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Sean Marks on James Harden, sacrifice among ‘Big Three,’ what’s ahead

Brooklyn Nets v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

After months of ongoing rumors and reports of various magnitudes, James Harden is officially, finally a Brooklyn Net.

The trade became official Thursday morning, followed not long after by Sean Marks, the Nets general manager, hosting a media availability.

Marks noted that there was no hesitance in acquiring Harden. In his mind, if a player of his caliber becomes available, the team needs to address and take a hard look at it.

“I don’t know if there was an original hesitance. I am not sure where that narrative came from to be honest,” Marks on the Nets trading for Harden. “This is something you do due diligence on. We are always doing our due diligence around the league. What players may be available - what players we would like to target - and so forth.

“The timing was right for us. Anytime you get an opportunity to acquire a player of this caliber, it is something you got to look hard at. That is certainly something we did and the process sped up very rapidly over the last 48 hours - we are very fortunate to be looking at James Harden as a member of the Nets family.

“We know what James is capable of on the court. We’ve seen that. When you are bringing in an MVP First-NBA team caliber player, he knows what he is capable of doing. We had conversations with him and he is so eager to get on the court with these guys, be a part of this, and start fresh. There is excitement. I know our group is excited and our coaching staff is excited.”

The Nets general manager knew all along that a possible deal for the Houston Rockets superstar was “absolutely not” going to be done at the beginning of the season.

“Whether we knew this was going to be done at the beginning of the season - absolutely not,” Marks said about acquiring Harden. “This was something that came around relatively quickly, sped up very fast, and at the end of the day, it goes back to when you have the opportunity to add James Harden to your roster, you do everything you possibly can to try to make that happen.”

Harden calling out his teammates following the Rockets blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers did not weigh heavily on Marks. In fact, he said he didn’t read much into it much at all. The Nets traded for Harden because he wanted to bring in “the right people and the right fits.”

“I don’t read too much into that,” Marks on Harden calling out his teammates in Houston. “I do not want to speak for James or any of our players for the things they say. They got their own voices, their own brands, and these guys are grown men. There are reasons behind everything. We weigh in all the intel and all the factors in terms of making the best decision of bringing in the right people and the right fits.”

Following the trade, Marks had a conversation with Harden. The 31-year-old acknowledges the sacrifices at hand, is looking for a fresh start and knows the expectations, Marks told reporters.

“I enjoyed the conversation I had with James last night and I look forward to getting to know him just as our players and staff certainly do. I like what I heard and I think he is looking for a fresh start and these guys are going to have to sacrifice. They are also going to push our franchise and bring us where we need to go.

“Certainly is beneficial having Mike [D’Antoni] and knows James very well and coached him for the last couple of years.”

The Nets general manager did not only speak to his staff and Harden, he said. He spoke to Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Joe Tsai prior to making the trade official.

“I spoke to Kai and Kevin yesterday as this was going down,” Marks said. “Getting their thoughts and really hear what their commitment was going to be. I know Joe Tsai had the same conversations. From multiple levels, I enjoyed hearing their convictions and we got some time to see how it translates onto the court.”

During the conversations with Irving and Durant, sacrifice was heavily discussed at length. The conversation about the level of sacrifice between the Nets “Big Three” was not initiated by the Nets' general manager. The three players all brought it up, he said.

“I never had to bring that up with any of them because they brought it up,” Marks said. “They were the ones to bring it up right off the bat, which was that they want to win. That is all I heard from James is that I want to win. I am all about winning and I’ll have him reiterate that when he does his media but at the end of the day, that is what we need to hear and that is the level of sacrifice needed.”

Of course, the three superstars have prior relationships. From all three playing together on Team USA in the 2014 FIBA World Cup (Irving was MVP) to Harden and Durant playing together for three seasons in OKC, Marks said he’s “banking” on that prior relationship to speed up the process.

“I am also banking on his prior relationship with Kevin,” Mark said. “I think those guys have likely stayed in contact over the course of the last five, six, ten years. They know each other very well and we are going to bank on that coming here and hopefully speeding up that process.”

Marks also discussed contracts: Irving is in the second year of his four-year, $136 million deal, Durant is in the second year of his four-year, $164 million deal, and Harden is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

The Nets general manager thinks it’s a positive to have all three players have contracts ending in the near term. Marks and his players know that their window is now.

“Very. I think that is great,” Marks said. “We know the window that is upon us and it is certainly exciting to know, we have them here for the foreseeable future.

“We re-signed Joe Harris this summer so there are some other pieces to this group that we know we are going to be able to roll with for a while here. That’ll be exciting and we need to build continuity and comradery within that group.

“We have some high expectations and that is why we brought in who we have here. That includes the coaching staff as well. It is a group, combined effort, and collaboration between coaches and players without a doubt.”

“We need to capitalize on the window and what is right in front of us right now. That is why some of these decisions have to be made. We are looking forward to getting this group out there.”

When asked about the big picture and what he views as a failure, Marks dismissed the question. He wants everyone to be on the same page while acknowledging it will take an uncertain amount of time.

“I don’t want to get into what’s a failure and what’s not. I think everybody knows the position of this team and capable of potentially doing it. Now, we got to get everybody gelling, on the same page, and I do not know if that takes two games, ten games, or twenty games.”

It’s no secret that meshing the three players’ talents will take time with various questions to be answered by the coaching staff. The Nets general manager believes the past relationships and all three embracing the levels of sacrifice are key.

“I think when you have a group that is willing to sacrifice, play hard, and play together on the court - and they already have a prior relationship to this.” Marks said. “That will help. We are not bringing guys in here that know each other from the past. They have previous relationships and that will certainly help here.”

Outside sharing the ball, there’s the issue of managing personalities, especially under a rookie head coach. According to Marks, all three players see playing together wearing the same NBA uniform working out. but are aware it’ll take time.

“I think whenever you are meshing personalities, we got to wait and see how this all fits on the floor,” Marks said. “I think these guys have given us the right answers. They said they want to play together and can see this fitting. They are at a time in their careers and I don’t want to speak for any one of them because they will have their own voice. They understand that there are without a doubt there will be some nights one or two need to sacrifice for the other, They are all looking for that common goal. We are all looking for that common goal as well and that is to be the last team standing.”

Despite the three stars strongly thinking it can work, their other teammates will need to mold their own games around the Nets' three-headed monster. Marks said he is planning on talking to other Nets players about the acquisition of Harden and make sure everyone is on board.

“Some of those conversations need to be private but at the end of the day, I am going to talk to the players, especially with a deal of this magnitude, about collaboration. They understand what is at stake here. Everybody has raised their hand and said we are in. We know what we are shooting for here. That includes James. He knows what is at stake.”

Of course, there was a heavy return. Aside from losing Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs, and Taurean Prince, the Nets will be mortgaging their future, trading away or swapping seven years of first-round picks.

Marks described the decision to send out all that youth and potential as a tough one that took lots of processing.

“It is a building step to where we are. It is a tough decision without a doubt,” Marks said on trading the Nets’ future first-round picks. “When you are sitting here saying ‘look, we are going to have to trade away picks on picks and giving away players that I truly loved and our franchise loved those guys - we have to make these hard decisions. It is never easy and it certainly wasn’t easy yesterday when I had to talk to these players. I don’t want to make light of that situation. We had to do this just to win a championship and so forth. There was a lot of thought and a lot of process that went into this. A lot of collaboration through a variety of levels from ownership, front office, coaches - everyone had a say in this. We don’t take light that we had to make some pretty tough decisions.”

With the Nets losing their first-round picks for a long time, Marks said that his team is “not bankrupt” and he sees multiple ways to continue to build or rebuild if necessary.

“We are not bankrupt right now so there are still multiple ways to build,” Marks said. “I think this group has shown some resilience on how to build and we will continue to build - with or without the picks that we may or may not have now. We will show resilience throughout all of this.”

Marks noted that you can’t replace players like LeVert and Allen. Harden can substitute for LeVert’s scoring hole he leaves behind. Allen leaves a bigger hole on defense. When asked about how Marks is planning on filling Allen’s void, he said he views it as a tryout for the rest of his players.

“Replacing them - I’m not sure you can do. You can’t just go out there and get another Caris or get another Jarrett Allen,” Marks said. “You hope to try and replace some of their production in a variety of different ways and that is not easy. James will certainly replace some of the scoring that is going out the door with Caris without a doubt and ball-handling abilities and so forth.

“I look at replacing JA as this is an opportunity for other people. This is a great and hopefully a coffin-spiller for them. This is a great opportunity so people can seize this moment and take their games to another level. We have seen that in the past whether it through injuries or trades, other people have used this as a platform to really step.”

As for LeVert and Allen, Marks drafted them out of college in the first-round and groomed them. Marks gave high praise to his former players for the mark and commitment the two have made over the course of their Nets tenure. The same follows with Kurucs and Prince.

“To look at what Caris and Jarrett both of those guys have brought to our franchise over the last four or five years has been nothing short of incredible,” Marks said. “Amazing amazing young men and the respective teams they are now on are extremely fortunate to have them because I am very proud and I speak for the entire organization. They will be sorely missed. We care for them and their families dearly.”

“A huge thank you to Caris, Jarrett, Rodi, and Taurean for everything they have done. Their fingerprints are all over this. It’s been all over this building and for this franchise for as long as they’ve been here and they will continue to be a part of this family.”

Looking forward, the Nets have three roster spots remaining to fill following the blockbuster trade. The Nets general manager stated that he will not rush filling the three spots. The team will do their due diligence and see what holes need to filled. He has the utmost faith in the group he has.

“I do not think we are in any immediate rush,” Marks said about filling the three roster spots. “I think we are going to do our due diligence. Look around the league, look at who’s available, look at this group, see how they play together, and see what our needs may be. We will work hand-in-hand with the coaching staff on this and see where our holes are. The roster is not complete, we will have to play around, and I have the utmost faith in the group we have.”