The Nets pitch to free agents no doubt starts with the extraordinary turnaround Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson have achieved in a little more than three years ... from the NBA’s worst record in their first year to a sixth seed and a winning record in Year 3. There’s an “infrastructure” of talent awaiting free agents, as Adrian Wojnarowski said on ESPN.
There’s the market and the stage in New York ... and yes, a slow but steady rise in fan appreciation. The Nets last seven dates were sellouts and the sale of season ticket sales is on pace to be the best since 2012 when the Nets moved to Brooklyn ... and as Brett Yormark told us, “We’ve got the whole summer to sell!”
The facilities are world-class — a billion dollar arena that’s become a basketball Taj Mahal if not Mecca in seven short years and an even newer, $52 million training facility that’s the envy of the league.
More importantly, particularly to a player turning into his 30’s, the Nets medical and performance team stands out. As recent comments by players and others have pointed out, all such teams are not created equally. The Lakers, as Howard Beck has noted, are seen as behind the curve in performance, analytics and player development in general. The Pelicans first move after David Griffin took over was to hire away the Suns’ training staff and agree to spend nearly $5 million in upgrading the team’s training facilities.
Then, there’s the Warriors, seen as the Nets chief competition for Kevin Durant. There’s conflicting reports on how much, if at all, Durant was angered by Golden State’s treatment of him prior to his achilles rupture in Game 5 of the Finals.
Still, one of his teammates’ comments on the medical staff raises significant issues. Andre Iguodala, on The Breakfast Club. He didn’t say specifically that the Warriors had misdiagnosed a leg fracture, calling it a bone bruise, but he said “So I’m fighting with the team, I’m fighting with people, I’m fighting with the media” over the severity of the injury.”
Durant has chosen to stay in New York for at least his recovery from surgery. He went under the knife on June 13 and two days ago, his brother posted a picture of him walking on Wooster Street in Soho, aided by a leg walker.
He’s expected to continue his rehab in New York, not Oakland or near one of his homes and will be taking meetings on free agency in the city as well. There are hints that he might visit the HSS training facility once that’s permitted starting Sunday night. (Although the Nets would have liked to have all their decisions done by Sunday, that’s looking less and less likely.)
There are other things in the Nets pitch that might appeal to KD. Pairing him with Kyrie Irving would have to be at the top of that list. The two are reportedly like brothers and Irving seems set to join the Nets and willing to recruit him. And it’s not just Kyrie. One Nets insder told us that Durant wants to play with Caris LeVert.
Also, the Nets have successfully built a cocoon around their players while at the same time creating a family atmosphere. You know, a culture. It’s only half joking to suggest the Nets bench dancing video (collection seen here) is the team’s best sales pitch. Durant is all about basketball so the fewer distractions the better. That privacy will be more difficult to maintain with a superstar or two in Brooklyn, of course.
Then, there’s the China connection with minority owner Joe Tsai being able to guide him through the in’s and out’s of Asian marketing, the NBA’s next big frontier ... although he has said, “global marketing and all that stuff” does not interest him. Brooklyn is also closer to his roots in Washington than either of his previous stops in Oklahoma City and the Bay Area.
The bottom line: the Nets are a well-run, player-oriented operation. They seem to know what they’re doing.
There are of course other things that weigh against the Nets. Golden State has gone to the Finals five straight years and although he’s probably out for the season, and Klay Thompson is dealing with a torn ACL, the Warriors remain the Warriors.
Could the Knicks or the Clippers make a last minute run? Sure, as Shams Charania thinks the Knicks are indeed still in it, saying overnight “The Knicks and the Nets, I’m told, are at the forefront in terms of being in contention for Kevin Durant. The Knicks have not stopped pursuing both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as a package together.”
Still, Vegas oddsmakers are putting the Nets at the top of their list of destinations, followed by the Warriors, then the Knicks.
Nothing is certain until pen touches paper (or iPad or iPhone) but the Nets have done a good maybe even a great job getting to this moment. At this point, we can only wait and hope for the best. We’re good at that.
- Inside Nets’ biggest selling point to an angry Kevin Durant - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Sean Marks and the Nets are in the endgame now - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News