LAS VEGAS — The elephants in the high school gym where the Nets’ NBA Summer League team practiced on Thursday were named Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan. Those are the big-time free agents who reached agreement Sunday to join the Nets, but until those deals become official Saturday, the players aren’t supposed to mention them.
But irrepressible second-year forward Rodions Kurucs couldn’t restrain himself when asked to describe how exciting the coming season might become.
“KD is my favorite player,” he gushed. “What do you want? Of course I’m excited. KD is my favorite player. How do you think I feel? Of course I feel great.
“He is my teammate, and I will have a lot of things to learn from him. Kyrie is a great guy. It’s just nice to be around these guys. They are great players. I’m really excited for next season.”
Earlier, center Jarrett Allen, who is heading into his third season, smiled when asked how he might handle a challenge for playing time if the Nets add a beefy veteran center. “You’re dancing around it,” Allen said.
Then he added, “Whatever happens happens. [Former Net] Ed Davis is on the Utah Jazz. He was a good veteran presence for me, and I know they’re trying to bring in another great veteran around me to help, trying to bring to show me what I can be and how to rebound and stuff.”
Asked if he’s concerned about possibly losing playing time, especially against physical opponents such as 76ers center Joel Embiid, Allen said, “I’ve got to say it’s up to the front office; it’s up to Kenny [Atkinson, the coach]. But they have me just working on physicality. Everybody knows I’m in the weight room. I have to get bigger, having to eat seven meals a day or something crazy like that. I’m doing everything I can to get ready for next season.”
Kurucs and Allen attended a party for players and members of the organization Sunday at the practice facility in Brooklyn. It coincided with the 6 p.m. opening of the free-agent negotiating period, and it turned into a celebration when the first reports — an hour before the frenzy officially began — indicated that the Nets would make a clean sweep of Durant, Irving and Jordan.
“This is a big moment for Brooklyn,” Allen said, “and so we were just there celebrating the future. We’re dancing around names, so it was a gathering of everybody.” Trying to put the future in perspective, Allen said, “I told everybody this is crazy. All the stuff we’ve been hearing, it’s literally a new Brooklyn.”
Referring to the ill-fated 2013 trade that sent numerous draft picks to the Celtics for aging Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, Allen said, “I know we had the whole KG thing, that’s one of my favorite players, but this is a whole other level of what’s going to happen. It’s going to be interesting, that’s all I can say.”
Durant will spend the entire season recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, but Irving and Jordan figure to play major roles, and the Nets also have added Taurean Prince, Garrett Temple and Wilson Chandler.
If there’s one thing Kurucs and Allen learned from the Nets’ first-round playoff loss to the 76ers, it’s that they must take their physicality to another level.
As assistant coach Adam Harrington, who is running the summer league team, said: “I think the physicality was something that not only the players got to see firsthand, but the coaching staff, which was awesome.
“Now Jarrett Allen knows what Joel Embiid feels like. Rodi knows what Mike Scott and Tobias Harris feel like. What an incredible experience to get at such a young age, and I think that helps motivate them to want to get in the gym and want to get in the weight room even faster.”
Notes & quotes: The Nets start summer league play against the Mavericks Friday at 7 p.m. ET. Allen suffered a minor right thumb injury in practice Thursday, and his status is uncertain.