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The Athletic: Nets not interested in sending Mikal Bridges to Portland ... maybe anywhere

With one tweet. The Athletic’s Alex Schiffer and John Hollinger ended the most recent trade rumor affecting the Brooklyn Nets.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

With one tweet, Alec Schiffer with an assist from Athletic colleague John Hollinger put to rest this week’s trade rumor if it could even be called that.

In a discussion of possible moves in the lottery prior to the Draft on June 22, Schiffer tweeted this...

The Bridges/Blazers rumor — more speculation by some pundits and Portland fans — would have the Nets acquire the No. 3 pick in the Draft and Anfernee Simons from the Blazers in return for Bridges. Simons, the Blazers 6’3” combo guard averaged 21.1 points per game last season on shooting splits of 45/38/89 in 62 games. The pick would presumably be used to draft either Scoot Henderson, the 6’2” G League Ignite combo guard or Brandon Miller, Alabama’s 6’9” forward

Schiffer didn’t provide any further details but considering how definitive the tweet was — and that The Athletic reporter has been at the Draft Combine in Chicago, the source must have been quite high in the Nets firmament.

The other rumor involving the Blazers and Nets of course is one in which the Nets would pair Bridges with his good friend and mentor, seven-time All-NBA guard Damian Lillard. Nothing new on that although Zach Lowe on his Lowe Post podcast Friday suggested that Lillard would like to stay in the Rose City.

Trade rumors — and speculation by fans — rise at this time of year. As Dorian Finney-Smith told Brian Lewis this week, “Everybody here knows what’s going on, we know the pieces we have and you just never know in this league. So I guess we’re going to see after the draft. See what’s going on and go from there.”

Lewis, in writing about the Nets trade picture noted that Bridges is “largely seen as untouchable” and has become the “face of the franchise.” The Nets did reject an offer of four first round picks from the Grizzlies at the deadline, per Mike Scotto of Hoopshype. (The offer didn’t include any of Memphis stars.)

Indeed, just tracking the Nets social media posts since the team’s playoff loss would tell you that Bridges is the face of the franchise. In addition to various tweets and Instagram posts noting his season highlights, Bridges has been the subject of several interviews, the most recent with The Pivot, in which he talked about a number of things including his family’s influence, the trade, hard work, etc.

Among his comments, there was this comparison with the Big Three...

“Brooklyn had things going on. They had Harden, KD and Kyrie and all that happening and Kyrie and all that stuff. I think [fans} were just ready for a refresh and I’m like the total opposite of all them dudes. I’m just like the quietest, chillest. I ain’t trippin’ off nothin’.”

It also appears that he will be used to recruit others to Brooklyn. In his interview with Hoop Herald’s Spencer Davies this week, Bridge talked about how much he respected Joe and Clara Wu Tsai as well as Sean Marks and the way he’s been treated since arriving.

As for DFS, Lewis reports that he and Royce O’Neale seem to be battling for the same minutes at the same position and that one of the two is likely to be gone before training camp, that “the team could pare down their stock of 3-and-D wings to help balance out their roster.”

Two days ago, Chris Fedor of wrote that the Cavaliers were interested in O’Neale at the deadline, but in the end, the Nets said no. Of the Cavs Fedor wrote, “they were far down the road on a deal for Brooklyn’s Royce O’Neale before it opted not to trade him.” Fedor didn’t provide details on who or what Cleveland was prepared to give up.

O’Neale had his best season with the Nets last year with career highs in minutes played (31.7), 3-point shooting (38.9%) and points per game (8.8.) He is partially guaranteed in 2023-24, $2.5 million on a $9.5 million expiring.

O’Neale and Finney-Smith are not just similar sized with similar skills. They are also only months apart in age, Finney-Smith reaching 30 at the end of the season. DFS, however, has $44.2 million left on his contract. He admitted to Lewis that he “didn’t have a great 26 games” with the Nets, particularly from three. As Lewis noted, after shooting 39.4 and 39.5% in his two seasons before this one, he regressed to 35.5% in his first 40 games this season in Dallas, then a miserable 30.6% in 26 games with Brooklyn. He did get better at the end of the season, shooting 50.0% in his last eight games, including the playoffs. DFS also had surgery on his shooting hand last month to straighten out a bent pinky.

Lewis also pooh-poohed the idea that the Nets could offer Cam Johnson in a sign-and-trade for a superstar like Lillard, noting that under the CBA, a team receiving the 6’8” wing would be hard-capped after the transaction. Moreover, C.J. is Bridges best friend and like Bridges, he’s been promoted on Nets social media in recent weeks. He is a restricted free agent this summer meaning the Nets can match any offer from another team. The projected cost of keeping him is likely to be around $90 million over four years.

So before things really start to heat up at the Draft on June 22, everyone has to wait.

“You’ve still got to come in every day and do what you’re asked: That’s be a pro on and off the court,” Finney-Smith said. “Regardless if I’m here, if I’m not, got to keep it professional.”