It’s good to strike while the iron is hot. A week after the Nets —and their culture— were featured in profiles on ESPN, The Vertical and New York Post, among others, Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson went on WFAN Wednesday and kept things going in an hour-long discussion of the organization and its future.
Taking questions from Evan Roberts and other unabashed Nets fans, the two offered no promises of success any time soon, but repeatedly spoke of a “strategic” and “creative” culture and a “humble” and “honest” relationship with their players.
Perhaps the big news out of the discussion was the two’s effusive praise of Brook Lopez, but an admission that there’s no guarantee the veteran Net will be around. Said Marks when Roberts asked about Lopez’s longevity with the team...
“We're going to be strategic and that just doesn’t go for Brook. I know he's the one name that keeps popping up and has done for the last 19 years. There's always going to be that guy. We're just going to continue to monitor it, monitor how the team functions this year, this off season and so forth into the future. We know we have to be strategic. we know we have to be as creative as we can. May not be with Brook. Who knows who it's going to be with. But you never know what offers are going to come your way.
“We're certainly not trying to shop Brook or anyone else, for that matter. But the stage we are at, we're going to have to manufacture assets a long the way.”
Marks pointed to the recent trade of Bojan Bogdanovic essentially for a first round pick as typical of the way things are going to work.
“We're giving up a heck of a player but at the same time, we're giving him the option to go to a good team. He's in a contract year. Hopefully he's going to play a long playoff run but at the same time, it helps us get back some of these picks, some of these assets that we no longer have.”
He and Atkinson repeatedly pointed to the progress made by what the coach called the team’s “babies” — Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead.
Atkinson even said he had his doubts about Whitehead and to a lesser degree LeVert early but the extent and length of Jeremy Lin’s injury gave the Coney Island product and the Michigan All-American an opportunity.
“Look at Isaiah Whitehead’s development. look back at his first game when you think, ‘wow, is this guy an NBA player?' to 'yeah, this guy is going to a good player' to Caris LeVert who's starting as a young player.”
Atkinson clear about who the big positive surprise was ... and how good he can be, saying LeVert could be “an elite player in this league.”
“Biggest pleasant surprise. It's got to be Caris LeVert. Young as he is, a rookie, after All-Star (Break), we said, “we got to start this kid...
“Did not expect that. We thought he would be a darn good player and that eventually it would come, but to throw him in there as a starter.
“When Jeremy and Brook start talking, ‘man, that guy’s going to be good’ .. when you start getting that feedback ... players know stuff before we do.
“I think the sky’s the limit. I think he can be an elite player in this league.”
As for RHJ, Atkinson is comfortable starting him at the 4, saying “I think the 4 is his natural fit. I think in college that was his natural position. I'm glad we made the move.”
Roberts also asked about losing Yogi Ferrell. Marks was diplomatic...
“A great young man. We’re very happy for him. Would we like him on our team? would we like him to be a Net? Sure but we could say that about a handful of guys. He is in the right system, the right place for him now. He got an opportunity with the Nets and to be quite frank, he wasn't performing the way he was performing for the Mavericks when he got a shot.”
The coach also volunteered that with Sean Kilpatrick “being out a little bit” with a strained hamstring, both K.J. McDaniels and the newly signed Archie Goodwin will see some time. Atkinson noted the recent acquisitions will help the Nets improve on their athleticism, describing Goodwin as “young, athletic, big time upside.”
The two also talked about the upcoming draft and free agency. No names, of course. When asked about the possibility of moving up in the draft —the Nets have two picks late in the first round, he suggested it’s unlikely.
“I think it's overblown. Having been back in the (draft) room, it's quite a bit more difficult to package picks and move up. but we'll see, you never know.”
He said the Nets, like most organizations, haven’t identified who they might take, but...
“I think it's a little premature to say this could be 'the guy.' I think there's a group of guys that like all GMs, all organizations have said ‘look this group of four, five, six guys could potentially be there.’ Every team has its own mock draft. Maybe a guy we have at 16 is still there at 25, 26. And on the day of the draft, everything changes.”
And in free agency, he wouldn’t dismiss going to the restricted free agent route, like he did last summer, but said expect the team to be varied in its efforts, citing European players and unrestricted free agents as well. Marks said he’ll be in Europe this weekend.
“RFA ... that could be one of many (avenues). We're headed to Europe tonight. I'm off to Europe to scout. We've obviously be scouting the D-League. We've got two draft picks, two first round picks so we'll be creative in how that goes. So we'll see. We'll certainly play in the free agent game, both restricted and unrestricted. Obviously if you're in the restricted game, you sort of roll the dice and see what happens. And it could be a way we go. “
As for that European scouting trip, the Nets are reportedly interested in Milos Teodosic, CSKA Moscow’s point guard.