just the Nets either who think Durant would prefer the Nets to the Knicks. Check out this exchange Sunday on TNT...

Of course, KD could decide to stay in the Bay Area where the Warriors will open a new arena in San Francisco next season or leave, but head down the coast to the Clippers.

Like we said, it’s a long way away ...