June 21, 2023 | 21:55
Publicly and privately, the Nets have indicated they have no interest in trading Mikal Bridges — to Portland or elsewhere.
Now, the rising young star told The Post that the Nets have told him exactly that.
Although the Nets want Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers might be more inclined to trade up the No. 3 pick in the NBA draft to give their superstar a hitting partner.
While Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby weren’t enticing enough, Bridges could be.
But the Nets, who gave up four first-round picks for him in February, aren’t interested in giving him even for that high of a return.
Bridges have become a building block.
“Yeah, it’s incredible love and I really appreciate it. It makes you feel good,” Bridges told The Post. “I think a lot goes into it with how I play, how I work on how I am as a person off the field and just being a good person. I think that helps a lot where they could obviously trade me and do this or that.
“Right now they’re saying they’re not, but I think just being a good person helps a little bit with that, because it’s like, you don’t want to lose someone like that, which is always a good quality . to have. So, [I feel] just blessed, man; just blessed and very thankful for it. And it just shows that love, honestly.”
Bridges arrived as the centerpiece of the Kevin Durant deal, and in 27 games with the Nets, he averaged 26.1 points on 48 percent shooting with solid defense.
The 26-year-old Bridges has quickly become not only the Nets’ leading scorer, but also the face of the franchise. He’s been invited to events with team owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, and has become ubiquitous in the community, appearing Wednesday at the eBay Collectors Camp at The Post in Bushwick.
While the Tsais may have asked Bridges to attend events, one thing they and general manager Sean Marks have yet to ask him to do is recruit his longtime friend, Lillard.
“Not really, no. I see [the rumors] however, all over the place. I see it all. And I talk to him a little bit just to see, says Bridges to The Post. “They don’t know anything, and that’s good, I don’t want to know anything, even if you know something. I want you to do all your work, I’m not here to do it. I’m just here to try to be the best teammate, player I can be, be coachable. … If they find anything out, I think they’ll let me know. But other than that, just waiting to see. We will see.”
There were no knowing winks or nods, with Bridges earnestly pleading ignorance about whether Lillard will finally demand a trade if the Trail Blazers keep their prized draft pick Thursday instead of getting him immediate help.
Meanwhile, the Nets themselves have been active and trying to move up in the draft. Currently, they own picks Nos. 21, 22 and 51, and could package either Royce O’Neale or Dorian Finney-Smith with one to get a higher selection.
Bridges said he hopes Cam Johnson, who arrived with him from Phoenix, re-signs next month as a restricted free agent. Either way, the team Bridges has been entrusted to lead may look a little different by the end of Thursday night.
“At this point, you just control what you can control, just see what happens, honestly,” Bridges told The Post. “You just go with the team you have now and with the picks, whoever they pick, whoever we pick – I say they because I’m not [deciding].
“You kind of control what you control, just keep getting better. The NBA trades, it happens. I came to Brooklyn because of a trade, so it’s just being ready, being ready and trusting what the staff and front office has to do. And I know they want to win. So just figure things out. But I love the guys we have right now and now I’m just ready for the season.”