The Nets say they have been itching for Wednesday’s opener against Minnesota since the end of last season.

Kyrie Irving says he has been looking forward to it his whole life.

“I’ve just been waiting for this time, to be here,” Irving said. “I had a choice during free agency to be back close to Jersey, close to New York. This is the heart of basketball. I grew up playing here in these different boroughs, going from Jersey on the George Washington Bridge and now getting a chance to have my family [here].

“I just wanted to be in a place — especially being back home — where I could really commit to that for years to come. It was an easy decision. I was coming here regardless, and it was going to make sense in terms of getting these players to be on the type of level that they desire and be able to lead them in the best way I know how.”

How well Irving can lead the Nets will go a long way toward determining if they take a step up from last season’s sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s a lot going on for [Wednesday]. [It’s] ironically the first game of being back home, but the 23rd last year where things really shifted for me in my personal life,” said Irving, referring to the Oct. 23, 2018, passing of his grandfather. “So it’s a culmination of a lot of emotions. I’m just glad my family can be there for me.”

Irving struggled to deal with the fallout of his grandfather’s death, which he admits hindered his ability to lead the Celtics. Though much of Boston’s disappointing 2018-19 season has been laid at his feet, he plans to be collaborative in the leadership process in a season that tips off Wednesday.

“We all share a certain responsibility in the leadership here,” Irving said. “Some of my past experiences there could be a sense of alienation, someone naming you as the leader of the team and it falling all on your court. I want to share that responsibility with those guys.”

The Nets’ culture may have been stronger than he anticipated. It was certainly stronger than Kevin Durant had expected when he arrived assuming he would have to bring a top-flight culture from Golden State and Oklahoma City.

“[Brooklyn] already got their s–t in order. They’re already perfect. They got everything that both of these organizations have,” Durant said on the Players Tribune. “I had this view on how I wanted to approach this, but I had to totally throw that out the door, because they have that championship mindset already.”

Now coach Kenny Atkinson has to turn the mindset into reality, and mold a talented roster into a team. That starts Wednesday.

“Yeah, I like the challenge. We all like the challenge to raise our game, go up another level,” Atkinson said. “I enjoy the challenge. I think the team’s enjoying it, staff, just as an organization. We know the stakes have been raised, so we’re excited for the challenge.

“Excited to see who we are and how good we could be. That’s the question coming into the season.”

That season starts against Karl-Anthony Towns and a Timberwolves team that’s suddenly playing five-out, running and gunning 3s. It will be a great test right out of the gate.

“I love competition, I love elevating and I love progression, and this is a team that can do all those in the midst of 82 games and hopefully make a deep run in the payoffs,” Taurean Prince said.

“We’ve been waiting since the end of last season, ready to go,” Jarrett Allen said, adding, “We can go as far as we want to.”