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For Richard Jefferson, the Nets fate will be decided by ‘sacrifice’ ... third star or not

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NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Richard Jefferson said it best. Whichever road the Brooklyn Nets take, from keeping what they have to trading for a third star, sacrifice is key to winning a championship. But RJ also expressed some concern whether adding a star on the level of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is the right way to go.

Jefferson, who is a former Net — and NBA champion with the Cavaliers, will again serve as an analyst for the YES Network for the upcoming season. For openers, he believes the Nets have a very good supporting cast, as is, surrounding Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

“I think if you look at the makeup of this Brooklyn Nets team, you have two of the top ten players — obviously coming back from injury — and you have a very very good supporting cast,” RJ said on a YES Network Zoom call previewing the Nets season.

And he said, they have options as well.

“I think whatever direction the team wants to go and the best position you can be in is to have options. You can go with two superstars and a top two or three supporting cast when you look at all the guys they have or you can trade for a third superstar.”

Moreover, he noted that the Nets could surprise ... as they have with the choice of Steve Nash as head coach.

“I personally did not see the Nash hiring coming. Obviously, there have been some things we did not see coming but I think this team has options and I think a lot of it is outside of what the players control. Whether James Harden wants to be in Houston or whether there are other players like Bradley Beal, whose name has been mentioned. That is just all hear say and kind of a guessing game.”

All that said, no matter who’s on the roster, it’s going to be about sacrifice.

“Whether you keep it with Caris [LeVert] and Spencer [Dinwiddie], who often had the ball in their hands,” he said referring to the current roster. “If they decide to be more of spot-up shooters and more defenders, it is all about the sacrifice and not just big stars.”

You have to start, he said, with the notion that championship teams are built around two big scorers, as Cleveland did with Irving and LeBron James.

“This year, what is your best chance to win? There are only going to be two scorers,” Jefferson argued. “There is only going to be a third guy here or there and whether they decide to go with the rumors and bring in a third star, that third star is likely going to have to sacrifice a ton. I don’t care if you are James Harden, Bradley Beal, or whoever it is, there is going to be a high level of sacrifice. If you can’t get your ego out of the way, then there are too many cooks in the kitchen.”

As RJ noted how the Lakers recently won it all with two superstars — James and Anthony Davis— in the “bubble.” He also cited less recent examples of superteams who understood the level of sacrifice needed to take in order to reach their championship goal. Jefferson specifically noted Chris Bosh’s sacrifice during the Miami Heat “Big Three” era.

“As long as players are willing to sacrifice, great things can be had. You go back and look at the ‘Big Three’ in Miami. Chris Bosh was an all-NBA player and yes he was an all-star but there were games where he was not a part of their flow in big moments and was criticized for it but his goal was to win championships...

“I do believe there could be too many cooks in the kitchen but that is only if people are not willing to sacrifice their ego and what they have accomplished prior,” he told the Nets beat writers.

Then, there’s the issue of ego control among superstars. The former Nets does believe if the Nets do go the route of trading for a third star, whoever that third star is, if he cannot sacrifice or his ego gets in the way, then a problem can arise.

“I do believe that there can be a situation where players don’t necessarily mesh,” Jefferson said. “It’s not because of the skill sets that they have but because of egos.

“Let’s say, hypothetically, there is a third superstar. Now, you have Kyrie, who has accomplished what he has accomplished. Kevin Durant, who has always been one of the leading scorers in this league. He sacrificed to go to Golden State. He knew whether it was the media but his goal was to win a championship, but he knew he was probably not going to lead the league in scoring. Steph Curry wins two MVPs and invites Kevin Durant to come on his team, knowing he probably is not going to win MVP but both of their goals are to win championships. The message there is sacrifice...”

Without saying so directly, Jefferson appeared to argue sacrifice is a lot easier with two rather than three stars in your constellation.

As rumors swirled throughout the last couple of weeks, particularly about Harden, it is all a guessing game if the Nets ultimately look to acquire a third star. Sean Marks has sounded skeptical in last few weeks, noting at one point, “I sincerely mean it when I say I like this group that we have.” Kevin Durant has specifically said he’s not sure the Nets need to go for a third star. “The best teams in the league usually got two guys,” he said on a podcast back in September. And just last week, he adamantly denied trying to recruit Harden during their workouts in Los Angeles.

So we wait.