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Sean Marks on Woj podcast: We’ll use system, culture to lure free agents

Brooklyn Nets

In an wide-ranging interview on Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast, Sean Marks said that while the Brooklyn/New York market offers some advantages, he anticipated using the Nets culture and system to lure free agents to the Nets next summer.

“One thing we’re trying to show — and it’s been written about, it’s been said — is that guys compete,” said Marks.

“Our guys compete on a nightly basis, and that’s going to be really important. Because whatever free agent is looking at you, whether it’s this year, next year or five years from now, nobody wants to come to a situation where they think, ‘Man, I’m going to have to carry this load.’ They’re going to look at it and say, ‘Who are the young guys I can play with? Who can take something off of me? Who do I want to play with? What’s the system I like to play in?’ ”

Marks also said he expects free agents to find the Nets young players ... as well as Kenny Atkinson ... appealing.

“People love playing for Kenny. The sweat equity that our guys (coaches) put in is remarkable ... I’m very, very proud of that ... Kenny’s always been about how can our staff maximize your potential,” he said adding that the development team has been successful with both young players and veterans.

“I’m very proud of what the group as a whole has and is continuing to establish over course of last couple of years,” he added. “It’s something we could control. We couldn’t control not having picks or not having that.”

It’s something he said has been noticed around the league by potential free agents and their agents.

“Feedback we get from agents, from players, has been really positive. The tide’s turning,” he noted.

Still, he added, everyone from ownership on down knows where things stand.

“From Kenny and our standpoint, our whole group, we know we have a long, long way to go. and we’re always curious about ‘hey, could we have done something better? Differently? What could we have done differently? What are other teams doing...?’”

In terms of the New York market being a magnet for players, Marks said things like social media has diminished that appeal, that the playing field for free agents is more level now.

“Now, with social media, the market may not be quite as big [a deal] as it once was. However, there’s nothing like playing in Brooklyn, New York, the L.A.s,” he told Woj. “The difference is we all have the money, we all have the space this year. So it’ll be interesting for us.”

He noted that internally, the ability to sign Joe Harris last summer was encouraging for the future.

“You get a guy like Joe Harris who sits here and says, ‘Look, I want to re-sign with Brooklyn. I’ll take far less to do so,” Marks said. Harris signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the money front-loaded so the franchise would have more cap space next summer.

Marks also suggested that the team’s ownership change may be more fluid than has been suggested. According to various reports, including from the league, Joe Tsai, the Alibaba billionaire, has the option to take control in 2021 with Mikhail Prokhorov retaining a minority stake. That stake could be as high as 20 percent.

“I’m not sure ultimately when that transition will take place,” he told Woj, “And in what form and fashion but at end of day, it’s been great to know Joe and his family and the group around him.

“But to continually keep both Joe and Mikhail and their groups up-to-date, they’ve been amazing, shown patience and buy-in in terms to what we’re trying to build and what we’re going about. It’s great having everybody on the same page.”

Marks reiterated that the Nets have been very “fortunate” in having Prokhorov and Tsai as owners and noted that when Tsai does take over, it will open new opportunities for the franchise in China, which could also help in free agency. Tsai, who holds both Canadian and Taiwanese citizenship, is co-founder and executive vice president of Alibaba, the huge China-based e-commerce company.

Tsai, who was in Brooklyn for the Golden State game, agreed to pay more than $1 billion last April for 49 percent of the franchise.

In terms of ownership, Marks said that often times it will have to make decisions that require a lot of patience. He pointed to the 2016 decision to trade Thaddeus Young to Indiana for the pick that became Caris LeVert.

“We have to outline that risk to ownership, say, ‘Look, we’re going to take a guy with the 20th pick and likely he won’t play for a year.’ … That Mikhail bought into it was terrific.”

Salary dumps, too, need to be cleared with ownership since it involves taking on big salaries for future picks. The team’s recent history, he argued, has been helpful in crafting those decisions.

“With a coaching staff that’s proven development is what they’re really, really good at, that’s enabled us to say, ‘let’s take on this young buck that maybe people have forgotten about or take on this vet and let’s put them in with our staff’.”

As for the Draft —and the lack of picks he was faced with on arrival in 2016, Marks agreed with Woj that it was good to have the Nets own pick in June —as well as the Nuggets 1-12 protected pick— and hinted he’s looking for more.

“it’s nice to see our toolbox not necessarily full but at end of day it’s back to on par with some other people,” he told Woj.

Marks also spoke about “moral victories” —the podcast was recorded between the losses to the Warriors and Knicks.

“Nobody wants those moral victories — ‘Gosh, look how close you guys came’’” he said. “We don’t want an excuse-driven culture. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. I think we’re going to have to find things along the way to celebrate...”

As always, Marks spoke about his team’s culture, whether it’s keeping the locker room and family room as player “sanctuaries” or encouraging open debate across the board.

“It’s been a tough go last couple of years but at end of the day, we’re not working in silos. It’s not coaching staff vs. performance team vs. front office with different agendas. It’s ‘guys, we’re going to do this together.’”