New York hoop writers were at the Big 3 Tournament at Barclays Center Sunday. They talked to a number of former Nets (and one outspoken former Knick) about the Nets off-season ... and what it means for both New York basketball and the NBA.
The responses were unanimous: The Nets won free agency with their acquisition of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan. Charles Oakley, who’s locked in a lawsuit against Madison Square Garden and James Dolan over his arrest back in 2017, was most vocal.
“(The Nets) hit the Mega Millions and the Powerball,” Oakley said. “They hit both of them, and you got two marquee players, two of the top-five free agents. Kevin is the best player in the game until he got hurt. Sean Marks has done a great job over there. They’ve got new ownership. The fans have been waiting for something like this and now they’ve got it.”
Kenyon Martin, who like Oakley, is a Big 3 team coach, said the Nets arrival in Brooklyn, in the works when he was with the New Jersey, changed a lot for the organization. Now, the promise of Brooklyn, it appears, is fulfilled.
“I think it’s a different day and age because they’re in New York,” said Martin, who also played two seasons at the Garden. “Nobody has to cross the (Hudson) river to come see them play. We were over there and still in the Meadowlands. No matter what we were doing or how much we were winning, we were still in the Meadowlands. Then, the Knicks’ historical brand is always going to be that no matter what the Nets do. I think if they come in and win a championship that will change the dynamic.”
Making the comparison between the two New York clubs even more extreme is the aftermath of what Adrian Wojnarowski dubbed “The Clean Sweep.” The Knicks fell short, Oakley said.
“I think they signed a lot of guys at the same position, so I hope they can gel together and I hope the fans can come out and see a winning team,” Oakley said of the Knicks. “They drafted a young guy and they signed a Morris twin, Portis and Julius Randle. We’ve got to see. Do they have an A player on their team? I don’t think so. They’ve got maybe one B and a lot of Cs.”
Some of the Big 3 players who played for Brooklyn were wowed by what Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson had done since they left the organization.
“I think Sean Marks is doing a great job,” said Reggie Evans. “I think he’s doing a wonderful job. I think he did a great job getting those guys. I heard he’s a great players’ GM. You can’t beat that. For Brooklyn to get two GMs like that — because Billy King was a first-class GM, that was my man. Marks can relate because he was a ballplayer. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Joe Johnson said he thinks the Nets have a shot at a title. He like the others also credited some of the Nets success to the market ... and its legacy.
“It’s still New York and the mecca of basketball,” Johnson said. “To see that they’ve gotten two of the top three players in the NBA doesn’t surprise me at all. I’m looking forward to it. I thought it was a great offseason not only for the Nets but for the league. I think we should have a great competing season coming up.”
Evans dismissed the idea that Durant and Irving won’t be able to handle the brights lights of the big city, a trope pushed by Knicks fans.
“KD and Kyrie ain’t going to have no trouble playing in front of these bright lights,” Evans said. “Period. They’re going to take the Barclays to a whole other level. That’s why I’m praying to God that KD comes back healthy 100 percent and he takes his time. I want to see the old KD, the one before he got hurt. I want to see him take Barclays to a whole new level like Ewing did in Madison Square Garden.”
And Johnson said moving the team’s training facility from East Rutherford to Brooklyn ... and players’ decision to live in the borough will be a big help.
“Obviously, they’ve got to mesh and see how things turn out. It’s a lot different than when I played here. We practiced in East Rutherford. Everybody stayed in New Jersey and commuted here (Barclays Center) on game day. Just to be here at 5:30, you had to leave your house at 3:00. We were in traffic for two and a half hours. Now everybody lives in Brooklyn, so it’s a lot easier.”
Finally, the players dismissed any comparison between the Nets haul and the 2013 trade that brought another Kevin, Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to Brooklyn.
“How old is Kyrie? 27. How old is KD? 30. He’s in his 20s, and he’s in his early 30s,” Evans reminded Scotto. “You’re talking about guys (Pierce and Garnett) who were (36 and 37). It’s a total age difference. Just imagine if we got those three guys four years earlier in their career. If we got KG at 31, Jason Terry at 26. We get that? It’s a problem. What we got was smart, wise guys who know the game. It’s two different scenarios. I like what they’ve got going on.”
- As the BIG3 hits Barclays, former Nets players rave about the team’s new riches - Michael Scotto - The Athletic New York
- Ex-players: Why this Nets-Knicks war will be different - Mollie Walker - New York Post
- Charles Oakley sees one ‘B’ and a lot of ‘C’s’ on the Knicks - Dani Mohr - New York Post
- Old Nets think Durant, Irving can succeed where they couldn’t - Brian Mahoney - AP