Last season, the Nets had the NBA's worst point guard rotation, particularly after Jarrett Jack went down ... and the team decided to go with two journeymen, Shane Larkin and Donald Sloan.
Now, with the signings of Jeremy Lin and Greivius Vasquez --coming after the Draft Night trades that brought Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead to Brooklyn, Brooklyn thinks it's got a much better and more versatile backcourt. And it doesn't hurt that your head coacn has the reputation of a "point guard whisperer."
Speaking in Las Vegas to NBA TV and New York media, Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson gave their assessments of the four guards, talking about their leadership and court vision, starting with the importance of Lin's relationship with Atkinson. It stretches back to LinSanity when both were with the Knicks.
"I think there's a lot of things that attracted us," said Marks about Lin. "Obviously the relationship that Kenny has with Jeremy."
"They're very very close, probably a huge reason why he came with us," Marks added. "He trusts Kenny As we said before, thats a huge part of it, relationships. having a great relationship already is going to help. WHat Jeremy has said, at least to us, is that 'I'm just scratching the surface here. I'm there with Kenny. Kenny's going to put me in a position where I can learn and develop some more.
Marks added that Atkinson doesn't look at guys who are 27, 29 and say, "OK, they're done. they am who they am."
"He's like what more can I get out of them. I think that's how Jeremy looks at it. 'I can't wait to be here. I've already done it once with Kenny. Let me go do it again.'"
On Vasquez, signed to a one-year, $5 million deal after an injury-scarred season, Atkinson said there will be some recovery.
"He’s hungry. I think he’s hungry to prove himself again,’’ Atkinson said of Vasquez, who he described an "another cerebral quarterback." "Coming off the injury, that’s obviously going to be a lot of hard work. But I’m just glad we got him. He knows how to play the game, he’s an excellent passer. Obviously, as you can see, we like guys who can really see the floor. And he’s a competitor. He adds grit. So all the things we’re looking for."
In an interview with a radio station in Lithuania where he's training for the Olympics, the 6'6" Venezuelan said "It is a valuable opportunity for my career. Brooklyn from the beginning was always one of the most interested teams ... This is going to be the most important year of my career. In the NBA today [you] have to prove that you play solid basketball and I also have to prove that I can be healthy."
In talking with Steve Smith of NBA TV, Marks agreed with Smith's assessment of LeVert and Whitehead, and volunteered that the 6'7 1/2" can and will spend some time at point guard ... and noted LeVert has been cleared medically.
"You look at NBA players now they can play more than one position," said Marks. "He's a combo guard. What does he do now? He can play the 1, the 2, the 3, really passes the ball well. I think that's a skill set maybe overlooked a little bit. Obviously he shooting stands out but I cant wait to get him with our coaching staff. He's back in Brooklyn rehabbing as you said. He's been cleared to go but we're taking him along slowly."
Whitehead, who has scored 20 in two summer league games, has looked the part of the heady point guard, despite an admitted case of the nerves. Steve Smith, who called LeVert "a fabulous player," said he thought Whitehead has "first round talent."
"Really with Isaiah, he's tough, he's tough as nails," Marks said of the team's first Brooklynite. "You watch him play out there. He's already got an NBA physique, a build on him. He's raw. Can't wait to get him into Kenny's system where tha ball is really moving. I think we've been surprised at how good his vision is so far from what we've seen in practice and so forth. He's going to play a couple different positions for us."
The Nets belief in Whitehead goes beyond words. There were two reports in the last few days that Whitehead is being paid "first round money," specifically $977,000, and has a four-year deal, two of them guaranteed.