Shabazz had a tough opening act to follow Tuesday. After Sean Marks offered broad strokes on the Nets future and culture, the Nets brought out Shabazz Napier, their last (so far?) free agent signing to talk about why he chose Brooklyn.
He said all the right things about that very same future and culture and how it affected his decision. For Napier, generously listed at 6’1”, Brooklyn just seemed like the perfect fit ... and for a lot of reasons, starting with the Nets growing rep for making players better.
“I think the fact guys are willing to get better, guys are proving themselves each and every year, doing something better each and every year, it’s just great for the franchise and definitely great for the city of Brooklyn.
The Boston native said as well that he appreciates the city game.
“I know the city of Brooklyn has rabid fans. I know how that goes. It’s great to see them continue to do that. I think my part in it is to continue to compete and continue to fill whatever void needs to be filled and go in there with a mindset of competing and trying to win games.”
And for him, buzzwords like family, which directly impacts (wait for it) culture weren’t just buzzwords, a point he says Portland teammate Allen Crabbe emphasized to him in a recruiting pitch.
“No matter if you’re playing or not playing, you’re family,” Napier offered on what Crabbe told him. “They take care of your family. I think that’s one of the biggest things for me is understanding my family is going to be good no matter what. When you have a team that’s going to take care of you as much as they take care of your family, that’s something special. You don’t usually get that a lot. You want to walk into a situation where your family is treated with respect, as well as you.”
Napier said Crabbe’s role was critical.
“Yeah, I talk to Allen Crabbe a lot, Ed Davis as well,” Napier said of his former Blazer teammates, who will all represent Brooklyn this coming season. “Those are my guys from Portland. I was in California at the time. Me and Allen exchange texts all the time. It was just a text message here and there, a call here and there before I made my decision to understand the type of environment Brooklyn is and the facility and everything. All I heard was great things about it. It was easy for me to choose after that.”
Of course, discussions with Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson were as if not more critical, and also left a lasting impression on Napier, according to the UConn product who won and two NCAA championships in four years.
“I had a great conversation with Sean as well as Kenny, and I just felt like this was the place I was meant to be. It’s a great group of guys here, making great steps to better themselves. I felt like this was just the perfect place for me,” Napier said.
Marks said he liked what he saw and heard from his newest guard.
“He’s coming off a really good year. Played extremely well. You can see what happened in the past where having depth at that position is something that we need. At any time where you’re able to add talent and add talent through depth as well, that’s something that will help us long-term,” said Marks.
Marks didn’t describe “long term,” but the Nets have a team option on year 2 of his deal, after which the Nets would have his Early Bird Rights.
According to Marks, Napier’s size won’t be an issue, even though he’s roughly built the same as Yogi Ferrell, whom the Nets cut loose in favor of 6’6” Spencer Dinwiddie back in December 2016. With Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Jeremy Lin and even Greivis Vasquez once upon a time, the Nets have seemingly valued bigger guards at the point position.
“Look, if we could put Shabazz on a rack, stretch him out there and add a couple inches, that’d be terrific and he probably wants that, too,” Marks said with a smirk. “But at the same time, he’s a heck of a talent. And to be able to add that talent into our gym and again have these guys go out there and compete, I mean, we’ve seen guys play together, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a combination of these guys playing together.”
That’s good. Napier is a fan of position-less basketball, an Atkinson staple. In fact, he called the style of play one of the leading reasons for his signing.
“I felt like that was part of my game, position-less basketball, going up and down, getting the ball moving fast, being able to run to the corners and have somebody else handle the ball. I don’t need to be on the ball. I proved that when I was in Portland. I think that’s the reason why Kenny and I came to terms understanding this was a great fit for me,” said Napier, who shot 43.8 percent from three off the catch-and-shoot, with an effective field goal percentage of 64.4 percent last season.
Napier not only improved off the ball, but recorded career best shooting percentages across the board, finishing with 42 percent from the field, 37.6 percent from three and 84.1% on free throws all while scoring 8.7 points per game, by far his best season. To the speedy 2014 first round draft pick; meh, he could’ve done better.
“A lot of people were excited by what I did last year but to be honest with you, I didn’t think I did anything too special,” he said openly. “I felt like I did fill a void that was needed, playing with Dame (Lillard) and C.J. (McCollum) and the rest of the guys, being able to play off the ball, being able to play defense. But I know for sure there’s more I can bring to the table. I’m excited about that. I’m excited about the years to come.
“Like I said earlier, I think this is the perfect spot for me to continue to grow with a young core and with a great coaching staff. I think this is the perfect scenario for me to be in.
Brooklyn, he opined, “is definitely on the rise,” and that he’s “excited to be a part of it.”
And then, his introductory scrum completed, Napier signed his contract.
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