During the last two weeks, the Nets have on five occasions released and tweeted videos of Draft workouts at HSS Training Center. Take a look...
GM Sean Marks and Nets basketball ops have been welcoming draft prospects to HSS Training Center for an up-close look. pic.twitter.com/m3RQn9zViH— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) June 19, 2018
Notice anything? Not one prospect’s face was shown. None. There are shots of arms and legs and basketballs; audio and video of coaches and scouts and executives, including Sean Marks, directing and watching. In one, D’Angelo Russell is shown seated next to Marks as they watch a workout. “I like to sit in and support the organization and a lot of the guys I played with,” .DLo says simply. “Most of the guys I played with just graduated this year so they’re coming in and out of these workouts and I like to show face.”
But, of course, the Nets don’t like to “show face.” They are keeping their Draft plans, their strategy even the names of the players they’re working out VERY private. That decision not to reveal the identity of prospects is atypical of the rest of the NBA. Most teams release lists of who’s coming in and in some cases offer public assessments.
That’s the way it used to be with the Nets too. The team would release a list of who’s going to work out. The media was invited to talk with either the chief scout, Gregg Polinsky, or a higher ranking executive, like then GM Ed Stefanski during Rod Thorn’s days, afterwards, taking questions about the prospects’ performance. The team would post video of the media sessions on their official website.
Why the change? One reason is that Marks doesn’t want everyone to know what he’s doing, who he’s talking to, working out. Other teams can find out who he’s working out. Prospects are asked at every stop where else they’ve been. As we have proven, anyone can compile a pretty accurate list of the players who’ve been. Marks just doesn’t like to make it easy. Call it seeking a competitive edge.
There’s a much broader, subtle philosophy at play as well. It’s part of the culture Marks is emulating what he saw in San Antonio. Gregg Popovich’s famously short, tart responses to reporters’ questions, during or post-game, are not so much about animosity towards the press. They are about a culture that establishes — and maintains — an exclusive and protective zone for the players or in this case, the prospects ... creating a player-centric culture from Day One, or you might say, Day Zero.
It’s the same philosophy that had the Nets create a family room for the players’ children and significant others, or spend a little more to build customized oversized chairs for big men in the players’ lounge or as Jeremy Lin noted recently, pay for specialized rehab and all the necessities and amenities associated with it. “Most — 90 to 95 percent of NBA teams — won’t treat their players like that,” Lin said of his treatment. “So I really think they take care of me very, very well.“
There’s another, more personal level. Back in December when the Nets traded Trevor Booker for Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and a draft pick — and waived Sean Kilpatrick, Marks and Kenny Atkinson sat down with the remaining players, individually, to explain the moves. It was doubly emotional since the transactions took place while the team was in Mexico City which wasn’t just about basketball but bonding as well.
Call it creating a safe zone, a privacy zone. Gossip is not tolerated. Loose lips either. It is, dare we say it, a cultural thing. Some things are sacrificed, like opportunities to market the team at a higher level in a competitive environment. But the philosophy also produced what DLo playfully calls “the joint in Cali,” the player-organized gathering in southern California that brought 13 of the roster’s 15 players to L.A. to bond last month. It’s about the players, the collective.
The philosophy will play out this week on a number of levels. From a strategic viewpoint, . few outside HSS Training Center know exactly what the Nets are doing. It’s the smart move to keep quiet (unless, of course, you think a leak will facilitate the process). And if a player gets moved, as will likely happen, there will be more conversations, more explanations. But there will also be a chance for the group to integrate new members into the culture. And those prospects-turned-players will know, starting with their workouts, what to expect.