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Nets expand performance team with directors of sports science, medicine

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets on Wednesday announced changes to their performance team in what amounts to an expansion of the operation, adding new positions as well as staff, including directors of sports science and sports medicine. Among the staff hires was a rehab specialist from the Canadian group that worked with Jeremy Lin following his knee surgery last season.

The team will continue to be headed by Zach Weatherford, director of human performance, and Sebastien Poirier, just promoted to head athletic trainer. Dan Meehan, who’s been the team’s strength and conditioning coach the past two years, has been named the director of sports science.

Current and former Nets players have publicly praised the performance team headed by Weatherford, who came to the Nets from the U.S. Navy SEALS. DeMarre Carroll as well as Sean Kilpatrick and Randy Foye have all credited the team’s work with extending and improving their conditioning and strength.

The most significant additions are the new directors of sports science and sports medicine. Both will be held by Australians, Meehan and Les Gelis. In fact, Gelis won’t begin this role until the conclusion of his World Cup commitment with the Australian national soccer team later this summer.

With over 20 years of experience, Gelis comes to Brooklyn after most recently serving as head of physiotherapy for Football Federation Australia, a position he held since 2010. In that role, Gelis oversaw the physiotherapy departments of the Australian national football team, all FFA national teams and the national league.

Previously, Gelis served as head of physiotherapy for the Manly Sea Eagles of the Australian National Rugby League and the South Melbourne Soccer Club. He worked two stints as an Olympic team physiotherapist for the Australian national football team, including at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Gelis earned a Bachelor of Science in physiotherapy and a Master of Science in sports physiotherapy from La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Replacing Meehan as the team’s head strength and conditioning coach will be Daniel Liburd, who comes to Brooklyn from the NFL.

Liburd spent nine years (2009-2017) with the Buffalo Bills as the team’s assistant strength and conditioning coach. During the 2017 NFL season, Liburd worked with the Pittsburgh Steelers in a similar strength and conditioning role. Other previous experience includes strength and conditioning positions with American International College and Springfield College. Liburd earned a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Boston University and a Master of Science in human performance from Canisius College.

In 2016, he had a short stint on “American Ninja Warrior.” Liburd slipped up on the “rolling thunder” obstacle.

Stefania Rizzo has been named director of performance rehabilitation, replacing Aisley Toolan. Rizzo comes to Brooklyn from Fortius Sport & Health in Vancouver, where Lin rehabbed. Although the Nets press release doesn’t indicate whether she specifically worked with Lin, she regularly retweeted news reports on his progress.

She most recently served as Fortius’ director of physiotherapy. Since 2006, Rizzo has also functioned as the lead physiotherapist for the Canadian national alpine ski team. In this role, Rizzo has worked over 40 international World Championships, World Cup Finals and both the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.

Among other past positions, Rizzo has served as head of rehabilitation for the Buffalo Sabres and as a physiotherapist with the Canadian national snowboard team, the Canadian national women’s soccer team and BC Provincial Rugby. Rizzo earned Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and physiotherapy from the University of British Columbia and a Master of Clinical Science from the University of Western Ontario.

As NetsDaily reported last week, Sebastien Poirier has been elevated to the position of head athletic trainer. Poirier, who joined the organization in 2016, served the past two seasons as assistant athletic trainer.

Prior to joining the Nets, Sebastien worked with the Oklahoma City Thunder organization for 3 seasons.

Sebastien has gained experience in a wide variety of sports medicine settings, including outpatient orthopaedic rehabilitation and professional athletics. He started as a volunteer with the Springfield Armor of the NBA Development League in 2012 while he worked in private practice orthopedics as a physical therapist. He then began working with the Oklahoma City Thunder as an assistant to the Thunder medical staff and head athletic trainer of the organizations G-League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue.

Poirier earned a Bachelor of Science in athletic training from Salem State University and a Doctorate in Physical therapy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is a dual-licensed physical therapist and athletic trainer.