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Nets open Summer League Friday night with superstar cloud dimming excitement

The Nets summer league entry takes the court in Las Vegas at 8:00 p.m. ET Friday vs. the Bucks. For the organization, its fans and the players, it’s normally an exciting time as the Nets young players get a chance to show their stuff. It’s also the first time fans see players in Nets uniforms since the playoffs.

Not this year. The continuing — and debilitating — drumbeat over Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s future has taken center stage in Vegas as well as everything else. There will be more interest in locating Sean Marks than in seeing what the young Nets do on the court.

“I mean, it is what it is,” Cam Thomas told reporters Thursday. “But it’s part of the business. They have their decisions, they’ll make them. But you know, I’m just focusing on summer league at this point.”

“Yeah I’m just watching everything, too. We don’t really talk about it; just wait and see what happens,” Kessler Edwards said. “Just focused on this summer league.”

“We’re just coming to work, getting better,” said Nets assistant coach Adam Caporn, the head coach in Vegas. “I’ve felt their attitude, their commitment has been great. They’re locked in. You can feel that from them.”

Then, there’s what Durant and Irving meant to young players who grew up idolizing them and then would up with them as teammates, even mentors. Thomas in particular benefited from having Durant and Irving in his corner last summer and last season. Durant and Thomas had a well-known trash-talking relationship. Irving reportedly pushed for the Nets to draft Thomas.

“Yeah, just him and Kyrie really, I connected with those two a lot. So those two are my brothers no matter what happens. I still call them or text them on something,” Thomas said, noting that he texted with Durant last week, but declined to disclose the details.

“Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, those guys [gave me] a lot of confidence and they talked to me a lot before the games,” Edwards said on Chris Carrino’s podcast last week. “That’s a feeling I’ll probably never get again.”

The Nets have dutifully tweeted out videos of practice and an impromptu dunk contest between a couple of the squad’s two high-fliers.

Putting aside the K&K situation (or whatever you want to call it), the young Nets should be among the top teams in the Summer League. Thomas, Edwards, Day’Ron Sharpe and David Duke Jr. started a total of 40 games last year, piling up almost 3,000 minutes on NBA courts. Also, Thomas was the high-scorer (27.0 ppg) and Co-MVP of last year’s Summer League.

Their development of course will be one big focus of the four Summer League games. All four have been working on their deep shooting and no doubt fans will want to see if Thomas has improved his defense, even if it’s on a Summer League court. Edwards will want to prove his new two-year contract was worth it.

Another member of the 2021 Draft class, RaiQuan Gray, a 6’8” forward with a passing touch, will also be on hand as he fights for a roster spot. Yves Pons, a 6’5” wing, played for the Grizzlies last season.

Although the Nets didn’t have any picks in 2022 — after five picks in 2021, 6’5” point guard Alondes Williams was so attractive to the Nets they called him before the Draft to express interest. Then, they signed him to a two-way deal, the earliest Brooklyn has ever signed a two-way deal. Williams, 23, was ACC Player of the Year at Wake Forest and was the first player ever to lead the conference in scoring and assists. Court vision is his calling card.

In addition to Alondes Williams, the Nets signed four other undrafted players to Summer League deals: three wings — Donovan Williams of hometown UNLV, Taze Moore of Houston and Noah Kirkwood of Harvard — as well as 6’9” big man Brison Gresham of Houston and Texas Southern. Yet another wing, Kaiser Gates, played for Caporn on Long Island.

Tonight’s game will be on NBA TV. They then play the 76ers at 3:30 p.m. ET on July 10 at the Thomas & Mack Center (NBA TV); the Grizzlies at 6:00 p.m. ET on July 12 at the Cox Pavilion (ESPNU) and their last scheduled game vs. the Timberwolves at 9:00 p.m. ET on July 14, also at Cox (ESPNU). The tournament element of the Summer League begins July 15 with the championship game on the afternoon of July 17.