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Brooklyn Nets Summer League: Nets 74, Croatia 58

Musa and Kurucs score 15 points each in Brooklyn win

LAS VEGAS — Before the Brooklyn Nets beat Team Croatia 74-58 in NBA Summer League action on Sunday, Dzanan Musa had some conversations with the upcoming opponents, and the result left him looking forward to resuming them after the game.

“Six of them were my teammates two years ago,” said Musa, who played professionally in Croatia before being drafted by the Nets last year and hails from neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina. “I had a lot of talking before the game. I’ll have dinner with them tonight to kind of brag about how we won against them so it’s going to be nice.”

Musa finished with a team-high 15 points (matched by Rodions Kurucs) and helped close the game out after a shaky start. With the Nets up 10 and looking in control, Musa scored seven straight points — knocking down a 3-pointer followed by four free throws — and when Ahmed Hill followed with another triple the Nets were up 20. Musa scored nine of Brooklyn’s 20 fourth-quarter points.

“We’re really happy the way he responded,” said coach Adam Harrington. “We knew it would be a good game going against a lot of the Croatian players that he knew. But we came in not really knowing, ‘hey Musa, we’re going to rely on you a lot and we’re going to hold you accountable.’ I was really happy. We were tough on him in the first half and thought his execution would be a little bit better, but really happy after the game how he responded and how he led out there. We needed that kind of offensive spark in the fourth quarter and he gave it to us. I think it’s just a huge experience for him.”

“I think that shows a more mature player, that I’m not hunting for anything,” said Musa. “I think the most important thing about the young players is to let the game come to them. Just have fun in the game, trust your teammates and I think the win shows that.”

The week in Las Vegas is one Musa has been looking forward to. Last year’s first-round draft pick turned 20 just two months ago. He spent much of his rookie season playing in the G League for the Long Island Nets, something he found disappointing at first but eventually came to embrace as a valuable experience.

But he also wants something more, and he’s targeting the offseason — from Summer League to player workouts to training camps — as an opportunity to prove he’s ready for it.

“I think he’s looked at the roster and he wants to be a part of it,” said Harrington after Friday’s game against Dallas. “And I think as the season was over he took a quick break, but he’s been in the gym the whole time and been working with all of our coaching staff, all of our performance staff. I think it’s really exciting for him to get an opportunity. He had such a great year in the G League last year and now he’s out here in front of everybody with an opportunity to show what he’s been working on.”

“I’m ready, I’m ready,” said Musa. “Believe me, I’m ready. This time, when I realize that I had a chance to play in the NBA. I’ve been waiting for that for 20 years and I think that I’m ready.”

RODI STAYS SHARP

After matching Musa for the team-high with 15 points, Kurucs is averaging 14.5 points through two games while shooting a combined 12-for-16 overall and 3-for-6 from 3-point range. Against Croatia, he came out ready to take charge with 10 first-quarter points.

“Rodi’s so aggressive and he plays so hard, it’s one of his advantages,” said Harrington. “It’s really helped out whole group to see how hard he plays, but he’s done really well and he’s been the leader in everything. First in the gym, first in all the drills, really took all the performance really serious too, so we’ve been happy with the way he’s playing and we want to keep putting the ball in his hands and have be aggressive, make some plays out there.”

“I’m just trying to do what coaches want,” said Kurucs. “I’m just trying to play aggressive, play smart basketball, play right basketball, like what they’re asking from me, you know? Like passing, rebounding, play hard, box out, stuff like that. So of course I am one of the experienced guys here, I’m one of the older experienced guys here like you said, so I’m just trying to do my job, I’m trying to do things coach wants from me.”

Coming off his impactful rookie season that included 46 starts, Kurucs is waiting to see what his role will be going forward after the significant roster changes for Brooklyn.

“It’s not about starting, just have a good training camp, prove to the coach I can play,” said Kurucs. “And later in the season we’ll see who will start and who will not. For me starting is not important; I just want my team to win and I want to help my team, so I see myself really helping this team next year. I think I will do that.”

IF HE FOULS, HE FOULS

Kurucs didn’t have much familiarity with the Croation roster, but he was familiar with the style, and he attributed that to the five fouls he picked up.

“That’s Europe,” said Kurucs. “You’ll see. European team, they give you five fouls. Like I told you last year in the press conference, when I played in Europe I got five fouls, easy. So that’s what I’m saying. That’s what happens in Europe.”

THEO PINSON HELD OUT

Theo Pinson was held out of the game due to lower back tightness, but Harrington said to expect him back against Washington on Monday afternoon.

“He had some lower back stiffness and tightness so it was nothing of concern,” said Harrington. “Going into a back to back, we’re excited to see him on the court tomorrow and I don’t think anything’s changed. Obviously his energy on the bench was, as it always is, really incredible. We’re looking to have him back out there tomorrow and keep doing what he’s doing better and keep getting better. He’s part of our Brooklyn Nets.”

Harrington did credit Pinson for encouraging him to exercise a coaches’ challenge for a late video review that went Brooklyn’s way.

“I told Theo he was going to owe me if I lost my timeout for it,” said Harrington. “It’s a unique thing. It’s always exciting to see the NBA trying different things. It worked out for us so we were able to keep our timeout and keep the ball in a key situation.”

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