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Amid positive vibes, Sean Marks says Nets ‘have so far to go”

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Brooklyn Nets

The vibes are positive. After a solid off-season and a lot of praise from pundits and fans alike, the Nets future looks good. Jimmy Butler’s putting the Nets on his list of preferred destinations was just the latest development. Indeed, Brett Yormark told Bloomberg News Thursday that the team’s revenues are up 20 percent, year over year. All good.

But in an interview with Sports Illustrated, Sean Marks essentially says, hold on a bit.

“To be brutally honest, we have so far to go,” Marks told Rohan Nardkani. “We have to keep our eye on the prize here. If we ever rest, that’s going to be our downfall. For Kenny and I, if you’re not going to compete, if you don’t have a chip on your shoulder, then you’re probably not going to survive here. We all knew what we signed up for.”

Marks also tried to cool down speculation about 2019 free agency.

“I’ve never put a timeline on anything,” Marks said. “How do we maintain flexibility so we don’t get locked in? So that’s what we’ve worked for, to have these tools. There’s a little bit too much put on next summer. We could have to switch directions before then. I hate to limit ourselves and say we’re all in for July. Who knows what could happen before then?”

While Marks was toning down expectations about bringing in free agents or short-term progress, he was telling Nardkani how proud he is about subtle changes in culture, starting with making the front office more open.

Nardkani says Marks knew his desired culture had set in when members of his front office would “stand up for what they believed in” during meetings.

The Nets GM noted that his journeyman career —no one ever played fewer minutes over 10-years in the league— had given him a unique perspective.

“I was fortunate to be coached by Pat Riley in Miami, and see how he motivates a team, the stories he tells, the player care in Miami,” Marks says.

“In San Antonio, Pop was an iconic coach and leader, who kept everything in perspective. He’d always say, ‘This is just a game of basketball, I’m here to develop you as young men and women.’ I like to tell stories from where I was and give that little bit of perspective on why I think certain things will work.”

Marks isn’t quoted on individual moves ... or players, just strategy.

“As much as another franchise may have leverage over us in one regard, us giving up a veteran player may benefit them,” Marks explained. “We’ve got the player they need. We’ve got the expiring contract they need. We’ve got this cap space, which we’ve obviously been active and aggressive with.”

And he is fully aware stars drive championship ambitions.

“Ultimately, it’s a star-driven league. You’re never going to compete for a championship without having franchise-caliber, top-tier talented players,” Marks told Nardkani. “That top tier, however many of them you have on your team, has to be willing to sacrifice. Finding the right group that wants to sacrifice, that’s the tricky thing. Are they really willing to take a backseat? Give up court time? Financial? Statistics? They have to be willing to be part of something bigger than themselves.”

What’s next? Marks didn’t say, but as he has done since the Nets debt to the Celtics ended and they picked up a second first rounder in the summer, he emphasized there will no tanking.

“Kenny knows how to coach one way. And he’s going to compete. And whether you give him this roster or that roster, All-Stars or first-round picks, he’s going to coach to win. He’s going to develop players. And that’s going to continue as long as we’re here for.”