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Sean Marks wants to see how Nets look healthy before evaluating open roster spot

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Sean Marks and his Nets are confident in their quest for their first elusive championship, despite a seemingly never ending string of setbacks starting with Spencer Dinwiddie going down with an ACL tear in Game 3 to LaMarcus Aldridge’s retirement Thursday.

“We have to be confident. We know what our goal is. We know what we’re striving for. We know what we’re shooting for. At the same time, we need to be realistic, stay humble and keep grinding. This season has been one where you never know what’s around the corner. Right when we think here’s our roster, all of a sudden things change. There are 30 other NBA teams going through very similar things to what we are with the pandemic and everything else.”

Marks loves the talent and the current roster. He wants to remain flexible re: roster openings and hopes when his players return healthy and a full group takes the hardwood, continuity will arise.

“We have to stay flexible. I like the roster. I love the talent on the team. Hopefully soon, we get this group together, playing together and that continuity that Steve and everyone else has talked about will be key. The sooner we can do that, the better and we’ll see where it goes in the remainder of the season and in the playoffs.”

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The Nets general manager has an open roster spot to fill to solidify his group and his team will do their “due diligence” to evaluate the best fillings with the news of LaMarcus Aldridge retiring.

The biggest part of their decision-making, Marks said, will come after seeing a healthy roster on the court. In the meantime, the Nets general manager hopes the players he already has will take advantage of the opportunity.

“We’ll do our due diligence as always and keep grinding away. We’ll look at what we got. I think with certain guys coming back this week and working themselves back into the rotation and playing more minutes, I don’t think we want to jump to any conclusions on what we might need or what we might be missing. We’ll look at every alternative and everybody out there. Obviously losing a player like LaMarcus is without a doubt a blow to us. It’s about us being flexible and it’s a great opportunity for somebody else - a group or a person - to step up and take advantage of this opportunity.”

With the loss of Aldridge, the Nets frontcourt took a hit but is still deep. On the other hand the Nets backcourt is battling injuries and is short-handed on ball-handlers. When asked whether he will pursue a replacement for Aldridge or a patch-up the backcourt, Marks reiterated how he and his team will need to see a healthy roster before making those decisions.

“It’s a quandary where we’re at right now. You can not replace LaMarcus and you are not going to find another LaMarcus sitting out there waiting for us. I think what we are going to look at is once James gets back in the fold, Kevin comes back up and we get a couple other guys healthy, we’ll have a better idea on what we need in rotations and players. I don’t think it’s set in stone that we have to go one way or another - whether it’s a big or a guard - I think we’ll look at where are needs are over the course of the next week and make that determination.”

And what about James Harden, who is on the 10th day of his rehabilitation for his right hamstring strain? Harden, Marks said, is “progressing well” in his rehab and according to the GM, the Nets guard will need at least one or two days of extra practice before returning to the court but didn’t provide a timeline for his return.

“James is progressing well. He’s looking forward to having at least one or two play days, which means he’ll play four-on-four, five-on-five with the group in practice. Hopefully, if things go smoothly like that, he’ll be out and joining the guys in a game,” Marks said. “He’s progressed well. He’s met his markers after this point. We’ll just continue to progress along and hopefully, it’s not too much longer.

“At this point, I can put a timetable on whether it’s two days, five days, or so forth.”

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Steve Nash noted how he believes Harden is going to workout this evening and according to what he’s heard, the guard is on the right track but still needs to hit markers before returning.

“All I can go off is what I’ve heard. I know speaking to James and speaking to people who were on the court with him, he’s improving and is on the right track. Hopefully it won’t be long before he's back but there are still markers.”

When asked about what remaining markers Harden must hit before being cleared to return, Nash said they revolved around high-intensity play and whether can he play at that level consistently without any ill effects following.

“I think typically at this stage of the rehab, it’s about high-intensity play,” Nash said. “Can he get out there and play one-on-one, three-on-three, four-on-four, five-on-five, and can he do it consistently for two-three times in a row. Not in back-to-back days but two or three in a row of high-intensity play, recover and do it again. Prove he can meet the demands in terms of the intensity and have no ill effects the next day or the next performance.”

Nash and the Nets want to find that middle ground of having Harden return as soon as possible but safely. The Nets head coach noted how Harden would have wanted to play tonight.

“There’s James, who wants to play tonight and there's performance, who wants to lean on science and be safe,” Nash said. “Trying to find that middle ground and make sure he returns safely but as soon as he possibly can.”

With all the remaining questions revolved around the remaining roster spot, the return of Spencer Dinwiddie remains to be determined. Marks added fuel to the fire of speculation, noting Dinwiddie’s motor and mindset.

“I would never bet against Spencer Dinwiddie. We saw that four years ago with him. He has a chip on his shoulder. He loves to prove people wrong. Who am I to sit up here and be able to do something. That’s something that would only backfire.”

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Marks said Dinwiddie is progressing well in Los Angeles and is in great hands with the staff working with him.

“The primary main concern for Spencer is his long-term health. It’s not doing something that’s detrimental to his career and his career longevity. If there’s an opportunity for him to come back and play during the playoffs, we’ll have to evaluate that at the time. These are questions and answers I really couldn’t give right now because we have to see how he progresses over the next month, two months, three months. The priority here is going to be his long-term health and what happens to Spencer two, three, four years down the road.”

The Nets general manager spoke about how his scouting department looks for players with a chip on their shoulder and a competitive fire when signing development players. When asked about inking Alize Johnson to a multi-year contract, Marks pinpointed his hunger as the main element in keeping him around. He added that the Nets have followed him since his collegiate days at Missouri State.

“We looked at a guy like Alize and we’ve followed him through the draft. I remember his drafting with Alize and all the way through his progress in the G League and his time in the NBA. What stood out was how hungry he is,” Marks said.

“You hope to find people who are never satisfied and that’s something we’ve seen with Alize. He’s got something to prove like I mentioned before. It’s exciting to get a young guy like Alize in our group with our performance team and with our great development staff that has continued to do a great job on and off the court. We’ll see where it goes.

With Aldridge announcing his retirement, Marks spoke about his decision to call it a career and wishes the 35-year-old and his family nothing but the best and healthy wishes moving forward.

“I’m not sure anybody honestly can comprehend what LaMarcus was thinking, what he was going through, and to be honest, I don’t want to be the first person to figure that out. I sympathize with LaMarcus. It was not an easy decision for him after a remarkable 15-year career and what he gave up to come and be a Net, even though it was for a short period. It speaks volumes for who he is and what he’s about,” Marks said.

“We wish him and his family nothing but the best and hopefully a lifetime of health and happiness. He’ll always be remembered for what he did on the court.”

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Despite Aldridge retiring, Marks is fully open to having the veteran big man around his team. The Nets general manager wants him to prioritize his health first and when he’s available, he hopes he can be around the team.

“He’s always welcome to be around. What he’s done over the course of his career and just from an IQ standpoint, he can help. We can benefit from having him in our locker room and around. The door is one-hundred percent open for him whenever he wants to come back here. I know he’s seeing some specialists right now and his priority is to really take advantage and prioritize his health over anything else.

“When he’s available, yes; we’ll welcome him back and hopefully, he’ll definitely come around.”