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Where Brooklyn At? ... All in!

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NBA: Boston Celtics at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

One of the things that Nets fans missed in all this drama and melodrama is the summer fun that comes with the Draft and free agency, a time of renewal after a tough season. Kevin Durant’s trade request, coming a couple of days after Kyrie Irving opted in to the last year of his contract and a day before free agent signings began, took away all that traditional optimism. all that enthusiasm.

However, in the days after the double blow of KD and Kyrie, Sean Marks and the Nets went out and did some work: they re-signed Nic Claxton (two years at a guaranteed $17.3 million deal,) got Patty Mills to come back (two years at $14.5 million,) gave Kessler Edwards a new deal (at two years and $3.6 million,) used the trade exception from the James Harden trade and a first round pick to acquire Royce O’Neale; signed two former Pacers who are coming off injuries, T.J. Warren and Edmond Sumner, to vets minimum deals and took a chance on Alondes Williams, the ACC Player of the Year, giving him a two-way earlier than they’ve ever signed a two-way.

But amidst the noise no one cared. And who could blame them (us?) It looked like the Nets were about to lose the best player in basketball and his superstar sidekick who between them have three rings, four Olympic golds, 19 All-Star selections and another 13 All-NBA. The Clean Sweep was a memory, maybe even a joke. No matter how bad — and at times unbearable — the 2021-22 season was, it would have been a monumental management disaster, maybe even unprecedented in professional sports history.

Now, with cooler head prevailing and Kumbaya as good a nickname for the upcoming season as any, it’s worth looking where Brooklyn at. Putting aside KD for four years and Kyrie for one, the Nets have perhaps their next five best players — Ben Simmons, Joe Harris, O’Neale, Claxton and Mills all under contract for at least two more years, Simmons for three. Seth Curry is on an expiring deal but the Nets can extend him, if they want, for another two years and $17 million. The team’s two promising rookies, Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe have three more years on their contracts. Warren has a one year deal, Sumner a two-year with a lot of options.

The contracts, other than Irving’s, match the Nets desire, as their statement said, to build “a lasting franchise.” And if they choose to do so, the Nets can extend Irving anytime between now and the summer when he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

They also have six openings on their training camp roster, most in the league, including two standard deals, a two-way and three Exhibit 10’s, likely bound for Long Island. Expect some of those to get filled once Sean Marks gets back in Brooklyn. (The first thing we may hear is the status of David Duke Jr. who could wind with a standard deal, his preference.)

They don’t have cap space but they do have the $6.5 million taxpayers MLE that they can use at any time this season and can cut into pieces. (The amount drops after January 10.)

As one commentator after another announced Monday that the Nets have a top ... pick one ... the best roster in the East, a top four or top five in the NBA. That of course remains to be seen, but the Nets have improved their defense with the addition of Simmons and O’Neale (plus the retention of Claxton), helped their shooting with the return to health of Curry and Harris (the top two 3-point shooters in the NBA by percentage) and even got a bit younger.

They also will be going into this season, barring a trade, with the most continuity they’ve had on the roster since the Clean Sweep. It’s unlikely the roster will have 10 new faces as it did last season. Despite rumors of a housecleaning in the coaching staff and front office, there was actually minimal comings and goings there as well. The Nets lost three assistant coaches, the much discussed Adam Harrington and David Vanterpool who weren’t renewed and Jordan Ott who got a better job with the Lakers. Amar’e Stoudemire was essentially a part-timer and not an assistant coach. On the front office side of things, only Director of Scouting Operations Matt Riccardi left, again for a better job in Dallas. Ott and Riccardi will be missed but overall, that’s not a massive turnover.

Of course there are still needs to be filled, questions to be answered, sometimes in the same sentence like, Do the Nets need another big if Simmons is going to play the 5, for example. Same thing with a back-up point guard. What about a veteran leader like Jared Dudley or Jeff Greene or Garrett Temple?

And let’s not forget that KD, Kyrie and Ben10 have not played a second together and neither have Harris and Curry. What will chemistry look like? Are we likely to see the T.J. Warren who averaged 31 points in the “Bubble” or a physically diminished player?

Those are ALL good questions, but they’re a lot more fun to talk about than whether Kevin Wayne Durand and Kyrie Andrew Irving will ever wear the black-and-white again. That’s settled. We can pretend it’s July 1 and we’re all young again.