In an interview with Ryan Ruocco on “YES, We’re Here,” Bobby Marks laments that the Nets went for a “ready-made” contender as they moved to Brooklyn in 2012, signing and trading for stars. In retrospect, says Marks, then the Nets assistant GM, the organization should have gone with an “organic” build entering Barclays Center.
“We had Deron (Williams), we had gone out and gotten Joe Johnson from Atlanta. We kind of had a ready-made team coming into Brooklyn compared to one that was built with all draft picks, like a home- grown product, and I think in hindsight…
The people in Brooklyn would have been patient if we would have gone in there and maybe not had as much success the first couple years but knowing that, you know, we had built through the draft, and players maybe like Damian Lillard were going to be the face of the franchise.”
The Nets, of course, spent tens of millions of dollars in the two years leading up to the Brooklyn move, then tens of millions more once they moved, in part because Mikhail Prokhorov believed they needed to compete with the Knicks as they entered the New York market.
As for Lillard, he was taken by the Blazers with a Nets No. 6 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, part of the trade that brought Gerald Wallace to New Jersey at the trade deadline that year. But Lillard was barely on the Nets radar. They had Perry Jones III, Harris Barnes, Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond ranked higher.
Moreover, the Nets were in negotiations with Deron Williams on an extension of his contract. How would it have looked if the Nets had taken a point guard with the pick?
Marks told Ruocco that, in effect, the Nets had tried to “cheat the system” and failed. They should have been ready to go in do things in a more conventional way.
“Maybe go through some lumps in the beginning. We kind of, as I say, probably cheated the system a little bit as far as how that roster was put together. Looking back, if we had probably done it a little bit more organically, I think there would have probably been…more of an appreciation for that team because you, know, we went through I guess three years of the playoffs and then we know what happened right, like, the bottom fell out and it took basically three to four years to get that team back to when it got to Brooklyn again.”
Of course, Marks was referring to the disappointing results in the Nets first season at Barclays Center, a first round exit to the injury-riddled Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, then the disastrous trade with the Celtics in which the Nets gave up three first round picks, none protected, and a swap of firsts. Marks was in charge of that trade.
Marks also spoke about how much he learned from Rod Thorn who was his mentor and ultimately his boss during the Nets glory days early in the century. The key thing he took from Thorn, he said, was an appreciation of detail, detail, detail.
“(Heading into the 2000 Draft) we were in the process of preparing for the draft…and I remember giving him a binder of scouting evaluations. We didn’t have iPads, or you didn’t have the app on your phone. So I gave Rod a probably 800-page book on different prospects, and I remember getting a call, like, the next day, on a Saturday morning and it wasn’t about Kenyon Martin or one of these draft prospects, it was about spelling…
“And how there were so many grammatical errors in this scouting evaluation book which I had nothing to do (with), I just put it together. I didn’t type it. So, my first lesson was, grammar matters!”
He also recalled what it was like to sit with Thorn during games when the Nets weren’t doing well.
“We sat in suite 126 in the corner at the Old Barn in the Meadowlands. I sat with him for every home game in that suite tucked away in a corner, Rod sat behind me. What I learned was whenever he asked a question during a game; don’t answer. Because whatever you responded was not going to be right or it would probably tick him off if something was going on.”
Marks started as a “glorified intern” to John Calipari when he was head coach ... and yes, he has Cal stories.
“I don’t know if we have enough time to go through the stories. But, as I always say, Coach Cal took probably 10 years off my life back in New Jersey and I probably couldn’t have worked for him now, having a wife and kids, because of the hours that we were required to put in. I remember…what my job for Coach Cal was; I was still kind of a glorified intern…but I was, like, his runner, right, when coach needed to get somewhere, when he landed from a recruiting trip or from a golf trip, I was the guy picking him up at the airport at midnight.
“But I remember a story; Coach Cal developed a relationship with Bill Parcells, who was the coach of the Jets back in the ‘90s…and Cal locked his keys in his trunk at the Jets practice facility out at Hofstra and I remember getting a phone call, like, on a Sunday morning in late August...’Hey, I’m sorry but your gonna need to come out and bring out the extra set of keys’…and (I) had to drive out to West Hempstead and help him out…and I remember Coach Parcells saying like, “You work for this guy???”…I always say though, as crazy as it was…I learned time management, structure, you know, how to relate to players.”
And maybe how not to relate. Cal, of course, was removed after a players’ revolt.
There’s a lot more in the 28-minute interview which airs at 7 pm on YES. At 8:00 pm, YES will televise the Nets’ comeback overtime win vs. the Rockets at Houston on January 16, 2019 in which Spencer Dinwiddie had 33 points and 10 assists coming off the bench.