No one said it would be easy ... and it hasn’t been. It’s been hard.
Still for the most part, Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson have gotten high marks for what many inside the NBA have seen as a near-impossible job: rebuilding, indeed rescuing, the Nets franchise from the ravages of Billy King’s —and Mikhail Prokhorov’s— profligate, and ultimately, failed run.
Now, though, there is skepticism from some about just how well the new regime — and Marks, in particular— have done and are doing.
Stefan Bondy, who was the Nets beat writer for the Daily News during the early days in Brooklyn, was the first to supply revisionism in a tweet.
Everybody says Sean Marks is a genius. I have yet to see evidence.— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) December 3, 2017
Don’t think of this as purely click bait. Bondy has long felt this way and has been overheard saying it.
Bondy, though, hasn’t written an analysis. Steve Lichtenstein of WFAN has. In an article published Monday (after the Nets’ devastating loss to the Hawks at Barclays Center and before Tuesday’s redemption in Atlanta), Lichtenstein writes don’t get excited about a rebuild this is unlikely to see any discernible improvement this year.
Whatever the milepost, we’re talking about improvement upon a 20-62 season, one of the worst in a woebegone franchise’s history....
It’s going to get a lot uglier. We’re still far away from being able to call the Nets mediocre.
What about injuries, you say? Lichtenstein says, join the club. He, like Bondy in his Tim Walsh profile, also takes a swipe at one of Marks’ proudest achievements, the Nets’ performance team...
Well, injuries continue to be a league-wide epidemic, the scheduling adjustments and new-age performance analytics notwithstanding. (Side note: if Brooklyn’s Performance Team is so highly regarded, why is Lin rehabilitating in Vancouver?) Few teams play these games at full strength. Do the Nets beat the Jazz if Utah wasn’t missing Ricky Rubio, Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum, and Joe Johnson?
The Nets would be wise to explain why Vancouver rather than let Lin announce it and explain it (sort of); but the players have, when asked, been very appreciative of the performance team.
Lichtenstein gives a detailed analysis of where he thinks the Nets are failing in their rebuild, from hoping that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can succeed at the 4 “unless he is slotted next to a perimeter shooting big” to Marks’ decision to give up the 27th pick in the D’Angelo Russell deal and willingness to accept Allen Crabbe’s massive contract without an accompanying pick. He does like the DeMarre Carroll trade (who doesn’t) and some of the smaller moves.
But bottom line, Lichtenstein sees a disparity that the Nets can’t avoid.
In one sentence, we hear that it is understood that this rebuild will take years. But then in the next, folks rave about a certain player’s improvement over last season, combing over the odds that maybe said player won’t be here when/if it comes to fruition.
Indeed, it’s uncertain how many of the young Nets will be around when (or if, Lichtenstein suggests) the rebuild succeeds.
The biggest problem, he suggests, is that the Nets still don’t seem to have a plan for acquiring what he calls “transformational” players, thanks to the variety of bad moves King et al. made.
The bigger problem is that transformational help is not right around the corner. Brooklyn, remember, is not in tank mode, since the last of its four first-round picks sent or swapped with Boston will belong to Cleveland at next June’s draft.
It should be noted that the Nets believe that Russell will be “transformational.” We’ve heard that word used in describing his acquisition.
Bottom line for Lichtenstein is that the Nets have a long road ahead and that is a bigger deal than incremental moves.
The Nets should be better than last season’s debacle. Let’s not throw a parade just because they are on pace to be.