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As trade rumors abound, Nets must abide

Brooklyn reportedly dreaming of Davis, Irving pairing at Barclays

May 30, 2019 JT Torenli
Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving could be headed to Brooklyn if the Nets can orchestrate a blockbuster swap for the New Orleans center before signing the Boston guard via free agency. AP Photo by Gerald Herbert

While general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson are doubtlessly knee-deep into preparing for next month’s NBA Draft at Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets’ brain trust is also reportedly hoping to put together a pairing of superstars via trade and free agency.

The Nets are rumored to be in the mix for signing soon-to-be free agent Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics and bringing center Anthony Davis to our fair borough from New Orleans via a blockbuster swap that could include All-Star Brooklyn point guard D’Angelo Russell.

But before we start dreaming of the Nets putting together the most formidable tandem of the Brooklyn era, we must consider that the startling turnaround this franchise has enjoyed over the past several seasons has been based on the “patient” approach of Marks, Atkinson and owners Mikhail Prokhorov and Joseph Tsai.

Brooklyn endured an NBA-worst 20-62 campaign during Atkinson’s and Marks’ first full season at the helm together.

The Nets made an eight-game improvement in 20-17-18 and returned to the postseason for the first time in four years a season ago, going 42-40 for their first winning campaign in five years before being ousted in the opening round of the NBA playoffs by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Marks certainly has this team going in the right direction and they are back in the thick of Eastern Conference relevancy.

Atkinson has helped turn Russell into a legit front-line player and on-the-court leader after the 23-year-old spent his first three NBA seasons shaking off the tag of ultra-talented enigma.

Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert were basically picked up off the scrap heap by Marks and molded into clutch performers by Atkinson, who has backed up his reputation as a player-development guru during his first three years here.

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Marks has done wonders in the draft and free agency as well, making Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs and sharp-shooter Joe Harris key building blocks to a strong foundation here in our fair borough.

He claimed as much when asked about the state of the team and its attractiveness to players who will become available this summer, be it via draft-day trade, sign-and-swap or when free agency officially opens on July 1.

“Again, it goes back to really establishing an identity and establishing that we’re going to go out there every night and our guys are going to compete,” during last month’s season-ending press conference at the team’s training facility in Sunset Park.

“Kenny and the staff have got them playing at a high level, competing, they’re never out of games. It’s going to attract free agents,” Marks added.

But all signs indicate that the potential for a Downtown Dynamic Duo relies heavily on whether the Pelicans can keep Davis in the Big Easy, something that their organization has been busy working on in advance of their selection of Duke standout Zion Williamson with the first overall pick here on June 20.

Also, it appears that you can’t have one star without the other.

In order for Davis, who is also coveted by Irving’s current team in Boston, to come here, the Nets will likely first have to send Russell (via a sign-and-trade), Allen and the 17th and 27th selections in the opening round of the draft to New Orleans.

If that is even enough.

Irving, who broke up his championship partnership with LeBron James in Cleveland and is now apparently disgruntled with his situation in Beantown. would then have to sign with the Nets as a free agent.

That’s a lot of pieces that must fall into place before Brooklyn fans can line up at Modell’s for their Irving and Davis jerseys.

It’s also a lot of roster volatility for a team that has climbed out of the NBA cellar by adhering to the organization’s stringent summer workout program and no-nonsense approach to player accountability.

D’Angelo Russell has made major strides under the tutelage of Kenny Atkinson here in Brooklyn, making him a key player for the Nets going forward or a key trade piece if the team is interested in bringing Anthony Davis here from New Orleans. AP Photo by Mary Altaffer
D’Angelo Russell has made major strides under the tutelage of Kenny Atkinson here in Brooklyn, making him a key player for the Nets going forward or a key trade piece if the team is interested in bringing Anthony Davis here from New Orleans. AP Photo by Mary Altaffer

Russell, a first-time free agent in four weeks, albeit of the restricted variety, has become the face of this rebuilding project in Brooklyn.

He spearheaded the Nets into the playoffs after many pondered whether he’d ever fulfill his potential on the floor.

“He’s obviously one of our more talented players,” Marks said of Russell when asked about his pending status. “You said we’ll have decisions. D’Angelo is going to have decisions, too. That is a little bit of the nature of this business. But at the end of the day, our job is to continue to put talent on the floor for Brooklyn.”

Whether said “talent” will be simply adding the Stretch Four that Marks has been seeking, most likely in the form of soon-to-be-free-agent power forward Tobias Harris of Philadelphia, or bringing in the likes of Irving and/or Davis, will be determined over the next month or so.

In the meantime, Marks, Atkinson and the rest of the Nets can at least take a measure of pride in knowing they have made themselves an attractive destination for any player seeking a stable and ever-blossoming work environment here in Brooklyn.

“People are going to want to play here,” Marks noted.

“They’re going to want to play for Kenny. They’re going to want to play in Brooklyn. They’re going to play for this ownership group. And I think we have a lot of things going for us.”

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