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Steve Nash’s roster: a lot to be sorted out but he’s ‘grateful’ for what he’s got

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In both his virtual press conference and his interviews afterwards, Steve Nash basically thanked heaven for his roster, which increasingly looks like a championship contender. It’s not that Brooklyn added players during the “bubble.” It’s more about how those who did play looked good, got better.

At the top, of course, it’s easy to see why the optimism.

“We have a great relationship; when I was finishing my career, we would work out during the summer, and then I would help him after I retired,” he told WFAN’s Joe & Evan. “And, with the Warriors, we got to work together more closely,” Nash said. “I feel a great connection with him, and as a rookie coach, having that plays a big role as well.”

Nash also discussed his relationship with his fellow point guards, Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert.

“He is highly intelligent and creative, and a unique individual who is continually extending himself to the community. I can’t wait to get to know him more and see what drives him, and what makes him able to be so driven in the community while still playing at a high-level on the court,” Nash said of Irving. “He’s an incredible person, and I really admire the way he’s put himself in position to help people with his platform.”

“I’ve known Caris for a few years and always admired his game. He’s a great piece for us,” Nash said. “The NBA seems to be increasingly about who can contain the ball, and vice versa, who can penetrate and create high-value shots. Caris is a guy who can attack and make the first domino fall. It’s about making these pieces fit together, and a lot is left to be determined, but Caris is versatile – he can start, he can maybe fit that Ginobili role as a closer – but it’s exciting to have a player of his caliber, another player who loves the game.”

“Ginobili role?” Manu Ginobili won Sixth Man of the Year in 2008 ... and four NBA rings.

After that, Nash was non-committal in his WFAN interview as well as his press conference.

“There’s been a lot of work done the last five-plus years. In the NBA, everyone is always trying to improve, but I come in here grateful for the roster that we have,” Nash told Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts. “I’m preparing us to be the best team we can be with this roster – I expect this core to be there, but in the NBA, you have to be adaptable and know that anything can happen, so my focus is on trying to put this group in the best position to succeed.”

“I expect the core to be there, I’m planning on this core being there, but in the NBA you have to be adaptable and know that anything can happen,” he told the press conference. “So I’m planning around this group... I’m thrilled with this roster.”

As of now, the Nets have 12 players under contract at $132 million, between the salary cap and the luxury tax threshold. That number includes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot’s non-guaranteed $1.8 million deal but not Garrett Temple’s $5 million team option. And of course, it doesn’t include the Nets big free agent, Joe Harris.

In a UVA-themed podcast up Thursday morning, Harris said that his preference is that he re-signs with Brooklyn.

“My ideal scenario is to come back to Brooklyn,” said Harris. “This is again where I was afforded an opportunity. I spent the last four years here. I love being here. I love what the Nets are about. The organization here is second to none in terms of their reputation, how they treat their players. It’s a first class operation, then you look at our roster.”

Harris said that he met with Nash and Sean Marks the “other day” for coffee and that Nash emphasized he’d like to see Harris back with the Nets. “He obviously knows I’m a free agent ... and he just talked about how he felt about me as a player and wanted me to come back and be in Brooklyn.”

He said he had never met his new coach before but was impressed with how he “carried himself” and that he was a “good person.”

Indeed, there will be a lot of questions to answer, starting with how many of the 12 will be back and which might be traded and for whom. Then, there’s the two players signed for the “bubble:” Tyler Johnson and Jamal Crawford. Marc J. Spears wrote Monday that the Nets intend to bring Crawford back. Kristian Winfield suggested that Johnson may have better offers, although like Crawford, the combo guard said he wants to be back.

Winfield thinks that TJ would have to accept either the vets minimum —less than $2 million— or part of the Nets $5.7 million taxpayers’ MLE to retain him. He’s only 28 and played well in Orlando, averaging 12 points, three assists and three rebounds on a 41/39/100 shooting line ... and playing good defense. He also showed up late in games, hitting critical shots in big wins.

Johnson made $19.2 million last season, all but $181,000 from the Suns, the last year of the four-year $50 million contract that he signed with the Nets in 2016, only to have the Heat match.

Of course, that MLE —$18 million over three— could be used on one player to fill a role.

There is also the question of whether the Nets will keep either of their picks at Nos. 19 and 55. The 19th pick carries a guaranteed $2.4 million in 2020-21 and $2.7 million in 2021-22. With the anticipated luxury tax, that could get costly in what’s generally considered a poor draft. Bobby Marks estimates that with the current roster, the 19th pick and a Harris starting salary of $12.2 million would result in a $50 million tax. That would be among the five highest tax payments in NBA history. (Yes, the Nets hold the record paying out $90.6 million in 2013-14.)

There are also questions at the bottom of the roster and in the two-way contracts. Jeremiah Martin, who was the biggest surprise of the “bubble” with games of 20 and 24 points and solid defense, signed a two-year, two-way contract back in January. Would the Nets fill the second two-way with Donta Hall? (The Nets could also stash Jaylen Hands in Long Island again. The Nets had development director Adam Harrington travel to California recently to work out with him.)

Nash will of course play a role in all of it, the Draft, Free Agency, etc. As we noted, he has insight in one particular area. Between 2012 and 2019, he was general manager of Team Canada and would know where the next Jamal Murray or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can be found.