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Making the G-League matter in Long Island

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Long Island Nets

The Nets will soon set a search process for one of their most underrated jobs. With Ronald Nored headed to Charlotte to be an assistant to newly hired James Borrego, the Nets will need a new G-League head coach out on Long Island.

A Monday morning “Woj Bomb” got dropped on the HSS Training Center. Now Sean Marks will have some work to do in finding Nored’s replacement.

In his last two years as a head coach, Nored, who is now all of 28-years-old, aided in progressing the Nets’ vision of making the Long Island-based G-League program, not only relevant, but meaningful, even crucial.

The value of the Nets G-League operation and its coach became evident almost immediately after the news broke. A number of Nored’s alumni offered high praise and congratulations to the 28-year-old.

A young Hornets player offered a warm welcome as well.

And even though the Nets lost their guy, don’t expect any change in their assessment of the G-League’s importance to the organization ... and its development program.

“To me, that’s the part of the business that’s really enticing – the curiosity of where’s the next player [coming from]. It could be from the G-League,” Sean Marks said at the end-of-the-season press conference last month. “The fact that the G-League has taken those steps now, where you’ll potentially have draft eligible candidates or players coming into the G League. You’ll have foreign guys coming into the G League early, that’s a terrific – I give the NBA a lot of credit for they are trying to develop and tweak how we all use the G League.”

In other words, expect the Nets to use the G-League in different ways this season, again hoping to improve the roster even if it’s incremental and maybe a little experimental.

The biggest part of the G-League is not the wins and losses. It’s not even finding the diamond-in-the-rough. It’s more about internal development. In their two years under Nored, the Long Island Nets didn’t make the playoffs, but a number of players he worked with got better: Whitehead and Milton Doyle both averaged 20 points a game this season.

The Nets used the G-League to not only give Whitehead minutes, but to help him transition from point guard to swingman.

“It’s boosted his stock, quite honestly,” Kenny Atkinson said at the end of the G-League season. “I do like that we saw him much more off the ball. We’re thinking that’s probably going to translate better. He can still have the ball in his hands and we’re multi-positional and all that, but he’s definitely really good about being off the ball, scoring the ball off the ball and defending off the ball.”

For Doyle, the wide open style that the Nets and Nored preached turned him into a confident scorer.

“They’re able to grow, develop and be successful,” Nored told NetsDaily just days before the news broke of his defection to Charlotte. “I think Brooklyn is looking for that, to allow young guys to come, be successful, to grow and get better, but they need the G League to find players as well.”

Indeed, as Marks noted, scouting G-League games can prove beneficial as well.

Sean Kilpatrick was one of those guys, Dinwiddie is one of those guys, Milton Doyle got a call up from us,” said Nored, talking about players the Nets “found.” “The G-League is important to this organization. I’m thankful that I get to be in this position to coach and grow myself, but also be part of an organization that’s growing and developing.”

Under Marks and Atkinson, the Nets have had some luck in that area, but like any other aspect of improving, sometimes it works, sometimes, it doesn’t. Whitehead and Doyle worked out, but Chris McCullough who didn’t embrace the experience in the same way, did not.

Marks has been upfront about employing any opportunity to help the rebuild, from the draft to free agency to trades to simple development. The Nets GM would probably sign a Mars lifeform to a 10-day if it could shoot three’s and guard multiple positions.

“I was excited to take this job because I remember in Sean Marks’ press conference him talking about the G League,” recalled Nored, who saw Long Island finish 27-23, 10 games better than last season.

“I knew there’d be a value placed on the role that I was stepping into. I’ve had an unbelievable two years coaching Long Island and it starts from the top with Sean and Trajan (Langdon) and it goes all the way down to the people that we’re working with every day in Nassau Coliseum. We’re all put in positions to be successful.”

The Nets will be one of 28 NBA clubs with a G-League affiliate next season — Denver and Portland are the holdouts — and because of their commitment, they shouldn’t have much difficulty in attracting top candidates for head coach. They also play in the league’s premier venue, Nassau Coliseum. (They could also be looking for a GM. Langdon, in addition to being Marks No. 2, is the Long Island GM. He could be headed to Detroit.)

The candidate could come from inside. Marks is also all about using the G-League to develop front court talent, not just players, something Nored appreciated. It was, after all, his first head coaching gig.

“Before you’re a head coach, you could do as much preparation and as much, ‘this is what I would do. This is what I wouldn’t do.’ But until you’re in the fire you don’t know, and I didn’t know,” he admitted.

The Nets roster is filled with G-League veterans from perhaps the most famous, Jeremy Lin, to Joe Harris, Quincy Acy as well as Dinwiddie, Whitehead and Doyle. The Nets believe in the program and the loss of a key cog isn’t going to shake that confidence.