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Kenny Atkinson: We have options, starting with ‘A’ but also ‘B, C and D’

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David E. Klutho-USA TODAY Sports

Kenny Atkinson became the first Nets official to hint that the team believes it has a shot at the summer’s biggest free agent —Kevin Durant— and although he didn’t name KD (tampering rules still apply outside L.A.) , he left little to no doubt.

“We have options. We have great options,” Atkinson told an ESPN that included Adrian Wojnarowski at the NBA Draft Combine Thursday. “We have a great young core that we have that are coming back. And then obviously Sean has done a fantastic job creating cap space. We have our own picks this year, which I’m so psyched.

“I’m so psyched to be here watching these young guys play. I always say I’m a player-advocate; I just want all of them. But it’s a real fantastic opportunity. We’re going to have options. A, I think we all know what A is. There’s some great players out there. But we also feel comfortable with B, C and D that if it doesn’t go our way in free agency.”

Indeed everyone following the NBA knows “what A is,” although Kawhi Leonard is looking like A2 right now with Durant out. Does Atkinson mentioning Durant signal Nets confidence that no one is off the board for Brooklyn? According to reports here and elsewhere, the Nets believe they will be players in free agency.

And as Brian Lewis reports Friday, that confidence extends beyond KD and could include Jimmy Butler whose rumored interest in Brooklyn goes back to the beginning of the season, long before the Nets successful playoff run.

Philadelphia can pay their star more money over more years than any other team, but his latest Instagram post Thursday seemed to some as a farewell as well as a thank you to the city of Brotherly Love.

View this post on Instagram

to philly. and my teammates. THANK YOU. ❤️❤️

A post shared by Jimmy Butler (@jimmybutler) on

It also appears that Butler hasn’t lost interest in Brooklyn, with Lewis writing, “the 29-year-old forward is believed to still look favorably on the Nets.”

And Las Vegas seems to think the same way...

In addition to his obvious skills on the court, Lewis notes that with the uncertain return of some Nets vets, his locker room presence could also prove valuable. And Hoopshype’s Frank Urbina notes, the Nets culture could appeal to the fiery Butler. “The Nets have a fantastic culture with great young talent and they need a star to help them take things to the next level. Butler could very well be that guy.”

As Aktinson said, the Nets are going to rely on that culture and now their winning ways to attract free agents, whether it’s “Option A” or Butler, as Atkinson noted to the ESPN panel.

Yeah, I hope people around the league — players around the league — are seeing what’s going on,” Atkinson said. “Even when we won 20 games the first year, we stuck with the plan. There were times where we doubted and there were times where you’re losing 13 out of 14 games. But we still stuck with the plan and our style of play.

“A lot of it was analytics-based, quite honestly. Player development was a huge part of it. But we stuck with the plan. It’s just great to see it kind of come to fruition and getting some results this year. We’re like, ‘Man, OK, the plan is starting to take place.’ I know we have a long way to go, but it’s starting to move in the right direction.”