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Despite 60-loss season, Nets not looking to rush the rebuild

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets own two first-round draft picks, though not the one that has a 25 percent chance of being No. 1 overall.

They have money to spend in free agency, if they want to go that route.

So there are ways to upgrade the worst team in the NBA.

They just won’t rush it.

“Listen, I know we have big strides to make and 20 wins, not enough. It’s not good enough for any of us, but I do think we’re going to reap the benefits of going through this struggle,” coach Kenny Atkinson said Monday.

The Nets finished 20-62 in their first season under Atkinson, getting most of those victories during the final two months of the season. It was expected to be a rough season and it was, as they undertake a rebuilding process under general manager Sean Marks after years of sometimes reckless spending that never brought them close to a championship.

They won’t get near one anytime soon, either. Marks used the work “strategically” about a half-dozen times Monday in his season-ending news conference to describe the way he will build the team.

The easiest chance for an immediate score in a promising draft is long gone, because the Nets have to swap picks with Boston as they continuing paying for the trade that landed them Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. So the Celtics will have no worse than the No. 4 pick in the draft.

But the Nets do have the Celtics’ pick and acquired Washington’s during the season, giving them two selections later in the first round.

“I like having two picks, that’s for sure,” Marks said. “I think it just gives us another swing at it.”

Beyond that, the Nets could try to sign a veteran star to become the headliner of the team, but that doesn’t sound like the plan.

“I think we’ve got to really evaluate the roster and if you go after one of the top-tier guys, you obviously would hope to get them – you hope to get all your targets that you go for – but does that really make you better? Does it get you to 30 wins, 35 wins?” Marks said.

“The objective here is for us to be in the playoffs. When that comes, we’ll have to wait and see, but you don’t want to go and sign free agents and next thing your payroll is capped out and so forth and you’re a 25-win team.”

Nets executives are bound this week for Europe, where they will meet with Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov and do some scouting. The makeup of the roster for next season seems wide open beyond point guard Jeremy Lin, with center Brook Lopez perennial trade bait even as he adapted his game well this season to fit Atkinson’s offense.

Prokhorov, who once longed to win a championship within five years, now seems on board with a gradual rebuild.

It took time to get the Nets into the situation they’re in, and they’re prepared to take time to get out.

“Obviously the losses weren’t easy but I did understand, I think we understood what we’re getting into and I know in the long run that the adversity that we had to face, it’s almost like you deserve to face that,” Atkinson said.

“So I kind of like that process and looking back on it, having to fight through some tough times, I think that’s going to make us better in the long run. But I know it’s one foot in front of the other.”

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.