Now that the Nets have flown west and ownership has flown east and the shade has been dropped on the great window at HSS Training Center, the reality of the team's predicament becomes clear again. Sean Marks has a lot of work to do.
Despite all the positive vibes from last week, including a handy win over the Knicks, the Nets still are without draft picks. Other than a swap in 2017, with the Celtics, they won't have a first round pick until 2019. The second round is even worse: other than a swap this June, the Nets have no second round picks until 2021. They're also a close second in the league in "dead money" -- salary cap space devoted to players no longer with the team.
The current roster is a mish-mash of very good players -- Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young -- and a few (moderately) promising younger players -- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough, Markel Brown and Bojan Bogdanovic, none of them lottery picks, and two of them second rounders. No superstars. Free agency is uncertain.
There will be no continuity to draw on either, as Marks had in San Antonio. The GM is new, the coach will be, too. Much of basketball operations is likely to be new as well, with Marks promising he will be "bringing in a staff." Not to mention the roster! And there is the issue of how much influence (interference?) will Moscow try to exert.
Marks will have to streamline the organization's often moribund practices while starting the process of establishing a "culture," an "identity," a "vision" and take long, hard looks at scouting, the D-League, training, strength conditioning, analytics, and figuring out the budget.
Can Marks use the force of his own personality and his wealth of experience to win the day ... and win some games? He thinks so. He's by all reports intelligent, tough and confident. He's a systems guy. He said all the right things last week and gave some hints on how to get out from under.
On the pick situation...
"[S]ure draft picks are one way to build a team, but there are several other places and other ways to go out there and do it. Obviously you can go to free agency. I've seen it done around the NBA where you're building not only through free agency, you're building through the European market, you're building within your D-League franchise and developing your players there.
On the coach...
"[T]he coach is gonna have a defensive mindset and a system that gets them playing well and accustomed to where I've come from."
On what he's got to do...
"[T]he entire organization staff will be expanded without a doubt. Whether it's scouting, front office, we've got a D-League team, that staff will have to be built. There'll be staff members throughout that will be added to the list."
Still, NO ONE is willing to say how long it will take. NO ONE is repeating what Mikhail Prokhorov said the day after he dumped Lionel Hollins and Billy King, that ."we need a small reset for this year and I hope we'll be back, not as a playoff team, but as a championship contender. This is my only goal."
The Nets begin their longest road trip in franchise history Tuesday. A blowout loss to the Trail Blazers or a come-from-behind win wouldn't have changed things. In fact, the trip is a bit of a metaphor for the road ahead.. It's grueling and long. Along the way, there will be reminders of bad deals, missed opportunities, starting with Damian Lillard and including Derrick Favors, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, etc. Or like a bad hangover at the end of a party.