BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Shirley Lin is in the ONEXIM suite, high above Barclays Center. She’s cheering, “Lets go Nets,” as Jeremy plays his first home game in nearly two months, then high fives everyone in sight as the Nets finish off the Knicks. It’s the end of a cross-country trek, one that she shared, flying a few segments on the team plane.
Jeremy has been a part of five other organizations in his NBA career and she says she’s never seen such hospitality for players’ families and friends.
“It’s great what they do for families, Shirley Lin told NetsDaily. “I never saw this with any other team.”
She ticks off what other family members she saw on which segments of the 8,100-mile, 16-day road trip, describes team dinners on the road-trip as “one big table.” Family style.
Just the way Sean Marks intended. For him, it goes back to day one. It was subtle but it was telling.
Back in July, as he and Kenny Atkinson opened up the press conference introducing the team’s new players by welcoming the players’ families first, then the players. He spoke about a plan to develop a culture in the most intimate way, dealing with loved ones.
It’s something Marks has focused on repeatedly.
"Family's No. 1,” said Marks in one of his interviews last summer. “Over the course of a summer or maybe a season, they'll realize it's all about your family. I don't want to bring you into the gym just for the sake of bringing you into the gym. Because I know you've got priorities at home and we're about to go on an eight-game road trip and you're going to miss them. So, 'get out of here, go spend time with your family.’”
It was the start of something new. Call it a reset — just what the franchise needed. And it certainly wasn’t lip service. There’s the new — and million dollar — family room at Barclays Center, along with other amenities like organizing charity events --a food bank is one — for wives or just a get-together in Manhattan. The Nets arranged wives' dinners when the players on the road, babysitting nights at HSS ... and perhaps the most appreciated element, bringing family on long road trips.
A lot of it is new, maybe even unique. Randy Foye, at 33 the Nets’ oldest player, says he’s never seen a team embrace the family atmosphere like the Nets, especially for role players like him.
“You’ll see some guys, if anybody the superstars, but nothing like this. You don’t see players’ families coming on the plane,” Foye said. “It’s amazing how we can bring our families on the plane for the long road-trips.
“What they’re doing here is the start of something special,” Foye added.
Young players and their family members may be a little spoiled as well as surprised by the attention.
“Wow. To sum it up, just Wow,” Kim LeVert, Caris’ mom, who was also on the road trip told YES. “I feel really part of the team.”
Her son says he appreciates the first class treatment the organization has given him and his family in his first year as a pro.
“I mean, my mom said it best. Ever since I got drafted they’ve been great to her, to my little brother and to everybody in my family,” LeVert told NetsDaily. “We’re definitely very grateful for the way they’ve treated us and I know it’s going to be this way in the future.”
Also, sharing the same experience adds to team cohesiveness which goes a long way in building a culture, says Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. RHJ brought his brother.
“You know, when people think about basketball and the family aspect of it, you need a teammate… you need people to be together. You need to be unified just to be out there and want to compete with one another,” Hollis-Jefferson told NetsDaily. “Knowing our family has our back and they have our families back is big and we really do appreciate that.”’
Brook Lopez, a nine-year veteran who’s played all his days as a Net, agrees.
“It’s really huge in building our culture. They make everything so welcoming and this organization has really become a family atmosphere,” Lopez told NetsDaily. “I think it really helps a lot in the sense that it makes us all feel comfortable. It really helps promote closeness and togetherness within the group.”
Maybe the happiest player on the trip was Quincy Acy, who traveled with his four-year-old son. The way his teammates treated the youngster was special to him and his little guy.
"He loves it. He loves all the attention from everybody," Acy said. "All the guys are really great with him. It’s a kid’s dream, be around NBA players. This is my first time that a team let him on the plane, so that’s really big. That says a lot about the family environment and the culture that they’re building here. I love it.”
Trevor Booker’s wife April sees value in the whole attitude, not just an occasional road trip.
“They allow Trevor and his teammates to be away from their families without worrying because they do such an amazing job making sure we have everything we need,” she told us. “When you're on a new team and instantly feel like family, it makes it easier on the players knowing their families are in good hands.”
It’s not just getting more productivity from an employee. It’s bigger than that, players say. Players DO think about this stuff, they DO talk about it to other players. This isn’t an ordinary thing that teams do.
“You definitely think about it. For me, being a vet, you’ve seen it before. Your family is used to you being gone and it’s tough,” Foye said. “It’s just cool to have an organization not only behind you, but behind your family.”
Little things, big things — carving out time for players on the road to visit family and friends nearby, like Lin did in San Francisco or welcoming 100 Joe Harris fans who had driven five hours to say hello.
Building a culture takes a long time and that’s what makes it even harder to achieve. The Nets have folks around the league on alert because what they’re doing is rather unorthodox -- especially for a big-market team. The message is being sent and it’s been less than a year.
It isn’t spoken about much among fans and some see talk about culture as a distraction for the losing. However, agents are noticing. GM’s and other executives are noticing. More importantly, players and their families are noticing.