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Another benefit of ‘Clean Sweep’: Draft prospects want to play for Nets

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Jacksonville Photo by Matt Marriott/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Back before Jason Kidd, before the two trips to the Finals, before the move to Barclays Center and Brooklyn, before the opening of HSS Training Center, draft prospects weren’t necessarily enamored of playing for the Nets. Both Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson admitted that that they kinda sorta tanked their Nets workouts in 2000 and 2001. And do we need to talk (again) about how Kobe Bryant threatened to play in Italy if the Nets took him in the 1996 Draft?

No longer. In recent interviews, both Jalen Smith, the 6’10” Maryland big, and Desmond Bane, the 6’6” TCU sharpshooter have basically lobbied for the Nets to take them when Adam Silver steps to the virtual podium with the Brooklyn pick at No. 19. (Add caveat that Nets could trade the pick.)

“Yes, Brooklyn Nets were probably one of my first interviews I had,” said Smith recently in a Zoom interview with the media. “They’re a great organization, I liked all the coaches. They were fun and up front with me, and even joking with me a lot. It was pretty much [everybody], a lot of people, I would say the GM and coaches.”

A big of the attraction of course is the presence of two superstars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. This will be the first Draft where the two stars are on the Nets roster. Last year’s “Clean Sweep” came ten days after the Draft.

“Just being able to play with KD, that’s a dream come true,” Smith said. “Obviously growing up watching him so much and pretty much just learning from him, being the same size as him, just being able to get so much from him that he’s done in the league and continue to work and just compete against him would be tremendous and a good thing for me and my skills.”

Smith said he also liked another Kevin’s game.

“I always tried to model my game after Kevin Garnett. That’s one of the people I looked up to the most,” Smith said. “He was considered one of the small bigs in the league, but he always had that impact on it. His work ethic never trickled no matter what, he was having a good game or a bad game, and I always looked up to him just to keep that mentality and that mindset.”

Bane had similar comments. Bane told he believes he was one of the Nets first interviews and that pleased him.

“I believe I’m their first interview as well. It was very early on, and the interest was significant,” Bane said. “I spoke with the Nets very early on in the process, and the interview went great. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are going to be huge focal points of the team, so you’ve got to have guys like Joe Harris who can run around off screens and occupy defenses and make shots away from the ball.”

Bane said that he models his game on the Nets wing.

“That’s actually the guy that I study a lot in the NBA, just because we’re similar size, we played four years, he’s a tough guy, makes shots off a lot of different movements, can play off of handoffs and things like that. So that’s somebody that I really try to model my game after. He’s had great success in the Brooklyn organization and I feel like I could have similar success.”