The Brooklyn Nets have had a big week, the best one in this gloomy season, as they opened their new training center in Brooklyn and names their new General Manager, Sean Marks.
The training center is significant because since the team moved to Brooklyn in 2012, they have wanted to be in the borough 100 percent and finally cut the cord with New Jersey.
The Nets held the grand opening of the HSS Training Center on Wednesday and then something far more important to the future of their franchise occurred on Thursday as they hired their top target in their General Manager search, Sean Marks.
Marks comes from the San Antonio Spurs organization, where he most recently served as assistant General Manager, after playing and being an assistant coach.
Having these two things in place has improved the mood of the team, who got to meet Marks on Friday before they beat the Knicks.
Nets center Brook Lopez said of what Marks told the team, “He just wanted us to know that his door is always open. Obviously, we want to have a lot of communication with players and staff, you know, all the way up to the GM and owners, and just that it’s not going to be an overnight process, but we’re definitely working to move in the right direction.”
Nets forward Thaddeus Young said of Marks’ message, “Just continue to stay the course. You know, change will come and we’re looking into the future to get this first half behind us and just be ready to play.”
On whether there’s a sense of relief that the General Manager search is over, Lopez said, “It is. You know, you just keep moving forward. You don’t want to rush anything. You want to make the right decisions, but the process obviously can’t continue now. We’re all very confident that the right decisions have been made.”
Lopez said of how he feels moving forward, “We’re 100 percent the Brooklyn Nets now. It’s an exciting thing to have. Everything is situated out here. We’re completely in New York and we obviously had a first, very positive step forward tonight (Friday).”
Young said of what the Nets can look for in the future with the training center and GM now in place, “It definitely gives us the resources we need to become a better basketball team, to become better players, to perfect our craft and go out there and do things that we need to do to win games, you know. But as far as a GM, it puts a little bit of clarity on the situation ahead, and now it’s time to find us a head coach; if not, you know, end of playoffs or a little bit later than that. We just want to get some of that stuff behind us so we can be able to move on and try to get us some free agents and be able to make some plays for some guys.”
The next order of business for the Nets is hiring a coach, and they will conduct a “worldwide” search, according to Marks.
The leading candidates to become head coaches this offseason are former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, Golden State assistant coach Luke Walton, former Warriors coach and St. John’s legend Mark Jackson.
On what traits he likes in a coach, Young said, “A guy that’s going to be a straight shooter, not going to beat around the bush, and a guy that demands out of his players each and every day. I think that’s one of the biggest things when you come in and demand the respect of your players and you give the respect to your players, and it turns the team into a better basketball team.”
The irony of what Young says is that he could be talking about Lionel Hollins, who the Nets dismissed as head coach in January, and was criticized by Young for being too hard on the players.
The Nets are talking about building a culture more than anything, with it being dictated by the coach.
A culture is also dictated by the players. That is hard to do when the only true NBA players the Nets have are Lopez, Young, Joe Johnson, Jarrett Jack.
The interesting thing about all of them is how little they have been around winning basketball teams.
Lopez has been with the Nets since he was drafted in 2008 and he is inured to how this franchise operates and seems to accept losing. The Nets have only made the playoffs twice since Lopez arrived, in 2013 and 2014. He was heavily outplayed by the Bulls’ Joakim Noah in the 2013 playoffs and he was hurt for most of 2013-14.
Young, who played for Philadelphia and Minnesota before the Nets and Jack, an NBA journeyman, have have played for real contenders.
Johnson, who is in his 14th season, has never been in an NBA Finals. That’s what makes it all the more remarkable he didn’t ask for a trade or a buyout and is content to play out the string with the 15-41 Nets.
Johnson is a free agent, and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and his brain trust must not be fooled into giving him an extension because of a recent uptick in play, marked by a buzzer-beater against Denver on February 8.
This is part of a larger point, that it is going to be very hard for Marks to judge this team from here on out based on the nature of these games.
In their seven home games in February, one thing is apparent. Their three wins, over Sacramento, Denver, and the Knicks, were against teams that gave very little effort and played little defense, allowing the Nets to shoot north of 50 percent and put up over 100 points.
Their four losses at home came against teams in the playoffs or in the hunt, Detroit, Indiana, Memphis, and Charlotte.
Charlotte beat the Nets on Sunday night, 104-96, and the score really was not indicative of how much Charlotte outplayed Brooklyn.
The Hornets took the lead late in the first quarter and never trailed the rest of the way. They built up a 16-point lead in the third, and the Nets chipped away and cut it to four before Charlotte made a lade surge to pull away at the end.
The thing Marks has to learn is a team like Charlotte is not going to expend the effort to beat the Nets that they would to beat Cleveland. If they did, they would win by 40.
The Nets shot just 43.2 percent from the field, including 5-for-22 from three-point range.
Nets Interim Head Coach Tony Brown said of the Nets’ struggles behind the arc, “I don’t know if it was an off night. I think their pressure made it tough for us to get into some of our sets. Anytime we face some solid defense where they pressure the passers, they pressure the wing catches, pressure the post-up catch, we seem to get a little sluggish and that’s one of the areas that we must continue to work at. That’s something that we have to continue to work at going forward.”
Brown’s comment, “anytime we face some solid defense,” said it all about the state of the team’s offense.
Their defense is a non-factor under Brown, allowing teams including Charlotte to shoot over 50 percent.
Johnson said of getting used to how Brown coaches defense, “It’s on us as players. I think we all know and understand that we have to be in and help.When your guy has made a few shots, you get a little bit lucky to give as much help and you know, it just kind of hurts us.”
The Nets hit the road for the nine-game circus road trip, which Johnson said of, “Take it one game at a time. You’re just got to try to develop some kind of consistency on both ends of the floor. You know, obviously, our defense hasn’t been great. It wasn’t great tonight, so it’s tough to win like that, so we’ve got to get back to helping one another.”