Less than a month after losing their 54th and final game of the season, (most) of the Brooklyn Nets are back together.
The word culture might be tossed around a little too often, but in this case, it’s showing off. This is a 28-win team that stayed very close throughout the season. Building a culture starts at the top – ownership, executives, coaches. However, the most important aspect of it all are the players. They have to actually like playing with - and hard- for one another in order to find some sort of success together.
“Everybody was coachable this season, nobody got down or tried to isolate themselves from the team just because we were losing games,” D’Angelo Russell told NetsDaily after the season.
It’s all part of what the Nets are about now. It’s positive energy and first-class treatment here. It isn’t hard to see why these guys all get along so well and chemistry is developing.
It also speaks for the leadership they have. All throughout the season up until “baggie day,” DeMarre Carroll emphasized how important it was for the younger guys to work on their games over the summer, specifically Russell. That all said, Carroll explained how it’s veteran guys like himself that must lead by example in order for that to happen.
“He [D’Angelo] just has to come in this summer and buy in, hit the weights, do what the performance team tells him to do, live in this gym like Caris [LeVert] did last year,” Carroll said.
“Me, being his big brother, being a leader, I just challenge him to come in and hit it hard every day.”
No word on who officially set it up, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise if it were DeMarre. After all, remember he tweeted this:
Perhaps the most incredible feat about the picture isn’t just how many guys showed up rather who showed up.
You look at guys like Joe Harris, Quincy Acy, Nik Stauskas and Dante Cunningham. None are on the books with Brooklyn next year. That didn’t stop them.
Somebody like Isaiah Whitehead, who spent most of the season with the Long Island Nets and has a team option in June, still made sure he was there.
How about Timofey Mozgov, who played in only 31 games this season, the lowest of his career (and not due to injury). Even though Mozgov didn’t play much, he was still a big part of the locker room and a big part of the trip, taxiing his teammates around in his Rolls-Royce and opening his L.A. home to them.
Jeremy Lin missed the entire season and spent most of his rehab in Vancouver was there… and leading. In fact, it was his social media that first informed fans what was going on.
The young guys like D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Spencer Dinwiddie. Showing up is expected. Leading is the next step.
If you’re Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson, you appreciate what you see. This is a team, not a roster. And that’s perhaps the most noticeable identity they’ve formed on and off the court since the new regime took over.
But how realistic is it that most of the players from a 28-win team return?
When NetsDaily asked Marks about whether he expects more continuity next season —after having 24 and 22 players under contract in his first two years— Marks was non-committal, but hopeful...
“I have no idea to be brutally honest whether it’s going to be significant reduction,” he said about the number of players who will wear the black-and-white. “The hope is that we move forward, ‘Hey, here’s eight or nine guys we’ve moved forward with, and the following year, here’s nine to ten,’ and you piece together your roster like that.
“There is a lot of value in having continuity. If every off-season, it’s ‘Kenny, here’s 15 guys, go and teach them and develop them again,’ I’m putting a lot on our coaching staff. So it’d be nice … what was here, what we inherited, what we came in to, and try build at some point, with some limited tools. Part of it is roster turnover and we’re going to have to do that to find the guys that fit what we’re trying to do here. Ultimately the goal is not to have 22, 23 guys on the roster every year.”
Will that be next season? Maybe. Marks has also said the Nets need a lot to contend and has noted repeatedly the team is in the talent acquisition mode.
The players, of course, understand this is a business ... or at least that’s what they say. It puts Marks in a bit of a bind: he pushes a player-oriented culture, that his guys appreciate, but if he’s going to succeed at his job, he has to be “opportunistic,” one of his favorite words, and move them. And that could mean a changing roster and turn that team photo in the Hollywood Hills from iconic to nostalgic.