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Nets looking to Europe in a big way


Sean Marks has talked about taking advantage of the European market since he arrived in Brooklyn nearly a year and a half ago. Now it appears Nets are getting serious about it.

In their end-of-the-season press conference, Marks and Kenny Atkinson confirmed a report by David Pick, the European hoops writer, that Marks is making another trip to Europe this week. He spent nine days in Spain (two stops), Germany, Russia and Turkey at the end of March.

"We're heading over to Europe (over the next few days),” Marks said in response to a NetsDaily question. The main reason, he said, was to meet with “Michael,” a reference to Mikhail Prokhorov, but he admitted with a smile that he will “do some scouting,” adding they’re “not going all that way to just” sit around.

Specifically, Marks responded to a question about Nets’ interest in Milos Teodosic, the CSKA Moscow point guard, calling him a “terrific player,” but quickly added, “we're looking at a bunch of different players (in Europe).

“It would be pretty irresponsible of me to say, ‘We’ve got one guy in mind.’ ”

Pick and others have suggested the Nets, along with several other NBA clubs, are interested in Nicolo Melli, a 6’9” Italian forward who plays for Brose Bamberg in Germany. Marks personally scouted Melli last month and Nets scouts have looked at him at least one other time this season. In addition, there are reports of Nets interest in Edwin Jackson, a 6’3” shooting guard who led the Spanish League in scoring. He’s of French and American nationality.

Marks said he’d like Atkinson to get a look at some of the players he’s already seen — as well as other prospects — to make certain they would into his coach’s system.

“It’s important that Kenny and the coaching staff, these guys will have a voice in the free agents as well,” Marks said. “It is one thing for us to say, ‘Here’s the team,’ but these guys have to coach and develop them. So we’re very intrigued to see what Kenny and his staff and the player development, what they have to say on whatever free agent or draft guy that we bring in.”

CSKA plays Baskonia of Spain starting Tuesday. Marks and Atkinson won’t be at that game, but could be in the Russian capital by Thursday for the second game of the series before the two teams head to Spain.

More to the point, Marks said that Trajan Langdon, his assistant GM, will scout the Euroleague playoffs, which begin this week. “Trajan Langdon is heading out again, and he is going to see 10 different teams.”

Beyond picking up free agents off the European market, Marks hinted the Nets may be open to using one of their first round picks on a young European who could be “stashed” overseas.

"I like having two picks,” said Marks. “I think it just gives us another swing at it. We’ll stay creative and stay as strategic as we can.

“I can't tell you if we draft two guys in the first round, I can't tell you if one will be a stash."

The Nets have been linked to two young Europeans in this year’s draft, 6’9” Latvian swingman Rodions Kurucs, age 19, who plays for F.C. Barcelona, and 7’0” German power forward Isaiah Hartenstein, who’s 18 who plays for Zalgiris in Lithuania. Draftniks believe both are candidates to be stashed.

In replies to other questions about the international market, Marks noted the organization’s interest in players from China and Australia as well.

One person who endorses the Nets’ pursuit of Teodosic is Fran Fraschilla, ESPN’s European basketball analyst who told Brian Lewis that the Serbian playmaker is “the best passer in the world, from a purely offensive standpoint. Chris Paul is a Hall of Famer, but as far as a pure passer, [Teodosic] might be the most creative passer in the world today.”

Fraschilla also thinks the Nets could face competition for Teodosic from both Denver and Utah.

Marks would not speculate how big of a role European free agents would play, compared to restricted and unrestricted free agents, but noted that the organization doesn’t want to get stuck with a big payroll early in their rebuild ... with nothing to show for it.

“I think we’ve got to really evaluate the roster and if you go after one of the top-tier guys, you obviously would hope to get him, but does that really make you better?” Marks asked. “Does it get you to 30 wins, 35 wins?

"The objective for us is to be in the playoffs. When that comes, we’ll see,” Marks said. “You don’t want to go and sign free agents and then the next thing you know your payroll is capped out and you’re a 25-win team. We’re going to have to build this strategically, have patience with it.”

“We know we have a long way to go, so we understand that. We’re very realistic,’’ Atkinson added.

Translation: don’t expect Nets at this point to spend big on big free agents. It’s slow and steady wins the race.

Could that also be an indication that the Nets will look to reasonably priced Europeans as a way to make maximum use of their cap space? We shall see.