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When even the owner is surprised! Tsai says Nets turnabout shocked him

Brooklyn Nets v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

In an exclusive interview with Brian Lewis, Joe Tsai admits even he has been surprised by his team’s success ... so far ... and he’s hoping for more.

“The revival of the Nets was already under way when I bought in 2018,” Tsai told The Post. “Sean Marks put the foundations in place with guys like Caris [LeVert], Jarrett [Allen], Joe [Harris] and Spencer [Dinwiddie].

“This core group enabled us to attract top free agents in the summer of 2019 with Kyrie [Irving] and [Kevin Durant] while keeping the necessary assets for the James Harden trade. In hindsight this ‘process’ was brilliant, but I certainly didn’t see it coming at the time.”

Tsai agreed to buy 49 percent of the Nets in October 2017, then completed that part of the deal in May 2018 with an option to buy the remaining 51 percent at a total valuation of $2.35 billion. The option date for the final purchase was originally set for January 2021, but the two sides agreed to move up the closing — and add Barclays Center to the mix — in August 2019 with the final tab reaching $3.4 billion.

Of course, in October 2017, Tsai would have needed a lot of faith. The Nets had just come off a league worst record, Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson had just started their rebuild of the team, and the team had few assets in terms of players or picks.

Now, of course, the team’s co-owner (with his wife, Clara Wu Tsai) is optimistic about the team and noted that his team is the most hated in the NBA.

“I don’t know if we’re favored. I saw a poll that says we’re the most hated team around the country,” Tsai noted, referring to a BetOnline survey. “We have players that play for each other and hold each other accountable. When they do that, basketball is beautiful, and they have a ton of fun.”

Tsai, who grew up in the New York area — five years at Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and eight at Yale and Yale Law — said he’s not particularly worried about his “Big Three’s” lack of playing time.

“The Nets Big 3 play at such an elite level that their chemistry comes naturally, and more important, they play in a way that makes all of their teammates better.”

Tsai once again discussed how he’s only too happy that Barclays Center’s entrance plaza has become an ad hoc “town square” for Brooklyn where residents now gather to protest and discuss events.

“I’m proud that Barclays Center became the epicenter of social justice dialogues in New York City. People from all viewpoints had a chance to hear each other out in what became the de facto ‘town square’ of Brooklyn,” Tsai told Lewis.