Sean Marks opened the Nets end-of-season presser by noting that he and Kenny are all “new to this.”
“This is my first job as a GM, Kenny’s first head coaching job, and a lot of staff members, it’s the same thing,” he continued. “They’ve been put in positions where this is their first chance at a high-level position so to speak.”
If, and perhaps when the Nets finally start winning, it will too be new to them, but it’s a part of the process that could accelerate, given the trajectory of player development.
After winning 20 games in 2016-17, only nine of which came before the All-Star Break, the Nets tallied 28 victories in 2017-18, and played nearly 30 games that were decided by five or fewer points. And don’t forget, the season before Marks and Atkinson arrived, they had won only 20.
In terms of wins and losses, the expectation may have been for a better outcome, but so far, Marks owners are on board with having success measured by progress if not wins. Ownership, he said, was not saying, “Look if we don’t win X amount of games, it’s going to be considered a failure.’”
Now, of course, ownership has expanded. Not one, but two of the world’s wealthiest men — Mikhail Prokhorov and now Joe Tsai — now own the franchise and both are committed.
“We already know we have an ownership group that is ready to fork out the big money when that timing is right,” said Marks. Prokhorov, of course, shelled out $90.6 million in luxury taxes in 2014 ... and have little to show for it. Marks wants to make sure that this time, no matter what the super-solvency of Prokhorov and Tsai, things get done the right way.
That starts with development. So far, so good.
“The progress we have to see is how players continue to develop,” added Marks. “Of course, in the past two years we’ve seen that. We’ve seen our scouts and front office bring players that we saw something special in, [that] analytics saw something special in.
“Kenny and his group has taken those guys and furthermore develop them into pretty robust NBA players, which is great to see. We obviously want to keep…at some that’s going to change.”
Another part is that once the players have developed, fitting them into the team long-term becomes a priority. Joe Harris who the Nets picked up off the NBA scrap heap and turned him into more how others saw him, may be the first example.
“I think Joe made it pretty clear from statements he made that he’d love to be back here. That’s how the organization feels about him too,” Marks said. “As Kenny alluded to before, we’ve got some decisions to make on several [players], and definitely Joe is a guy we see in a Nets uniform.”
Marks didn’t talk money. Too early, probably, but he seemed comfortable that his owners won’t flinch at any reasonable offer. The GM noted that as the rebuild progresses, there will be other decisions to be made and he expects there will be some impatience from on-high, but the plan comes first.
“I think it’s important that we all have a level of impatience,” said Marks. “I think that’s with Mikhail and Joe, but that’s also with Kenny and myself. We should not be satisfied nor settled with a jump in wins. It’s got to be, next year our target is X and this what we need to do to get there. Again, a lot of that will be predetermined by roster moves this summer and so forth.”
That could be this year or down the road based on the roster this summer? “Sure, yeah, correct.” That would be a nice return for the new owner, and Marks said Tsai’s decision to buy in is in itself an endorsement of the Nets strategic plan.
“The fact that Joe saw something that he liked in Brooklyn, saw something that he liked with the Nets organization, I think there’ll be a great partnership between the two.
“I think we’re very fortunate to have that amount of knowledge and that amount of commitment shown by two individuals – arguably either one could own a team outright if they wanted to. So the fact that they are both in here, showing that level of partnership and commitment to us is intriguing for sure.”