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Sean Marks: ‘We will compete’

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Down to 12 healthy players, Sean Marks says that despite the recent health news, the Nets are going to Orlando with a purpose.

“We have a job to do,” Marks said on Zoom chat with the media on Wednesday morning. “We have to bring a team to Orlando. We will bring a team to Orlando. We will go down there, and we will compete. That’s our jobs here.”

In addition to being down Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving who are rehabbing, two Nets starters —Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan— have tested positive for COVID-19. Wilson Chandler has opted out of the “bubble.” and in the most mundane of the departures, Nets Nicolas Claxton underwent shoulder surgery.

They have added Tyler Johnson, but Jacque Vaughn warned in the same call that getting him integrated into the Nets system will be a challenge. He hasn’t played since February. Only Dinwiddie could be ready for Re-Opening Night on July 31 and he says, that is “unclear.” He’s been in quarantine for six days and still bed-ridden, as he noted in a tweet Wednesday. The team departs for Orlando and the “bubble” next Tuesday.

So what to do? Just keep grinding.

One thing not to do, said Marks, is have hindsight about the decision to work out in Brooklyn rather than fly to Orlando directly. The Nets had that option because Brooklyn has been the epicenter of COVID-19 with nearly 5,000 dead. The Raptors also had the option and are in Orlando. In that case, the Raptors got a dispensation because of the degree of difficulty in getting through U.S. Customs. The U.S. border with Canada is closed.

Both Dinwiddie and Jordan said they believe they contracted the virus in the days since they returned to HSS Training Center. The facility was closed for two days this week.

“We took a poll and that included players, doctors, performance team and opted to return to New York. “Hindsight we can all say maybe things wouldve been different if we’d gone to Orlando early.”

At the time of the decision of course, inflections, hospitalizations and deaths were dropping in Brooklyn while they were rising in Orange County, Florida, home of Walt Disney World. In fact, by one projection, infections aren’t expected to peak in Central Florida until September 30. Brooklyn peaked on April 8.

Marks said he and the team believed that the HSS Training Center would be better than anything they’d find in the “bubble” and that the players wouldn’t have access to the same range of training equipment as they do in Brooklyn.

The Nets GM said he doesn’t expect any more Nets players to opt out, but if Dinwiddie or anyone else gets sick and recovers, the Nets would be permitted to fly them down to Orlando separately.

“They will be able to join us down the road,” Marks said. “We will be able to get them to Orlando if a couple things happen. One, they say they want to do that, and two, the team says from a scheduling standpoint it makes sense.

“The closer we get to July 7, our departure date, and heaven forbid guys keep testing positive, it obviously puts them in jeopardy. Some of these guys are asymptomatic, others have some slight symptoms. And I don’t want to talk for our players, but that’s across the board. We have to treat everyone on an individual basis.”

The Nets must submit name of the players and staff who will travel to the “bubble” by midnight Wednesday. Dinwiddie will be on it; Durant and Irving will not.

Marks added. “The best thing is for them to not attend Orlando and to rehab and to continue that process back in Brooklyn or wherever they may be right now,”

He and Kevin Durant have spoken, said Marks, adding he seems to be in “good spirits” and continues to be a “very loud voice” in speaking about the team’s future.

“I don’t want to speak for him, but he seemed to be in good spirits,” Marks told the more than 20 media reps on the call. “He’s obviously aware of everything that’s going on, whether it’s the pandemic and some of the issues going on in society. We’ve had great conversations about all of that.

“He continues to be a very loud voice in terms of where we’re going in the future and what we’re doing, and I involve him, like the other players and staff, and how we’ll continue to build this team and how we move forward.”

As for what the Nets will look like on the court, Vaughn, on the same chat, said it’s still a work-in-progress.

“We’re still diagnosing that to see what the roster looks like going forward,” said the interim head coach. “The buildup to this has not been typical. It will not look like previous basketball that we’ve seen for sure.

“There’s no playbook, no handbook for this scenario.”

Marks gave credit to Vaughn for his work during the crisis, and suggested strongly —again— that the 45-year-old will get a shot at the permanent job.

“I think it’s completely unfair to say it’s going to be about wins and losses at this point,” Marks said of the seeding games at the start of play. “I think Jacque has been a permanent part of this organization the last four years. We know what Jacque is about and the type of person he is and the character and the leader that he is.

“I think for us, this has been about, he gets to know the new players, continue to develop relationships with them. Not only the new players, but the existing group. I think we just see what happens down the line.”

Marks added that he and Vaughn have spoken on average five or six times a day.

Johnson, he said, was eager to help the Nets.

“He is a competitor. Wants to contribute to the group and it will be interesting,” said Vaughn of the 28-year-old combo guard. “He’s been off the floor for a while, so the challenge of getting him back on an NBA court and accustomed to playing, look forward to that with him for sure.”

Marks gave no indication of how soon he will add a substitute for Jordan. With only Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs (in a pinch) able to play the 5, it seems certain that the Nets will want a big man, but again evaluation may be the main purpose of signing someone. Marks didn’t seem to be in a rush.

Marks spoke as well as the NBA Draft that’s now been postponed till October 15. Knowing the new date, he said, will help the process, give the Nets and other teams to deal with prospects. The GM said the Nets have already been interviewing players by Zoom. He said the status of the Draft Combine in Chicago is still uncertain.

Later Wednesday, the Nets released images of players on the HSS Court. The only surprise there: Caris LeVert showed up with a head band and braids!