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Free agency, the Olympics and the lure of the ‘Big Three’

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USA Basketball Practice In Athens Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Team USA roster came out, Nets fans and pundits took note that Kevin Love’s name was sitting right there, blinking like a red light, a couple of spots below Kevin Durant’s. Is the 32-year-old the next Nets target, the next Blake Griffin, the next LaMarcus Aldridge, a buyout candidate with a dream of winning a ring, in his case, a second? A Kevin Squared in Brooklyn!?!

Love, of course, is still on the Cavaliers roster and is owed $60.2 million over the next few years. There was ample evidence this season that Love, who won his first ring with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, back in 2016, is tired of the losing in Cleveland. Moreover, he now lives in Manhattan’s Tribeca, a quick jaunt across the Brooklyn Bridge from Barclays Center and the HSS Training Center, and not far from Durant and Griffin.

Okay, okay, we’re getting a (little?) ahead of ourselves. We know nothing about 1) whether the Cavs would buy out Love ... but if the Cavs take a big with the No. 3 pick next month; 2) whether there’s any mutual interest; or 3) how much Love has left. His numbers last year bear a remarkable semblance to those of Griffin’s before he left Detroit for Brooklyn.

All that said, there’s a larger picture here. Around the league, there’s a belief that Sean Marks et al will try to fill out their roster with players like Love, if not him specifically, using KD, Irving and James Harden to get players to come to Brooklyn at a reduced cost, like they did last season.

Over the weekend, Shams Charania and Pat Garrity, former assistant GM of the Pistons, discussed on Stadium how they thought the Nets strategy would play out...

“I think what they are really going to do is what you’ve seen them do in the last free agency period through the buyout period is to rely on their star players to go and recruit the kind of players around them that they’re comfortable with,” said Garrity who also spent time on the NBPA executive committee.”

“You saw what a huge piece Jeff Green was. So bringing guys like that in. There’s no shortage of veteran players who re coming to the end of their careers who want nothing more than winning a championship. If you look around the league, even it means taking a minimum contract, or something well below your market value. Brooklyn, to me, with a healthy ‘Big Three’ has the best chance going forward the next few years.”

Charania noted how the Nets approached Griffin is a good example of how they might go after other similarly situated players.

“When the Nets went and got Blake Griffin on the buyout market, their pitch to him was this is not just for this year. but to recoup their value, then try to bring you back in the off season. That will be their goal”.

Charania added other teams will certainly try to sign Griffin. “There will be interest the way Blake Griffin played.” Griffin, of course, has spoken highly of the Nets team and organization and is guaranteed $29.8 million next season as part of his buyout deal with the Pistons. That number won’t change. Any money he gets elsewhere, including from the Nets, will be deducted from the Pistons commitment to him.

It’s not just Garrity and Charania who think the Nets will take advantage of the lure of the “Big Three” ... and their record of resurrecting outcasts. In his assessment of the Nets off-season, Bobby Marks puts “the drawing card of playing with Durant, Harden and Irving” at the top of his “resources to build the roster.”

Bobby Marks adds that the Nets will need to find ways to improve without going deeper into the luxury tax. He lays out, for example, how expensive a sign-and-trade involving Spencer Dinwiddie could be if the Nets took back just $12 million in salary.

A sign-and-trade deal with a team that doesn’t have significant cap space is an option, but that would require Brooklyn to take back salary in the trade, adding to an already high luxury tax bill. Brooklyn has a projected $53.4 million tax bill and would see that number double if the Nets took back $12 million in salary.

As the Nets former assistant GM argues, “Brooklyn has limited means of adding to its roster in free agency, which means acquiring serviceable bench players,” as they did this season by adding Green, Griffin and Aldridge as well as Mike James, all for the vets minimum.

So, will Durant try to recruit Olympic teammates like Love to Brooklyn? “Recruiting” is such an amorphous word (and “tampering” such a dirty one.) Still, the “Clean Sweep” began aboard a 514-foot mega yacht docked off Rio de Janiero during the last Olympics.

As Matt Sullivan recounts in his new book, “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” it went like this...

“Hey,” Kyrie told (DeAndre Jordan) and KD, “this would be cool to do for real.”

“What you mean by that?” DeAndre asked him.

“Let’s all get on the same team,” Kyrie said. “and play together.”

Then, they toasted to that sentiment. You know, sometimes, stuff just happens.