In an extensive interview Friday with Doug Gottlieb of FOX Sports, Ian Eagle says he believes the Nets have studied how Kyrie Irving could fit into the Nets system for a long time, that it’s not just “this seems like a good idea!”
The YES announcer also said that he has seen changes in the Brooklyn fan base this season —and particularly in the playoffs— that auger well for the organization, that “it did feel special. It did feel different” at Barclays Center.
Noting “while nothing is set in stone,” Eagle told Gottlieb that speculation around free agents and Irving in particular is creating a buzz for the Nets both locally and nationally. As for Irving’s disappointing year and reported negativity, Eagle said he believes that may be a perception rather than reality and that the Nets have prepared for him ... if he signs with them.
“I think Kyrie’s last season has changed the way that he’s viewed by others in the NBA,” Eagle began. “It doesn’t mean that’s the reality. It just means this is now part of his persona.
“He’s 27 years old. They have certainly done their homework. There must be a belief that if he gets into their system with their coaches, and their way of doing things, that his style could fit with what exactly they want to do. Now, this isn’t by happenstance, not making decisions just based on ‘this seems like a good idea!’ This is years and years and years of getting ready for this moment.”
Both with regard to Irving — and In general, Eagle said the Nets front office is always about fit when they’re considering an acquisition.
“You got to see if this is really a good fit and whether or not you want to take that next step from a marriage standpoint because you’re marrying this free agent and you’ve changed the way you go about your business. You better be sure this is a real fit moving forward.”
More significantly, Eagle noted that for the first time, the Nets are part of the off-season conversation, something that is a surprise to everyone.
“The fact that the Nets are in the conversation, that they’re relevant, the fact that you’ve called me to discuss the Nets at this time of year would not have even been remotely feasible three years ago. You could not have predicted it,” he said.
“It has changed. It’s been a shift. I’ve been doing the games for 25 years. Obviously when it was in New Jersey, it was a stepchild scenario. It was an afterthought. And when they made the finals that year, there still was a lot of skepticism and it didn’t feel like a big event.
“I can tell you in the playoff games this year against Philadelphia, it did feel special. It did feel different, even from the previous playoff runs in the Brooklyn iteration. There is something happening. You can sense something different. Even traveling about the country, I get questions about the team, queries about this franchise, queries about Brooklyn itself. “
The Nets free agency moves feed off that change in perception, he contended, but if things don’t work out, the organization will fall back on its culture.
“They still believe. They have a young core. They still believe they’re doing things the right way. And they believe they will take another step in 2019-20. But there’s no doubt their calendar changed when they had the success from last year and I think it sped up the process a bit.”
As for competition with the Knicks, Eagle said Sean Marks doesn’t think in those terms.
“Look, they’re not going to overtake the Knicks. I don’t think that’s even their goal,” Eagle told Gottlieb.
“To be perfectly honest with you, people on the outside looking it see it that way, with two teams in the same market,” “I think Sean Marks’s goal is based on a championship and if, oh by the way, a by-product happens to be you’re enticing free agents that the Knicks are interested in, that’s just an added bonus.”
Still, he says, the Nets trajectory signals that the basketball conversation in the city won’t be one-sided.
“Trust me, if this team keeps winning, keeps improving, we’ve already seen a change in the way they’re viewed not only nationally but locally as well. they’re certainly in the conversation more than they’ve ever been.”