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Pooch: Nets have high hopes for superstar free agents

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets aren’t just going big-game hunting. They think they will bag a big one or two. Anthony Puccio, writing for SNY, reports that the Nets are optimistic about free agency ... very optimistic.

Several league sources have told SNY that top-tier free agents, including Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Tobias Harris, will at least consider Brooklyn this upcoming July when it’s time to find their next home - if they decide to leave.

It’s going to take a lot of roster permutations, some admittedly unpopular decisions and a lot of good fortune, but the Nets see a lot of positives in the pursuit of the three big targets.

Pooch writes about KD ...

SNY has learned that while Durant has yet to make any sort of decision, he’s interested in playing alongside the 24-year-old LeVert, who was on track for an All-Star season before suffering a dislocated foot back in November.

While the hype is around KD and the Knicks, don’t sleep on their relationship. Zach Lowe of ESPN has mentioned the relationship and described how Durant loves LeVert.

”It’s like a big brother,” LeVert said when he was asked about his relationship with Durant.

Similarly, there are positives about Leonard...

Kawhi Leonard is another top free agent expected to at least give the Nets a look. Marks has solid rapport with Leonard’s uncle and advisor, South Orange, N.J.-based Dennis Robertson. It should be noted that Marks spent time with Kawhi in San Antonio, as well as Brooklyn’s assistant coach/scout Tiago Splitter who played with him for four seasons. The two will be integral in trying to lure Kawhi away from the Toronto Raptors.

”All the connections should at least get [the Nets] a meeting with Kawhi,” one league source said.

And Harris...

Tobias Harris has connections with head coach Kenny Atkinson, both Long Island natives who grew up no more than 15 minutes away from one another. Atkinson’s brother, Steve, coached Harris’ youngest brother, Terry. Steve was the most recent Half Hollow Hills West head coach, and a prior assistant at the same school. Tobias finished his senior year with Hills West, while the other Harris brothers, Terry and Tyler, were standouts at Hills West.

One source close to Harris’ camp explained how Tobias likes his role in Philadelphia, but the idea of returning home is something he will likely consider this summer.

Pooch notes as well the Nets connections for Kyrie Irving...

Kyrie Irving is a name worth keeping in mind, too. The New Jersey native grew up a Nets fan and is intrigued by what they’ve built. During an NBA TV discussion in February, former Cavaliers GM David Griffin argued that Brooklyn is the “Fit that’s better for him in terms of his mindset.” He later added, “I think he likes what they’ve done there, culturally.”

All the possibilities are by-products not just of the Nets post-season appearance, but the atmosphere Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson have created in Brooklyn.

The little things go a long way. The Nets send flowers to the wives and parents of each and every player that walks through their practice facility doors. According to Dudley, the Nets have at least 30 people on the training staff. They send text messages every morning asking how players’ bodies feel. On Monday mornings, they do tests to see if you’re fatigued and need more rest to help prevent injury. Players wear a catapult vest to test how they are running in order to have numbers for everything.

There will be legitimate contenders for the free agents —specifically, the Knicks in the case of KD, Harris and Kyrie— but the Nets have a lot of supporters, including their players. As Jared Dudley told Marc Stein of the Times...

It’s just set up for one All-Star player to come in and take this team from a six seed to a two seed within one year. They have the infrastructure — good owner, good G.M., good coach. The practice facility is one of the best in the league. The arena is one of the best in the league. You’ve got draft picks, cap space, you’re in New York City. And the young talent — when it comes to 25 and under, if it’s not the best talent in the league it’s second or third.

It’s long way from here to July, but as Pooch writes, It’s become clear that if there was ever a time for the Nets to lure in the franchise’s first big free agent, it’s now.