"Markinson" is a name fans have given the Sean Marks - Kenny Atkinson era. Within that mash-up of names is a hope that the two can mesh and get the Nets out of the mess they're in. Ian Eagle, in talking to CLNS, the Celtics podcast, thinks the two share "basketball ideals," but notes that the challenges each face, individually and together, are daunting.
For Marks, said the YES Network's lead announcer, it's about credibility, how to let everyone know that he and the Nets are serious.
"He is, excuse the pun, trying to his make his mark and trying to show the rest of the league that he does have a plan and he knows how to execute it. And he's trying to build a team with that in mind. Everybody around the league knows the challenges."
The biggest issue, Eagle notes, may be getting agents to buy in, to have them understand what he's doing and what he's planning.
"The first challenge he had to overcome was convincing agents around the league that the Nets could be a destination and they're serious about this."
In that context, the Nets aggressiveness is offering Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson what Eagle called "more money than the market may have indicated that they were worth" was critical, Eagle argued.
"The point in my mind was that he needed to show agents around the league --and other players by the way-- that the Nets are willing to go there and spend and take chances and they're trying to change the ways they do things. That's a big step in this league. Agents play a large role..."
"This is a free-flowing information age where word gets out quickly and the team is trying to change the way they are being perceived."
That's obviously a work-in-progress, but some agents have apparently bought it. Andy Miller, for example, has a number of his clients on the Nets now. But it's a long-term effort.
Eagle said Marks has overcome one hurdle. He's in charge.
"Ownership is at a point where they are handing you the keys to the car and they're going to tell you, 'we're not going to meddle, of course, we're gonna have an opinion, but we're going to let you do this the way you see fit. We're going to let you build this organization.'"
Atkinson, Eagle noted, has even bigger challenges, but he disclosed that Marks told him Atkinson "was the list" when it came to hiring a head coach. Marks relationship with Atkinson's boss in Atlanta, the former Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer was critical to his decision-making. Budenholzer, Eagle said, raved about Atkinson.
"I think that opened the eyes of Sean Marks, of 'wait a second, this is a guy I need to talk to. I know Mike Budenholzer well. He speaks very highly of Kenny Atkinson, the way he can deal with players -- star players, fringe players, guys that are scraping trying to get into the league and stay there. That's a big reason why Atkinson is now the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets."
The Nets new head coach, adds Eagle, is about work, on the court and at practice.
"I can tell that from the brief interactions that I've head with Kenny and the ones that are still to come, once we get into the meat of the season, I know that this guy is not going to be outworked. That 'gym rat' term that we toss around so often, it's one that fits who he is and fits his personality. That's why he's here."
The challenge for Atkinson, said Marks, is pushing the team concept with a group of players who are not stars, but who are willing.
"They're not star-studded. It's that simple. Look up and down their roster. They're not going to get by on that kind of star quality. What they're going to sell is the team concept and the fact that a lot can be done in this league if you're on the same page..."
In particular, Eagle said, Atkinson will be about player development ... and defense. Atkinson had a big role in Atlanta's defense, he noted.
"Look, we know that you have to have individual talent to play defense but there is something to be said for team defense, understanding your assignment, playing together, not necessarily having the best players but having guys who know how to work off one another defensively. And trust me, that will be a major, major point of emphasis for this team."
So how will the team do, Eagle was asked. Worst case scenario, he said, was a season like last year, "20 to 22 wins," but he quickly added that he didn't think that will be the case,that Atkinson in particular, will bring the best out of his players, from Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin to Chris McCullough and Anthony Bennett.
"There's this misnomer in the NBA and sports in general that players don't want to be coached and that couldn't be farthest from the truth. They just want to be coached well! They do want to improve because if they improve, they make more money, they get a bigger contract, they secure a financial future for their families.
"So if you're stressing player development, and you go out and get a guy who is known for that --that's what Kenny Atkinson is known for, this isn't just saying it, this isn't just creating headlines, this is actually backing it up with real actions."
We'll have more from the interview over the next couple of days, including how Eagle sees Lopez developing into a leader --as long as he's not traded, and the potential of Lin.