In his first answer at the post-Draft press conference last month, Rodions Kurucs made it plain that Brooklyn was the team he wanted to play for.
“I was super, super surprised that they picked me,” said the Latvian wing. “Actually, this was where I wanted to go ... this place — the Brooklyn Nets — and I’m happy to be here. I know the staff is great here and the club is great for the young guys’ performance and I know they will work with the young guys. That’s what I like.
“That’s very important for young players. They give you everything that you need to improve your game. That’s the most important thing in this club.”
Quite the endorsement from a player who had never seen an NBA game of any kind before he sat down and watched the Las Vegas Summer League. He may be from Latvia, but he knows the Nets’ rep.
In an interview with the Nets official site, the Nets other rookie, Dzanan Musa, said he’s been quite impressed with his workplace, noting that he saw a few NBA training facilities during his workouts.
“Just when you go inside that court and you look at that view, that’s really, really impressive,” said Musa. “I think that this is one of the best, if not the best, facilities in the NBA because I went to five or six spots for workouts and this is really impressive.”
It’s nice for two kids to say the right things about their new team, but they were not alone this summer. In fact, in press conferences, conference calls and interviews, just about all the new Nets talked about how they were aware of the team’s development culture, the top-flight facilities and their focus on family.
“I’m glad that I made the decision to come here because I’ve been around the team for probably a week or so, and a lot of teams or organizations they preach the family thing and togetherness and this is the first one where they really are a family and are together,” said Ed Davis, a nine-year veteran. “So I’m really looking forward to the season.”
He said he got a sense of things from talking to players who have played in Brooklyn, starting with Allen Crabbe, who recruited both Davis and Shabazz Napier, his teammates on the Blazers.
“I talked to a few players that have been through here, Tyler Zeller, talked to him, and I played with Allen Crabbe,” added Davis, speaking of college and NBA teammates. “So, did have some type of understanding, but that’s just word of mouth,” said Davis. “It’s a little different when you see it up close.”
Napier, like Davis, said he heard nothing but good things about the Nets’ organization from Crabbe.
“No matter if you’re playing or not playing, you’re family,” Napier said repeating 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, who had extensive talks with Atkinson and Sean Marks, said he relied on Crabbe to help him “understand the type of environment Brooklyn is and the facilities and everything. All I heard was great things about it. It was easy for me to choose after that.”
Jared Dudley said one particular draw for him was playing for Kenny Atkinson and his coaching staff.
“I would say his confidence,” said Dudley of what struck him about the Nets head coach. “I think that you could tell the way he talks that he’s a New Yorker in a sense of his confidence. Not being bold, but his attitude toward trying to get better, trying to work, the hard work. He seems to me a blue-collar guy, put your hardhat on here, come and let’s work, let’s have fun and let’s get better.”
Dudley praised the Nets staff as well.
“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.”
The Nets of course have repeatedly been praised by NBA pundits for the change in culture Marks brought to Brooklyn. That’s fine, but when the players around the league are saying the same thing, it’s immeasurably better.
Crabbe, who fans see as the quiet man, has turned out to be quite the evangelist for the Nets. And he’s not alone. DeMarre Carroll has repeatedly talked about how the Brooklyn performance team didn’t just revive his career after an injury-filled two years in Toronto. They put him on a customized routine that permitted him to have the best season of his nine-year career.
Can the Nets replicate that next summer when they’ll be in the market for bigger stars? There’s a lot of variables that will go into those decisions: money, length of contract, winning, competition. But at least at this point, the Nets reputation for being player-friendly seems to have been taken care of.