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“You try to build a team. It may not work’ – The Mercury News

Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert were packaged together in the deal that brought James Harden to Brooklyn, ushering in a Nets superteam era that ended on February 9, the NBA trade deadline when the front office traded Kevin Durant at the Phoenix Suns.

Allen and LeVert were also forfeited in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 115-109 victory over the Nets on Tuesday, combining for 30 points and 16 rebounds to give Brooklyn its fourth straight loss – with an encore game at Barclays Center on Thursday.

Both LeVert and Allen expressed their gratitude to a Nets organization that laid the groundwork for each to become star players in Brooklyn ahead of the 2021 deal that sent Allen to Cleveland and LeVert to the Indiana Pacers.

The pair of ex-Nets also felt empathy for a front office led by Sean Marks that went all out on star power, only to emerge on the other side with more drama than wins in playoffs.

“It was something. I didn’t expect it to end like this,” Allen told the Daily News. “I think everything has a deadline like how Caris and I had a deadline, but it’s always hard to see. I’m good people with the front office so it’s hard to see them go through It’s not an easy situation to make this difficult decision.

“It’s just weird. I resent the front office people a bit because they tried to build it in a different way, and it kind of happened in a different way,” LeVert added. “It didn’t work out the way everyone wanted it to, but that’s sport. It’s professional sport. You try to build a team. It may not work. It may work. You never know.” .”

The trio of Durant, Kyrie Irving and Harden played just 16 games together in what was less than a full Brooklyn Big Three season. The Nets went 13-3 in those games and made a second-round appearance in the 2021 Eastern Conference Playoffs against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Harden suffered a hamstring injury a minute into Game 1, Irving landed on Antetokounmpo’s ankle in Game 4 and did not play for the rest of the series, and Durant hit the one of the most incredible shots in playoff history in Game 7 – only to have it ruled a toe on line two that sent the Nets into overtime, not the Conference Finals.

The Bucks won in overtime, beat the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals, then beat the Phoenix Suns to become 2021 NBA champions.

Allen said the era of superstars in Brooklyn brought a different energy to the borough.

“What they did: they brought hope to the city,” he told the News. “The Big 3 haven’t been able to play many games together, but it still brought a new vibe to the city.”

The Nets traded Harden at last season’s trade deadline for Ben Simmons, who didn’t play at all last season as the Nets were swept out of the first round by the Boston Celtics, who also made a NBA Finals appearance. After failing to reach a contract extension deal with Irving over the summer, the star guard surprised the organization with a trade request just days before the Feb. 9 deadline.

The Nets agreed and sent him to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and a pair of first-round picks. They then sent Durant to his preferred trade destination — the Phoenix Suns — in a deal that landed Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and four first-round picks.

The four players the Nets received as part of the deal start under head coach Jacque Vaughn, who also received a contract extension that should keep him in Brooklyn through the 2026-27 season. LeVert told the News he felt the Nets front office preferred a calmer atmosphere.

“I feel like they have a good team now,” he said, “and they’re building in the right way.”

Allen and LeVert reunite in Cleveland alongside star guard Donovan Mitchell, who had the moment of the night with a one-handed tomahawk on Nets reserve forward Yuta Watanabe. The Cavaliers are ahead of the Nets in the Eastern Conference standings and reports from Cleveland suggest they prefer the Nets as a first-round playoff opponent to the fifth-seeded Knicks or the seventh-seeded Miami Heat. series.

Even if they don’t get the Nets in the playoffs, Allen and LeVert are happy to be teammates again.

“It was fun,” Allen said of LeVert. “It was good to see the break in our careers together, how we grew as separate people, and now that we’re together, we continue to grow and our games grow in our NBA career, but we still do it together. I think it’s fun to see.

LeVert said his time in Brooklyn had its ups and downs, “like any situation.” His rise with the Nets was marred only by injuries, including a dislocated right ankle at Minnesota in 2018.

“I feel like nothing in life is perfect and I feel like when I got here it was kind of a fairy tale with our youth and our team. It felt like a college atmosphere,” he said. “And then obviously we had bigger names and the culture kind of changed, but I think overall it was a positive experience. I met a lot of nice people and built a lot of relationships.

Allen said the Nets made him the player he is today — a starting center on a Cavaliers team with championship aspirations.

“One thing I will always say is that they built a foundation for me. I arrived as a raw player, not knowing my place in the league. They helped me build this foundation,” he said. “We always compared it to a house: you need to have a good foundation to build a great house, and they helped me do that. My hook shot, knowing how to actually play the game, knowing where to be and everything, I learned that here, and it propelled me to where I am now.

The familiar faces return to Barclays Center on Thursday in a game that could go a long way in determining whether or not the Nets make the playoffs.

The level of urgency is different for Allen and LeVert: Three more wins for the Cavaliers will clinch a top-six berth in the East. The Nets hang on to the sixth seed by a thread and take on the No. 7 Miami Heat on the road two days after seeing off their old friends.


California Daily Newspapers

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