In a wide-ranging — and open — discussion with the media Wednesday morning, Sean Marks said he expects to have extensions for his “Big Three” of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden “signed, sealed and delivered” by start of training camp in late September.
Marks added getting Durant’s signature three days ago as “franchise-changing.” Now, he said, the organization is moving to lock up Irving and Harden.
“As it pertains to Kai and James, we’re having those discussions with them now,” said the Nets GM. “There’s no immediate hurry to get any of these guys done in terms of the first day of free agency. These are opportunities for us to sit down, break bread together, meet with Joe Tsai, and really all get on the same page.
“I feel very confident that first day of training camp, we’ll be looking at those three, in particular, being signed, sealed, and delivered and being a part of the Brooklyn Nets for a long time to come.”
He said Durant, who won a gold medal and was named MVP of the men’s basketball competition in Tokyo, wanted to get his deal “immediately.”
“We’ve definitely had discussions with all three of them. Kevin was honestly very straightforward and very upfront about, ‘I want to be here. This is it. Get it done and I want to get it done immediately.’ And I don’t blame him. He’s coming off a gold medal and really wanting to focus on, first and foremost, probably recovery and getting himself for the season which will probably take a little bit. For him, from a piece of mind standpoint just putting that aside.”
Assessing the impact of the extensions, Marks said you can’t underestimate its importance.
“It was obviously very important for us — I can’t tell you how important it was — this is franchise-changing when you can lock a person like Kevin up and he wants to commit to being here for the foreseeable future.”
Marks added that both Irving and Harden should be ready for camp. Irving sprained his ankle in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, ending his season while Harden had been troubled with a strained hamstring the latter half of the season. Harden is “trending in the right direction” while Irving is “progressing well and is back in gym” at HSS.
Durant agreed to a four-year, $198 million extension starting in 2022-23. He will earn $42 million this coming season, giving him $240 million over the next five years. Harden can ink an extension for up to three years, $161.1 million starting in 2023-24 while Irving can do four years, $186.6 million, starting in 2022-23. Irving’s interest in signing this summer is a bit of a surprise considering that he could have waited for a year, become a free agent and be eligible for a five-year, $235 million max contract deal as a restricted free agent.
The Nets already have Joe Harris entering the second year of a four-year, $72 million deal and inked their fifth starter from last year, Blake Griffin, to a one-year, vets minimum deal last week. The Nets also signed sixth man Bruce Brown to a one-year, $4.64 million qualifying offer, and Spurs guard Patty Mills to the two-year, taxpayers MLE worth $12 million, the second year a players’ option.
Marks, who has a long-term relationship with Mills, was excited when talking about the Aussie’s decision to sign with the Nets.
“Patty and I have a history, so I was very comfortable with the acquisition and trying to get him on board with us.” Marks said. “I don’t think people realize how good of a defender Patty can be. He’s a pain out there. He’s going to get up in people. He can impact the game at both ends of the court.”
“The fact that Patty wanted to come here — We’re honestly thrilled,” he added.
Marks admitted that he was surprised by Brown’s situation. The Nets tendered him a $4.6 million qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent ... and expecting that the 24-year-old would get competitive offers that the Nets would have to match in order to keep him.
“We certainly thought Bruce would be getting an offer sheet or whatnot,” Brown told the media. Instead, he said Brown told him “the job wasn’t done” in Brooklyn.
It was huge for the Nets to re-sign Blake Griffin according to Marks, not only with his on-court impact but because of the veteran center’s leadership in the locker room.
“It speaks volumes when a player like that could easily have gone to a multitude of other places and decided there’s unfinished business here,” explained Marks. “To have a guy like that buy-in certainly sends the right message to the younger guys and the whole team in general.”
Marks noted that he prioritized team defense with a number of his signings. In addition to signing Mills and re-signing Brown, the Nets added Jevon Carter in a trade with the Suns and got James Johnson and DeAndre’ Bembry to agree one year vets’ minimum deals. In addition, two of their top three draft picks — rim-protecting Day’Ron Sharpe and 3-and-D specialist Kessler Edwards — are seen as having defensive potential.
“I’m very excited about the additions that we made to this roster,” Marks said. “I think we can all look at it and say they were certainly focused in one area, and that was on a defensive-minded standpoint.
“We need to get better at the defensive end. We need to get better at rebounding.”
Specifically, he said rebounding still needs to be dealt with, but that improvement could come from within the current roster.
“We do have to address that,” he said. “I don’t know that (it) needs to be addressed necessarily with an acquisition. It could come from within. It comes with a mindset too. We need to get better on the defensive end. We need to get better rebounding. We have a lot of players that have that skill set.”
Regarding internal improvement, the Nets GM said that Nic Claxton is in the gym at HSS Training Center, noting that individual work was more important for Claxton than Summer League.
“We felt, not only from Nic’s side but from an organizational standpoint, there were some things that maybe he needed to focus on and he could do that better on an individual basis working out with coaches. He’s doing that in Brooklyn.
“We’ve been very pleasantly surprised with where he’s coming. He knows he’s got a long way to go. I think for him to get consistent minutes and to play at the level where not only he’s expecting him to play but the organization is he’s got to put the time in and put a lot of work in and so far we’ve seen that.”
Marks noted as well that the roster is not yet complete.
“Yeah, we’ll always keep that door open. It’s obviously not wide open anymore because we’ve signed a lot of these guys, but I think it’s cracked,” Marks told reporters. “We’ve got to continue to tinker with the roster, and just see what happens.
“We’ve seen in the past where other teams make cuts, and so forth, and we’re able to adjust because of that. So I don’t want to say that the roster’s complete: Maybe it’s 90 percent complete, 99 percent complete. But we’ll definitely reserve the right to continue to tinker with this roster.”
The Nets currently have 14 players signed to guaranteed contracts, one to a non-guaranteed contract, one to an Exhibit 10 training camp deal and three unsigned second rounders. The Nets have yet to fill either of their two two-way contracts.
“We’ll be fluid. We could potentially keep a roster spot open,” Marks said. “We still have to agree on a two-way position as well. I don’t think we’ll necessarily make our mind up in the next 24, 48 hours.”
Indeed, during the course of his five years as GM, the Nets have waited till the end of preseason to make moves, adding Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Tyler Zeller the day before Opening Night.
Marks was non-committal on DeAndre Jordan, who has $19.7 million and two years remaining on his four-year deal but didn’t play a second after May 8.
“DeAndre (Jordan) is definitely a part of this roster and this team moving forward,” he said but admits the roster could look different a month from now. He wouldn’t deal with rumors that the Nets had tried to deal the 33-year-old.
“When you’re on a good team and you have good players, teams are going to make calls,” said Marks who has a reputation as one of the NBA’s most active and aggressive GMs. “I think we have addressed a lot of the needs. We won’t have addressed all of the needs until probably close to the trade deadline.”
Marks also spoke about those players who the Nets didn’t re-sign, indicating that Mike James, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Tyler Johnson and Chris Chiozza won’t be back. “We’ll certainly miss the guys who are no longer here and wish those guys well.”
Bottom line, though, for Marks and his team is the NBA championship.
“We really haven’t done anything yet so we really have to remind ourselves there’s a long, long road ahead and there’s a lot of great teams that we need to try and get by,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean our aspirations aren’t ones of championships, that’s the plan here without a doubt,” he said. “We talk about it a lot. We acknowledge it. Let’s call it what it is, we all know what our aspirations are.”
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