Ten times during Tuesday’s press conference, Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson talked about improvement from within the Nets organization, from players as well as coaches and front office staff: “internal improvement,” “collective improvement,” “individual improvement.”
If there was any theme to the two men’s comments, it was look to internal improvement and how it can impact what’s on the court. Here’s a sample of Marks and Atkinson’s comments on how some individual players have gotten better ... and what they expect.
D’Angelo Russell: “A fantastic off-season”
Atkinson: “Joe (Harris) is a poster child for putting in a tremendous off-season, and it paid off for him. Singling out D’Angelo’s had a fantastic off-season. Improving his body and working on his game.”
Allen Crabbe: A growing confidence and consistency
Atkinson: “We expect Allen Crabbe really his first full off-season (with us) and Jarrett (Allen) really, too. First off-season in its entirety. I think you’re gonna see those guys make jumps.
“Confidence. I think he’s realizing what he can do. He’s obviously had some big games for us. I praised him all year. He’s taken a step defensively too. I love how he competed on the defensive end. I think with an offseason with our performance team, I think he’s gotten stronger. I think he’s worked on his endurance. He’s just gonna have to do it more consistently, I think that’s his quest this year. Do it more consistently.”
Ed Davis and Kenneth Faried: “A little beef and physicality”
Atkinson: “Obviously Ed fills a rebounding need for us. He’s a proven rebounder in this league. A proven screener. Definitely adds great physicality. Kenneth also, good rebounder, great energy guy. I think rebounding’s going to be a big theme for us defensively. So those guys are going to add a little beef and physicality and toughness. Really welcome additions to the team.”
Shabazz Napier: “A heck of a competitor”
Atkinson: “You can see already he’s a heck of a competitor. Obviously had an excellent year last year with Portland. When we played him, he was on our scouting report as an X factor for them. Really pleased to have him in the mix.
“What’s really good about Shabazz is he can play on the ball and he can play off the ball. And obviously in Portland he played off the ball a fair amount, so he’s comfortable at either position. But he’s a big addition. He’s gonna push people for playing time, and that’s what drives a good young team is a competitive group. I expect him to push for good minutes.”
Jarrett Allen: Making the jump
Atkinson: “You look at a guy like Jarrett Allen. I think he had an excellent year protecting the rim. He had an excellent year playing pick-and-roll defense, but his rebounding numbers have to come up for him to take a jump.
“I think it’s hard to put him in a box right now. We’re learning every day what type of player he could be. He showed last year that he could make a corner three. We weren’t sure that was the case, I mean, that’s not why we drafted him.
“I think we really have to be careful with him. We have yet to really defined his role. It starts on the defensive with his rim protection, his versatility, his ability to play pick-and-roll defense. Obviously the improving area of rebounding. And on offense. He’s a guy that puts pressure on the rim for us whether it’s running the court, The guy’s an Olympic sprinter. He’s a modern center in the NBA with the way he puts pressure on the rim with his rolling to the rim. We’re excited about him. I think he’s got a lot in the toolbox.”
Alan Williams: “Open competition”
Marks: “When you’re getting talent like that in your gym, it always helps. There was a need at that position. A player of his stature and had played at the NBA level before, the fact that he as two-way guy – again, we’re not going to limit him in only playing here or there – and as Kenny has always alluded to, it’s open competition in training camp, which I think is great for everybody.”
Theo Pinson: “He wants to learn”
Marks: “Theo Pinson is gonna be our two-way guy. It hasn’t been out there yet; it probably shouldn’t be. We’re excited about what we saw in him over the course of his college career. Our coaching staff got to evaluate him during the draft process. He has a lot of intangibles. Coached well, you can coach him hard. He wants to learn and he’s got some experience.”
The two were also asked to discuss their own off-seasons.
Marks: “Personally, I know as a GM, I know what my job entails and it’s always changing. I’ve obviously got to lead a group of front office guys and support these guys in any way possible. We know the challenge that’s ahead of us; it’s great. It’s us being creative, us jumping at that challenge like we’ve done all the way through it. So I expect nothing less from Kenny and his staff. They’ve got our full support and that’s where it needs to be.”
Atkinson: “Along similar lines, I think that this off-season I spent a lot of time trying to improve my game, too. I think first of all, we’re focused on 17 guys, That’s, when I wake up every morning, that’s my passion, ‘How do we help these guys get better?’ I think there’s also the curiosity part, talking from other coaches and learning from other coaches, figuring out, just not in the basketball realm, but other sports, I think you have to have your curiosity to improve. I’m really pleased with the off-season I had as a coach and our staff had.”