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Sean Marks ‘confident’ Nets will meet vaccine regs and remains ‘very positive’ on extensions

There wasn’t a lot of news at Sean Marks and Steve Nash’s press conference but what there was may likely prove significant both for this season and the future: the state of the team’s compliance with city vaccination policy and where the Nets stand on extensions for Kyrie Irving and James Harden.

With training camp out in San Diego looming, the Nets have to check those items off their preseason list. The bigger of the two is getting all their players vaccinated .. and while Sean Marks had to admit not everyone hasn’t got the jab, he also said he’s hopeful things would be worked out before the start of the season on October 19.

The Nets GM admitted that if the season were to begin today, a “couple of people” would be unable to play. New York — and San Francisco — both require their cities’ teams to be vaccinated before they can play, practice or participate in “team activities.”

The comments came during the Nets annual preseason press conference Tuesday afternoon at HSS Training Center with Marks and Steve Nash taking questions from local and national media live at HSS Training Center, a first since the start of the pandemic.

“Regarding whether they can play today, I can’t comment on whether who can play and so forth. There would be a couple of people missing from that picture,” Marks said. “I won’t get into who it is but we feel confident that in the following several days before camp, everyone will be allowed to participate and participate fully.”

Marks did not say all of his 15 players and two ways would be vaccinated just that they will be allowed to participate and participate fully. The New York regulations for example do provide for certain exemptions on medical and religious grounds.

The NBA recently confirmed the local regulations applied to the Nets, Knicks and Warriors. No vaccination, no play and no pay. The Nets have a little extra time because of training camp and the regular season schedule ... if they need it. The first week of training camp will be held at the University of San Diego and their first preseason games will be held in Los Angeles. Also, their first two regular season games will be in Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

Due to HIPAA and privacy laws, Marks couldn’t further disclose details regarding the current vaccination status of his players but noted how the team had had in-house conversations about getting vaccinated. The Nets GM reiterated getting the players vaccinated won’t be a problem.

“I think we all understand what’s at stake and we’ve had very candid conversations. Those are individual decisions, whether it’s a staff member or a player has to come to terms with, it’s obviously out of our control. We are supporting getting the vaccination and putting out a healthy squad,” said Marks on the in-house vaccination discussions.

“So at this point, I think we’re ready to go into the season, we don’t see these — whether it’s a city-wide mandate or a league mandate to follow — being any sort of hindrance to us putting out a team.”

Kyrie Irving and James Harden extensions are still a working progress but to ramp up

2021 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets are inching closer to fully locking in their “Big Three” ahead of training camp, but this time, Marks didn’t talk about having Kyrie Irving and James Harden “signed, sealed, delivered” as he did last month after Brooklyn locked up Kevin Durant on a four-year contract extension worth nearly $200 million with no options. The extensions will keep the superstar in Brooklyn through the 2025-26 season.

The Nets GM instead told reporters that Kyrie Irving and James Harden aren’t far behind with their respective extensions. Although the extensions for both guards aren’t signed, there have been “positive conversations” and the organization expects talks to ramp up with players returning home just before training camp which begins next Tuesday in San Diego.

“We’ve had very positive conversations with both those guys and whether it’s family members, people and so forth, I think it always helps to do these things in person. With this being summer and we’re very cognizant of letting people have their own time away before we all get back into the swing of things here,” Marks said. “We’re looking forward to sitting down with them over the course of the next week, two weeks, and furthering those discussions.”

Beyond the positive news that pens should soon be hitting paper, Marks offered positive news about the two guards’ rehabs, saying they’re progressing well. Irving is recovering from a gruesome right ankle sprain in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Harden, who forced a rushed return to keep the Nets slim championship hopes alive back in June, is still rehabbing a Grade 2 hamstring strain. Although the rehabs for both stars are moving along, Marks said the Nets will take a marathon approach rather than a sprint.

“The progress of their rehab and overall health, from what we’ve seen they look great,” Marks said. “Our performance team has been with them. Our coaching staff has been with them, spending considerable time with them. I can attest that they’re in great spirits. They’re ready to go, like the rest of the team.

“It will be a work-in-progress as to how we proceed with all of our guys, not just James and Kyrie, into camp and how they’re used over the course of the first couple days, weeks. We’ve talked about it, really at nauseum, that it’s a grind. It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint. But we’re obviously always trying to save those guys from themselves half the time. They feel good, they look great, so that’s a positive thing.”

Nets ‘comfortable’ to have LaMarcus Aldridge back and cleared to play

Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets re-signed LaMarcus Aldridge a few days back just five months after he had to abruptly retire because of an irregular heartbeat, a condition he’s had since he was a rookie, but one that worried him enough after an April 10 game that he checked himself into an emergency room.

Marks said he spoke to the veteran big — who he knows from their time together in San Antonio — multiples times in the offseason, explaining how he initially tried to talk Aldridge out of returning to play. As conversations carried on through the summer, Aldridge expressed a serious desire to return to Brooklyn and complete the “unfinished business” on his own terms. Marks’ comments made clear that the 36-year-old was only thinking about Brooklyn when he decided to un-retire.

“I spoke to LaMarcus multiple times over the summer, specifically right when he decided to step away from the game, and I respect that decision completely. I think we furthered our conversations and he called, and he said, ‘look, I’ve been cleared.’ I’ve had multiple doctors, including our own and several specialists throughout the country,” the Nets GM said Tuesday. “It’s not something that we take light-hearted, it’s not something he should, either, and he was very comfortable, wanted to be back here and stated, like several of our guys, that there was unfinished business here.”

Despite a short five-game tenure after coming to Brooklyn following a contract buyout with the Spurs, Aldridge made the most of it. He averaged 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.2 blocks in 26.0 minutes per game.

Marks said that the Nets understand Aldridge is doing something basically unprecedented.

“It’s not something that we take light-hearted, it’s not something he should, either, and he was very comfortable, wanted to be back here and stated, like several of our guys, that there was unfinished business here,” said Marks.

“We thoroughly enjoyed our time all but short with him last season, and we all saw what he was capable of doing and the dynamic that he added to the team both on the court and off the court. It gives Steve another very versatile big to play with, so after he had cleared those - the specialists had given him the green light - and he had come to terms with it on his own, he was fighting to come back,” said Marks on Aldridge.

“And I think that’s what you love to see in a player, that they want to be here. And he’s well aware of what’s at stake and so forth, which is to be that last team standing, and he wants to be a part of it.”

Nic Claxton to see ‘prominent role’ in the Nets frontcourt

2021 NBA Playoffs - Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks

The Nets have a loaded front court with a mix of new and familiar faces — Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Nic Claxton and rookie Day’Ron Sharpe among others — heading into training camp. While there are only so many minutes to go around, Steve Nash made it clear that Claxton will be an important piece to Brooklyn’s upfront rotation and their title chase.

“I think Nic is an important part of what we do. He’s a unique profile on our roster, an athletic, active big who can finish around the basket, guard multiple positions. That’s I think something that is very unique on our roster and he’s one of our better defenders, so I see Nic having a prominent role,” said Nash on his 22-year-old big man. Claxton is also up for an extension but there’s been no word on whether that will happen ... or whether he’ll become a restricted free agent next July.

Claxton showed he was one of the team's best defenders last season despite missing the first few months of the season due to knee tendinopathy and seeing action in only 32 regular-season games. The 6’11” big averaged 6.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 18.6 minutes per game last season.

Nash also indicated that with such a wealth of talent, you’ll likely see some mixing and matching and load management although he didn’t use that word.

Nets not worried about Joe Harris after disappointing postseason play

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets - Game Seven Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It was a season of two tales for Joe Harris last year. Despite shooting a career-high 50.5 percent from the field, a career-high and franchise-record 47.5 percent from three while leading the league in 3-point shooting for the second time during the regular season, his lengthy postseason slump highlighted his play for many fans.

His postseason woes were unpromising but started on a strong note — hitting 51 percent of his threes in the Nets hot 6-1 playoff start. Harris then slumped severely to 24.2 percent in the last five games. He concluded Game 7 with the Bucks a slightly better 3-of-9 outing from deep and missed an open three that would've put Brooklyn ahead by three with under a minute left in OT.

To Steve Nash, the postseason slump isn’t carrying over any worry for a team harboring championship aspirations this upcoming season.

“I don’t worry about Joe. High, high character as an individual, he’s tough as nails. Unfortunately, he got cold at the end of the year, but he was outstanding all year. He took on a ton of responsibility almost every night, super-physical can be counted on,” said the coach on Harris. “I think he’ll grow from this in some ways. His character will lead him to grow from this and that will be a positive in one respect.”

Shortly after the abrupt ending to the Nets title chase, Harris made it known that he was going to carry the disappointment and flip it into motivation for offseason work.

“Obviously I’m disappointed, I wish I’d played better,” said Harris after the Game 7 loss. “I wish I would’ve shot more efficiently, help alleviate some of the pressure that other guys were facing.

“But this is the situation that we’re in. And frankly, had I played better, we might be in a little bit of a different spot. So it’s definitely going to be a motivating factor for me in this offseason going forward.”

Patty Mills and Paul Millsap to bring more veteran presence.

Men’s Basketball Medal Ceremony: Day 15 Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Steve Nash noted that despite the loss of Jeff Green and other veterans, the Nets are blessed by having two new vets who can do the job of keeping things steady.

“Patty obviously is a championship player with the Spurs, been there for 10 years. I think he’s an incredible lift to our culture, just being the type of character he is, the personality he has and his ability to shoot and play with pace helps us immensely as well,” Nash said.

“Paul Millsap’s a tough, intelligent, skilled big who’s seen it all, so another guy that can play a few positions and stretch the floor or play inside, can pass and play-make and facilitate and understand and be able to fit into any defense.”

Mills in fact was in the HSS Training Center gym today, only a few feet from the scene of today’s press conference.

Bottom line for the team, as enunciated by Marks...

“I think our goal is to be the last team standing,” Marks said. “There’s probably, my guess, six, eight, 10 teams that have that same similar goal and a realistic one.

“For us, it’s about owning that and not shying away from it and doing everything we possibly can putting people into place, whether it’s staff members, players, rounding out the roster, in order to try and accomplish that.”