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Despite 19-40 record, Nets players, coaches and Sean Marks see improvement

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In a report on Sean Marks second anniversary as Nets GM, The Athletic’s Mike Scotto recounts trades, transactions and signings, but for Brooklyn, he writes, the big improvement is ... improvement.

To a man, the Nets players, coaches, execs from other NBA teams ... and Marks himself... all think the Nets are better, if not a lot better, than last year’s team and that’s progress.

“We’re a better team,” Kenny Atkinson told Scotto. “We’ve added players, and some of our players have developed, so yeah. Listen, we haven’t accomplished anything. I do think when we first came here we talked about progress and I think that’s a simple way to look at it.

“Hopefully, at the end of this year, there’s tangible progress where we’re eight games better, 10 games better than last year. I think that’s important for our culture. I know we talk the process and just worrying about improving, I do believe that. I do think for our fans, for you guys too, what’s the bottom line here? The bottom line in this league is winning, so to show that improvement I think gives our guys more confidence. It helps us going into this next offseason and season. Okay, we did this, now can we take another jump? But we’re not putting it on the whiteboard. We’re more focused on getting better every day.”

A 10-game improvement, to 30 wins, would require the Nets to go 11-12 over the last 23 games, about what they did last season when Jeremy Lin rejoined the team. This year, of course, the hope is that D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie can replicate that, with help from Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who remain on the injured list.

But even if they don’t get over the 30-win hump, Marks (generally) likes what he’s seen.

“I think we all like the steps that we’re taking,” Marks said. “We have a pretty good perspective and handle that we’re a long way away from where we need to be, but we’re being strategic and systematical. We’re adding the right key pieces to players and staff and so forth. Guys are all pushing in the right direction, and that’s the whole group across the board, everybody here in this organization.”

He also spoke about the Nets effort to stock an empty cupboard of draft picks. In the ten trades he’s made since taking over, he’s acquired eight picks, three firsts and five seconds. He sees them as “tools.”

“I think what we’ve done in terms of just being as creative as we can in terms of adding some more of these draft picks, they’re really just tools,” Marks said. “Whether it’s future picks years out and so forth, adding them back in, we never know when and how we’re going to use them. It’s nice to at least have them at our disposal.”

Scotto also quotes a number of NBA executives praising to greater or lesser degree what Marks has accomplished. One, described only as a “Southwest Division executive,” said Dinwiddie could be the most improved player in the league, although he thinks Indiana’s VIctor Oladipo will win the award.

“Dinwiddie basically got cut by two teams, went to the D-League and turned into a legitimate starter. I think that’s a credit to their player development and their culture.” said the executive.

Bottom line, Scotto thinks the Nets are ahead of where they expected to be. And he quotes Marks as saying the Nets are still a “long way” away from where they want to be. When the Nets GM spoke to ESPN’s Zach Lowe last summer, he said the franchise was a “long, long way” away. So there’s that.