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Nets stint was ‘difficult’ because focus wasn’t on team

LAS VEGAS — Anybody who watched the Nets with a critical eye this past season could see that something was off, that their attitude was sabotaging their ability.

General manager Sean Marks intimated as much after their humbling first-round sweep at the hands of the Celtics. Now, point guard Goran Dragic — who left for the Bulls in free agency after a less-than-enjoyable season — has admitted as much in a recent interview.

After he was bought out by the Raptors, Dragic chose to sign with the Net over the Bulls in the hope of finally winning that elusive NBA championship.

But almost immediately upon his arrival in Brooklyn it was clear what he had stepped into didn’t quite match up with the vaunted Heat culture that he played under from 2014-21. Dragic went into more depth in a recent interview in his Slovenian homeland, opening up on what sounded like buyer’s remorse on his time in Brooklyn.

“I already talked to Chicago last year, but then things unfortunately took a different direction,” Dragic told Slovenian newspaper Vecer, according to Google Translate. “Well, not unfortunately, it just happened as it did and I chose Brooklyn. Last year I decided the way I did.

Goran Dragic
Goran Dragic
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

“I played with some stars, like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and I have to admit that it was quite difficult because the focus was not the team, but more the individual performances of the individuals.”

When Dragic joined the Nets in February, he had played in 56 postseason games (starting 37) and had earned a berth in the 2020 NBA Finals with Miami. By the time he came on board, the Nets culture had clearly eroded, and the veteran guard was blunt in his assessment of their play and mindset on more than one occasion.

The 36-year-old turned down the opportunity to sign with Dallas for a reunion with Slovenian phenom Luka Doncic because he said he’d just be a “cheerleader” on the Mavericks. Instead, he got a second chance to join the Bulls.

“It was really tough last year, but that’s part of the sport. I’m happy that I came to the club environment that I wanted, in which I know that I will play, where I can get to consistency again, and that’s what I’m most happy about,” Dragic told Sportal, via Google Translate.

“Last season, I didn’t play for four months, then I came to Brooklyn and immediately played 30 minutes, which was difficult. The season was really not successful, but the most important thing is that it is behind us, it is in the past and now we can only look forward.”

Marks alluded to the erosion of the Nets’ formerly gritty culture himself in May.

“Did we take a step back? Without a doubt. The culture isn’t what it quite was. It’s going to be our job to pick that up,” Marks said. “It’s got to be driven by the players. They’ve got to want it. We’ve got to find players that have the characteristics that support that — which is going to be grit, determination and fight.

“We need people here that want to be here, that are selfless, that want to be part of something bigger than themselves. There’s an objective and there’s a goal at stake here. In order to do that, we’re going to need availability from everybody.”

After the Nets were swept by Boston, the two players who were visibly seething in the waning minutes were Durant and Dragic.

Durant has requested a trade, and Dragic left via free agency after declining to say at the time of the Nets’ elimination whether he’d be back.

“I don’t know. It’s tough to say right now; my head is still hot. I don’t want to make any decision right now because I’m sad, I’m pissed,” Dragic said after the Game 4 loss to the Celtics. “So I just need some time to process this better. But I love basketball. I still want to play another two, three years. So we’ll see about that.”

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