Sean Marks sat on a stage for his fourth annual preseason press conference, once a rookie GM, now one of the most respected in the game… much like his team. The room filled with reporters and cameras, a dramatic increase from years past.
Just a day before Marks sat on that stage, the New York Post reported that Kevin Durant might come back this season. Hat tip to the Post for the story, but they weren’t the only ones who heard something similar. NetsDaily was also told, “Don’t count it [return] out.”
Rachel Nichols of ESPN blasted the reports and said it’s a narrative the Nets need to shut down immediately.
And so, Sean Marks did.
“The expectations are that Kevin (Durant) will be out for the year,” Marks said one day later, deflecting further questions and defusing speculation. Three days after that, Durant himself shut down things further by deferring to Marks.
The NBA and its media, fans, etc. are going to learn a whole lot about how the Brooklyn Nets operate under Sean Marks.
Sure, things have changed. The Nets have superstars, which means they have more media, more attention, more expectations than ever. The national media is scrutinizing the Nets a bit closer, obviously because of KD and Kyrie. Very few had watched closely over the past three seasons, when the Nets went from the laughingstock of the league to one of the most respectable organizations.
So yeah, things have changed in Brooklyn, but how things are run? It doesn’t appear so. There’s a lot that people will learn about the Nets, for better or for worse, depending on the perspective. The KD injury and how they handle it will be enough of a learning lesson as to how Marks operates. Patience will not be an issue. Here are a few more…
There is no such thing as a timetable for an injured player
The Nets don’t operate like most NBA teams when it comes to injuries. It’s much like hockey. At first, they’ll give you an idea of where the injury might have occurred. Days – maybe a week will go by until a press release comes out with further detail of the injury, if it hasn’t been leaked to one of the big game reporters like Adrian Wojnarowski. But you will rarely – if ever – get any sort of timetable.
After Caris LeVert dislocated his foot last season, Marks addressed reporters immediately. “I never talk about timelines,” said Marks. Suffice it to say, the organization has a history of being very, very patient.
Indeed. The Nets, under Marks, have always been extremely quiet, analytical and strategic as to how they go about a player’s return and how they address the public about it. Setting a timetable only causes headaches for the organization for several reasons. Not to mention the player.
For starters, why set a timetable when all that’s going to do is increase pressure on a player’s rehab? Secondly, what happens if there’s a setback? Sure, fans want the organization to be transparent but in handling business, the Nets would rather these types of things stay behind closed doors.
On December 12, Brooklyn’s highest paid player, Allen Crabbe, banged his knee on a drive to the hoop and left the game. The Nets listed him as “doubtful” for the following game and deemed the injury a “sore right knee”. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Apparently, it was, but the Nets would never tell you. Two games later he was listed as “OUT” with a sore right knee.
The Nets put out a statement that read: “After further evaluation, it has been determined that the bruised fat pad, which has been the cause of right knee soreness, will require an additional period of recovery. Crabbe will be re-evaluated in one to two weeks, at which the point the next phase of his return-to-play protocol will be determined.”
And that was it. Allen Crabbe was “OUT” for seven weeks until Nets Public Relations tweeted that he would be probable for the February 6 game. On April 4, Crabbe underwent knee surgery. Two months later, he was traded to the Hawks, where he continues to rehab.
It can be frustrating for fans and media, but it’s the Marks way.
In KD’s case, we already know the injury. We have an idea that he has a chance to return this year – YES THIS YEAR, but the Nets aren’t going to tell you that. Why would they? It’s a “bad look” in the eyes of the national media, it adds pressure to his rehab, and if there’s a setback? Forget about it.
With the GM and player both suggesting KD will be out for the year, it will cut down on questions to both and Kenny Atkinson as the season goes on. It’s less pressure on everyone ... no matter what the ultimate outcome. There will be less need for updates.
They aren’t lying to anybody, but they also don’t show their cards. Again, it’s the Marks way.
Read between the lines...
Ah yes… Sean Marks said the Nets don’t expect Kevin Durant to play this year. He also said, “We’re not going to plan on him playing.” But that just sounds like a self-fulling prophecy Marks and Brooklyn’s doctors aren’t going to make. If the time is right, and doctors clear him, the decision will be Durant’s and only his to make.
That’s what people aren’t talking about. The headlines read how the Nets expect Kevin Durant out for the year, but Marks made it clear that it’s ultimately the player’s decision.
“His rehab will obviously be predetermined over the course of the next few months, how he goes with the performance team, but ultimately Kevin will have a large say in when he comes back and how he’s feeling,” Marks said.
Recent trends point to Achilles rehabilitation taking closer to six to eight months. Durant underwent surgery on June 12. A nine-month recovery and rehab would put a return around March 12. Nobody is saying he’ll definitely be back, but nobody is saying he will not be back. With the Nets, we won’t know for sure – or believe it until he is deemed out later in the year. By Sean Marks.
Sure, there’s more pressure on Marks and the Public Relations staff with stars and the pressure that comes with it. However, this culture – this team -- was built from scratch, by Marks and Kenny Atkinson. They took a 20-win team with zero draft picks of their own and turned it into a team centered around Durant and Irving, among other stars. What he communicates with players and coaches will be reiterated.
For example, Durant was asked if he believes he’ll return, contrary to what Marks said.
“Me and Sean have been in contact, so if he says it, you can believe it,” said Durant. “We got together and made sure that was the message. Anytime he comes in here and says something, you don’t have to come and ask me. If he says it, it’s coming from me. What he said last week (Tuesday) is what I’m thinking right now.”
One of the biggest superstars in the NBA is telling reporters that he’s not going to reveal what he discusses with the GM.
There’s more, too.
If there were any questions about “power”, Marks has shown that he isn’t going to bow to requests from superstars, at least not yet. Former GM Billy King traded the No.6 pick (Damian Lillard) for Gerald Wallace because he felt pressure from Deron Williams following the failure of the Dwightmare. Durant, Irving and a few others approached Marks after Los Angeles and vouched for Carmelo Anthony, who was in Los Angeles working out with Nets’ players during a workout organized by Kyrie. The players are friends and they liked what they saw.
With Wilson Chandler suspended, it would’ve been easy for Marks to bring Melo on. As a result of the suspension, they were eligible to sign a 16th man. They signed Lance Thomas instead.
“Power” isn’t a word you’ll hear him – or anybody in the organization discuss. You’ll hear things like “collective effort” as Marks has so often put it when discussing the culture of the Brooklyn Nets. Culture is something they’ve built over the past three years, and there are so many levels to it.
Doing things collectively is how they’re going to manage Durant’s injury. There’s no saying when he’ll be back, but there’s a lot that’s going to be learned about the Nets in regards to how they’re run and what their culture looks like. It was hidden the past three years, now it’s in the national spotlight.
And given the track record, the Nets have a lot to show off.