Nets general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson showcased the newest members of the team to usher in their era on Wednesday at the HSS Training Center.
The Nets introduced Jeremy Lin, Caris LeVert, Anthony Bennett, Trevor Booker, Joe Harris, and Justin Hamilton.
“I would like to welcome you guys and your families to the Nets’ family,” Marks said. “The process that went through here as Kenny and I embarked on this journey a couple of months ago, you’ve heard us say it’s about high character, high quality guys who are competitive, and that’s what you see in front of you. That’s what we went out and tried to find and we did that. We’re excited to have this new group, this new era of Nets basketball.
“Obviously, Kenny and his staff played a huge part in this. With young players, it’s more than what happens on the court, it’s what happens off the court as well, behind the scenes. It’s all the little things, the nuances that perhaps the rest of us don’t see all the time, and that’s where Kenny and his staff is so good.
“It started out with really Jeremy, and Kenny and Jeremy’s relationship goes way back. I think that’s where the trust has been built over time, and it’s not something that happens just like that. The fact that Jeremy is here because Kenny’s there, the rest of the guys will follow suit,which is terrific.
“I think we also have a great group of veterans. Trevor’s (Booker) is up on the stage here today, and he’s seen it. He’s going to add a lot to this youth movement that we have, a lot of high quality kids here.”
One thing that was clear is how much Marks and Atkinson worked together to form this team.
“Again, I think that’s one place that Sean and I are on the same page with this group,” said Atkinson. “First of all, looking at this group, I see a great combination of youth and veterans. That was important to us to balance the roster, not just have 15 young guys, but guys with experience in the league to help lead this group.
“The second thing that was important to me was ‘system fit’ and I think all these guys are going to fit the style of play we want to implement. I’m excited about this group, excited to work with them, obviously. Going forward, as training camp unfolds, we’ll figure out specific roles, who fits where, but I like the blueprint that’s over here on my left.
“This is an exciting group, and we’re thrilled to get started.”
The Nets also signed Randy Foye, Luis Scola and Greivis Vasquez this offseason. They were unable to attend Wednesday’s press conference.
“Randy’s a proven veteran in this league,” Atkinson said. “I think me and Sean were thrilled when we had the chance to get him. He can play both positions, the two and the one, so great character fit, great system fit for our team.
“Luis Scola, I was with him in Houston, so know him really well. Again, incredible system fit. He fits the way we want to play. He’ll provide great leadership and I love the fact that he’s playing again this summer in the Olympics for the 25th time for Argentina.
“Greivis, same thing, he’s a competitive guy who plays multiple positions. Love his international experience, love his competitiveness.”
The biggest name on the stage Wednesday was Jeremy Lin, who is known from the global phenomenon he created across town, Linsanity, in 2012. Atkinson, then a Knicks assistant, played a big part in his development.
“Jeremy, as we all know, we had an experience together, it was a great experience,” Atkinson said. “We’re looking to him for leadership, number one. Number two, to play in a system that may be a little different from the ones he’s played with in the past. Obviously, he will be a full-time point guard, so looking forward to that, and we will challenge him on the defensive end to get better there. I told him we definitely want to see him get better there and he will.”
“I think for me, it obviously started with my relationship with Kenny,” Lin said of choosing to sign with the Nets. “I feel like, for me, he’s going to be the guy that gets up earliest in the morning and he’s going to watch the most film and he’s gonna be the most attentive to detail. I felt like, in looking at a program, I’m 27 years old, so I feel like coming into this position, I know that at least he’s going to do everything he can to grow and make this team what it needs to be.
“I got to meet Sean, got to talk to the people around here. There’s a different vibe, different environment that they’ve been talking about, and it’s something I want to be a part of. It’s a good opportunity for me to take that next step as a player as well.”
Lin has said that he feels like he would be a good fit for Atkinson’s system.
“I think on the defensive end, it’s going to be tighter, it’s going to be a lot of team concepts, a lot of communication on the defensive end,” Lin said of the system. “Make sure that we’re doing everything as a unit, and I think that’s really, really important, and that’s one thing that isn’t talked about much in media is how great team defense can be.
“I think on the offensive end, it’s unselfishness. Having no ego, having guys that want to come in, wanting to succeed and move the ball, play the right way. I think, for me, I’ve been in a lot of different offensive systems and I know kind of Kenny’s philosophy on basketball. For me, we both see eye-to-eye on that, so I feel like we’ll move the ball and find a good open shot every time down the floor.”
Lin has appeared in 369 career games, 183 of which were starts, in six NBA seasons with Golden State (2010-11), New York (2011-12), Houston (2012-14), Los Angeles Lakers (2014-15) and Charlotte (2015-16), posting averages of 11.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 26.8 minutes per game while shooting .432 from the field and .803 from the free throw line. This past season with Charlotte, the 27-year-old Lin appeared in 78 games (13 starts) and averaged 11.7 points, a career-high 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 26.3 minutes per game. He played in all seven of the Hornets’ first-round playoff games against Miami, recording averages of 12.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 27.0 minutes per game.
Booker has appeared in 393 games (112 starts) in six NBA seasons with Washington (2010-14) and Utah (2014-16).
“Obviously, Trevor (Booker) is a proven veteran in the NBA and he’ll give us some toughness, a defensive stability,” said Atkinson. “I’d like him to lead our defense and I think he’s a growing offensive player, looking forward to him expanding his offensive game.”
Booker has recorded averages of 6.5 points on .515 from the field, 5.2 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 20.3 minutes per game. He also made a playoff appearance in 2014 with the Wizards, registering averages of 3.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 16.2 minutes per game in nine contests. This past season, the 28-year-old saw action in 79 games with the Jazz, averaging 5.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 20.7 minutes per game while setting single-season career-highs in minutes played (1,632), rebounds (452), assists (84) and steals (59). The Newberry, S.C. native was originally selected with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft by Minnesota before his rights were traded to Washington on draft night.
Bennett joins the Nets after spending the 2015-16 season with the Toronto Raptors. In 19 games, Bennett recorded averages of 1.5 points and 1.2 rebounds in 4.4 minutes per game.
“Anthony Bennett has, I’ve had my eye on him the last couple of years,” said Atkinson. “He had an incredible run with Team Canada the past two summers, and that intrigued me. Anthony’s going to give it to us on both ends because he’s a very versatile player.”
In 128 games in three NBA seasons split between Toronto, Minnesota (2014-15) and Cleveland (2013-14), the 23-year-old holds career averages of 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game. The Toronto native was originally selected with the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by Cleveland, becoming the first Canadian ever selected with the top pick in the draft.
LeVert was selected with the 20th pick in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft, LeVert’s rights were acquired by Brooklyn in a trade with the Indiana Pacers.
“Caris (LeVert), he’s working his butt off every day,” said Atkinson “We’re happy to see him back on the floor and progressing and, again, gives us great versatility on the wing, on both sides of the ball.”
LeVert played four seasons at Michigan and helped the team to three NCAA Tournament appearances, including trips to the National Championship game in 2013 and the Elite Eight in 2014. In 103 career games (70 starts) for the Wolverines, LeVert averaged 10.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 26.4 minutes per game. As a senior, the Pickerington, Ohio, native posted averages of 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 30.9 minutes per game while shooting .506 from the field and .446 from 3-point range in 15 games (14 starts) during an injury-shortened season.
Hamilton joins the Nets after spending last season with Valencia in Liga ACB, Spain’s top division, where he earned All-ACB first-team honors after averaging 14.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game in 40 games with the club.
“Justin (Hamilton) had a fantastic season at Valencia,” Atkinson said. “I went over to watch him play a couple of weeks ago. I think he’ll be a great complement to Brook (Lopez). He’s a stretch-five, he can extend the floor from three-point range. But he’s more than a stretch-five because he’s a tough guy, knows how to play inside, knows how to finish and we’ll challenge him to be great on the defensive end.”
Prior to heading to Spain, the 26-year-old Hamilton appeared in 49 games in parts of two NBA seasons with Charlotte, Miami and Minnesota (2013-15), registering averages of 5.0 points and 2.9 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game. In the 2014-15 season, Hamilton appeared in 41 games split between Miami and Minnesota, averaging 5.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per game.
Harris has appeared in 56 games in two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2014-16, averaging 2.5 points in 9.1 minutes per game.
“Joe, you know, Joe had a pretty good start to his career in Cleveland,” Atkinson said. “Obviously, they made some trades, and he wasn’t getting big minutes in the end. He’s still a young, developing player, just 24 years old, obviously can shoot the ball well. He’ll give us great spacing on offense and compete on the defensive end.”
The 24-year-old underwent right foot surgery in January before being traded to Orlando and waived by the Magic. Harris was originally selected with the 33rd pick (second round) in the 2014 NBA Draft by Cleveland after a four-year career at the University of Virginia.