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Do the right thing: How Nets have kept players involved

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Brooklyn Nets v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA will resume July 31, the end of a four-month hiatus that put everyone to the test, including the Nets players and staff. Soon, the balls will be bouncing first at HSS Training Center, then at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, FLA.

Now, is probably as good a time as any to review just how the team, its ownership and management did during the worst of times. Clearly, the Nets have gone the extra mile, whether it’s the team providing players with groceries and exercise equipment or the owner providing millions and millions of dollars worth of critical medical stories or, yes, being a leader in calling attention to the racism that’s at the center of protests following George Floyd’s killing.

Will it work? We’ll learn that soon enough, but we do know the players appreciate it, whether it’s newcomer Chris Chiozza or the players with the longest tenure in Brooklyn, guys like Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie.

“I don’t know how to explain it.” Chiozza told the Glue Guys a few weeks back. “But the organization here in Brooklyn ... There’s never any confusion. They’re always on the same page. They’re very well connected. They’re great ... They’re always well prepared for stuff. and some times they take extra precautions especially this time.”

Chiozza described some of the ways the Nets have helped during the crisis and noted that from what he can tell, the Nets are in the forefront of NBA teams during the hiatus.

“They check in on us every day. They send us a link — every day — We have to fill out asking us how we feeling and stuff like that. They make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. They’re looking out for players, it seems, a lot, more than what I hear from other places.

Harris and Dinwiddie agreed.

“The Nets have been really good about everything, especially early on,” Harris told Michael Grady on “YES We’re Here.” “They brought equipment by our apartments, so we all have free weights and bikes, and even now they bring our meals by for us. So we’re pretty fortunate that way.”

“The Brooklyn Nets have really done a good job of sending over programs and FaceTiming in, offering guidance for workouts,” Dinwiddie told GQ. “We’ve been hitting the jailhouse workouts like we’re 10 years old again, when our dads were telling us to do push-ups and sit-ups.”

Garrett Temple joked early on that the Nets may have had ulterior motives.

“Best believe Dan Meehan (director of sports science) and Dan Liburd (strength and conditioning coach) can find ways to make sure you stay in shape wherever you are,” Temple told Grady in another segment. “You could be on the Moon with nothing and they’re going to find ways to make sure you stay in shape.”

Another veteran, Wilson Chandler, put it succinctly when asked, on Twitter, if he was happy with the Nets response. “No complaints from me.”

Putting it all together wasn’t easy, of course. In addition to the daily questionnaire, there’s a weekly email laying out a timeline of things to do to keep in shape and up-to-date. The Nets also have their medical staff, including a “team performance psychologist,” on call.

And we haven’t even talked about the coronavirus testing back in March. For whatever criticism it engendered, you’ve heard no complaints from players — particularly since the test results seemingly justified the concern.

Over the past several weeks, Sean Marks has spoken about his and the organization’s role in dealing with the crisis, starting with health and safety ... and understanding that there’s really only one priority.

“I think all we do is show how much we care, whether its the players or the staff,” said Marks in one of his many interviews during the hiatus. More than anything else, he said, it’s about simply keeping in touch.

“Me personally, I’m in touch with the players on an individual basis every couple of days. I know Jacque (Vaughn) and the coaching staff have sort of divied it up and are doing the same thing —once a day, every couple of days. The performance team has really taken this to another level of creative heights via Zoom and FaceTime and so forth.”

The Nets GM also noted that everything is voluntary, from group chats to Zoom workouts.

“The players have the option to join in when it fits their schedule. We’re just trying to get our guys a little sense of normalcy and get them into some sort of rhythm but also have the understanding that their priority should be —and rightfully so— their health and their families’ health. We don’t want to take away any of that as well.”

And, Marks said, his and the organization’s response has to be customized ... based on each player’s needs.

“We’re all trying to figure out what the best medium is to still have this staff interaction and also the players. You don’t want to bombard them, ‘I need this, I need this, I need that’ because I think because first and foremost every single person is going through this on an individual basis.

“So each of us is different. Each family is different. Their whereabouts, their situation is different. Do they have kids or not? Who’s living with them? And so forth. We’re trying to treat everyone as one family but at the same time, we have to cater to their individual needs.”

Setting priorities, he said early on, was not that difficult.

“First and foremost, we concentrated to make sure everyone was 1) healthy and their loved ones were safe and healthy and so forth. That’s going to be the No. 1 priority the whole time.

“To be honest, we play a sport and are damn lucky to do so. This transcends basketball. The NBA is going to be focusing on how society in general is navigating this. This is not something that we’re going to be in the forefront of pushing guys.”

Of course, the organization goes beyond basketball operations ... as has the response. What Joe and Clara Tsai have done, whether it’s paying workers, supplying ventilators to New York, PPE to Detroit or goggles to San Diego, hosting food pantries outside Barclays, etc.

Much has been written about their donations, but little about how much they’ve interacted with those who they’d helped out. One example: how much thought Joe and Clara Tsai put into their donation of equipment to hospitals in San Diego where they have a home.

“We really wanted to help the front-line workers,” Clara Tsai told the local media .“If there’s extra (supplies) to warehouse or prepare for the future, great. But we need these things to be used now where they’re needed. If that happens to be L.A., Santa Monica, that’s where it needs to go.”

They focused, Joe Tsai said, on something that often had been overlooked in previous shipments.

“Our experience of watching this unfold in China is that front-line hospital workers can get infected through not just the nose and mouth, but also through their eyes,” he explained.

Now, the George Floyd protests have replaced the pandemic on front pages and the entrance plaza outside Barclays Center has become the center of demonstrations in New York.

The response by the Nets parent group, BSE Global —Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment— has been authentic. The statement was noteworthy in that it did not limit the organization’s indignation to the killing of George Floyd. Instead, it discussed the broader issue of racism, saying “Enough is enough.”

And it was noteworthy, well, because the Nets were the only NBA team in New York to make a public statement on the issue. The other team passed.

Will all this help the Nets with free agents, with potential staff? Sure, players talk. They’re the biggest salesmen, but you have to think that was not the motivation. It was, like Spike said, the right thing. Just saying.