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Sean Marks on Ben Simmons: ‘He was ecstatic about the circumstances he’s walking into and so are we’

2021 NBA Playoffs - Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Sean Marks spoke to reporters on Friday afternoon for the first time since bringing Kyrie Irving back into the fold as a part-time player. His Nets were, of course, just 24 hours removed from dealing superstar point guard James Harden (and Paul Millsap) to Philadelphia in return for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks. Still, getting rid of a player as talented as Harden was not an easy decision — especially to a conference rival, said Marks.

“Don’t make no bones about it, we went all-in on getting James Harden and inviting him into the group, and these decisions to move on from a player like that of that caliber are never easy ones,” said Marks. “So, I just want to be clear that this is not something that you think, great, let’s just make a split decision and move on from that.”

Many have surmised that the decision to move on from Harden must have come from or at least partially stemmed from the opinions and wants of Brooklyn’s stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Those two, after all, hold a great deal of power brokerage as NBA players and participants within the Nets organization. Marks pushed back on that notion, stating that the decision to send Harden to Philadelphia was one of mutual agreement between three parties: himself, Harden, and Nets’ owner Joe Tsai.

“These discussions were really had between James, myself and Joe Tsai. At the right point, we involved the key stakeholders and told some other players what we were about to do. But again, this decision was predominantly me and James in a room having these discussions,” Marks said. “Joe Tsai was obviously involved when you’re making moves at this magnitude.”

Marks went on to thank Harden for his conduct in his final days as a Net, praising him for his open communication as both sides looked to find the 32-year-old a new home. Or better yet, “a fresh start” as the Nets’ GM put it.

“I think I give James a lot of credit for having open dialogue, open discussions with me and with the group — Steve (Nash) and Joe Tsai and everybody — over the last 24-48 hours. And again, I say they’re not easy, but I think that’s something we pride ourselves on is being open and honest,” said Marks on Friday.

“And James was honest with us, and we were honest with him. And I think it’s a move that enables him to have a fresh start and enables this team to have a fresh start without trying to push things to make things work. If we realize this is not gonna work short term or long term, then it’s time to sort of say, for both parties involved, this is better off.”

One thing to note from the quote above; Marks doubled down on ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski’s reporting about the timing of this deal. The trade, according to both Marks (and Woj) just days prior, was a fast-moving process in which communication between both front offices only heightened during the final hours of the deadline.

“I guess if you believe everything that’s been in the media, it’s been around for a few weeks here. That’s not entirely the case. I think this was something that James and myself talked about over the last few days,” Marks said. “Daryl Morey and myself began to have conversations only briefly, only really hours and little on a couple days prior to the trade deadline, and it moved relatively quickly from there.”

Sean Marks was also asked if the Nets planned to levy any tampering allegations against Philadelphia for their contact with Harden. Earlier this week, Keith Pompey reported that this was within the realm of possibility. Marks mostly gave a non-answer, though he did finish with, “if this is where it ends up, that’ll be completely up to the league to look into these terms of circumstances.”

Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards - Game Four Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Now that Harden is officially a Sixer, the new Nets are currently going through physicals on their three newest players; Simmons, Curry and Drummond. The Nets GM has had two conversations with his new star, Simmons. He spoke with Simmons after the blockbuster trade became official and his latest conversation with him was Friday morning when Simmons was undergoing his physical at HSS Training Center.

“Like all players, you’re here to support them. Everybody is going through different things in life outside of basketball, and we’re here to support Ben. We’re here to support our entire group and our organization. All I can tell you is he was ecstatic about the circumstances he’s walking into and so are we,” said Marks on Simmons. “We’re thrilled to get him on board and we’ll be here to support him from a physical standpoint, a mental standpoint, and get him engaged around our group.”

Shortly after the trade became official Thursday night, Steve Nash disclosed that Simmons will undergo a ramp-up before making his debut, one that will include both physical and mental aspects. When talking about the ramp-up, Marks made it clear that the team needs to see where the 25-year-old — who hasn’t played a minute this season — stands and build comradery with his new teammates ... as part of his ramp-up plan.

“It’s probably too early to tell when Ben’s going to be on the court since he’s currently doing his MRIs, physicals, and getting signed off on that. Until we’ve seen him in the physical shape he’s been in and we’re not going to put him out on the court where it would be detrimental to one, his health, and two the comradery that could be built with the team,” said Marks on Simmons returning to play. “We got to get him a few practices first and see where he’s physically and go from there.”

When asked about the three-time All-Star’s fit with the Nets, Marks sees his newest (super?) star as a solution to the team's needs on defense, finishing at the rim, in transition, and serving as a Swiss-Army knife to the Nets play.

“You guys have seen us and watch us play, and we see where some of our holes are. To be quite frank, Ben plugs a lot of those holes. In fact, the three players we traded for fit a lot of our needs. Ben; the size, elite defense, elite passing skills, the finishing at the rim, all the things we need; the transition play and all the things we’ve been short on over the course of this past year,” said Marks on Simmons’ fit with Brooklyn. “We’re looking forward to Ben coming in and trying to fill those roles.”

Talking about Curry’s fit with the Nets, Marks noted his attraction to shooters on his roster. The Nets GM sees Curry providing a shooting punch to a Nets team depleted of shooters.

“You can never have enough shooting. We’ve been short on a couple of shooters here with guys being out with injury. Adding Seth to this group, he’s made shots on the biggest stage. We’re certainly excited about having him in the group.”

And while Simmons had a tough time in last year’s playoffs, Curry played some of the best basketball in his career, averaging 18.8 points on 58/51/79 shooting.

Drummond, whose career rebounding average —13.4 a game —is 10th all-time, fills a more demanding role with the Nets. The 28-year-old big’s value on the boards and serving as a lane clogger outside of adding a fifth center to the roster.

“We need someone who can clog up the lane and grab those rebounds. Andre, we watched him throughout his career. He’s only 28 years old. He’s had a long career already but we’re excited about getting him adding that depth to our roster.”

And unlike Simmons and Curry, Drummond is on an expiring deal and will want to do as well as he can.