The slow news days of summer will soon come to an end, and Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson signaled that Tuesday.
And as one might expect from "Markinson," the GM and coach shied away from talk of win totals or playoffs.
Instead, the talk was about "fit" and "development" and, of course, "culture." Not that the coach and GM don't appreciate the optimism.
"You love that the players think that way,” Atkinson said of his players who are predicting playoffs. “These guys are competitors. Our process is a little different. We’ve talked about how we’re thinking about it on a day-to-day basis, how we’re growing. Are we making incremental progress? Are we improving?"
There aren't any lingering controversies surrounding the Nets organization as there has been in the past. They were just prudent and patient, now that they and their players are one week away from their training camp, is to be held starting next Tuesday at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
So, there was more talk about familiar themes than individual players and Marks did say, as he did before last season, that the Nets are "a long way" from where they want to be. No surprise.
We’ve covered ‘culture’ ad nauseam, and the buzzword was dropped once again as Marks talked about his new players, players who ‘fit’ Brooklyn, on and off the court.
“We’re trying to have these young men who fit the brand of ball we’re trying to play, but they also fit what we’re trying to do off the court,” he said from the podium at HSS Training Center. “We’re excited about that. It will be an interesting challenge to figure out minutes and so forth. It’ll have for a competitive camp.”
The Nets of course dealt Brook Lopez, a first-rounder, which became Kyle Kuzma, Justin Hamilton and Andrew Nicholson, and acquired D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov, DeMarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe, and two 2018 picks, including Toronto’s first.
You look up suddenly and realize that compared to last summer, this roster is deep.
Atkinson spoke on the roster depth, sharing his and the organization's excitement.
“I think we’ve added to our depth. Especially at the wing position, point guard position. I think with the league going in that direction, it’s important to have good depth there. Obviously we’ve added some shooting on the perimeter,” said Atkinson, eyes widened, discussing the range and versatility of the roster.
Of course, the added depth, and star power (in the vein[s] of Russell), doesn’t come without cost, as Atkinson said the team will have to "do it by committee" upfront while raving more than once about Nets rookie Jarrett Allen, the 22nd overall pick this past June.
“Losing Brook will be a challenge for our bigs. But that’s a great opportunity for some guys to step up. Obvoiously Timmy Mozgov had a great EuroBasket so we’re excited about that. We’re excited about our rookie, I think he’s gonna be really good. I think we’ll have to do it by committee at the big guy position...
"We’re talking about a modern 5 man in this league. He kind of fits the bill.”
Marks admitted that losing Lopez takes something away from the roster, especially the added dynamic of the a shooting center hoisting threes last season. But he added, perhaps, the roster is now more tailored to Atkinson’s desired style of play.
“So, it’s a changing of talent, maybe it a little more fits how Kenny wants to play, the style of basketball and pace, up and down, and so forth,” Marks said. “The shooting is something we’re going to continue to try and address. In a strange way it’s a good problem to have.
"We’re developing these guys, and the fact that these guys have come in, and we both said that we want them to have a little chip on their shoulder, but we want them to have that same sense of passion that they get from their leader. And that’s what Kenny brings and that’s what they bring.”
Regarding the combination of Lin and Russell, much was left unsaid, other than both think the pairing can work.
Atkinson and Marks discussed how the two can co-exist by playing off the ball, and avoided any "face of the franchise" talk. That's not what THEY do. That's what the media (and he might have mentioned marketing) do.
Regarding the positions, Atkinson did mention that he “really believes they can make it work – they’ll both play a lot of point guard – they can both play on the wing.”
“They’re two good guys that’re good players. I really believe we can make it work,’’ Atkinson said. “They’re both going to play. There’s 48 minutes out there.”
Both Marks and Atkinson left little doubt of Atkinson's belief that the game is becoming more and more position-less, anyway.
Isaiah Whitehead’s standing on the team became a brief topic of conversation as well.
With Lin and Russell sharing the spotlight and Spencer Dinwiddie (whose contract becomes guaranteed on opening night) listed at point guard, Whitehead’s role is a bit of a question. He did demonstrate his versatility last year, along with his heart, defense, etc. He earned his place.
Or so we thought..
“He’s gotta compete. He’s gotta compete for minutes, compete for a job. I thought Isaiah had some really great moments last year. I really believe in him. Obviously he’s still a young player, but I’m anxious to see him compete in training camp. I think he fits how we wanna play. One thing we learned last year is that we can put this guy at the 2, the 3 and the 1,” discussing Whitehead’s range.
Overall, Atkinson and Marks are both pleased with the direction, and frankly, the accelerated improvement amongst the roster’s talent pool. Atkinson summed it up by saying, “My gut is I feel the momentum of this organization and where we’re going. I feel really good about it. Obviously we want that to translate into results, there’s no doubt about it, but saying we’re gonna win 35, 32 games, that’s not how my thought process goes.”
And like many of you, he’s excited by it.
But when asked about the "p" word, playoffs, the two reverted to another "p" word, progress.
- Nets GM’s legacy hinges on D’Angelo Russell - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- LeBron James’s Future May Depend on Nets’ Success or Failure - Harvey Araton - New York Times
- Marks, Atkinson Eager To Put Nets’ New Pieces Into Play - Steve Lichtenstein - WFAN
- Nets’ progress this season might not be measured in wins and losses - Greg Logan - Newsday