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Nets GM: Don’t judge us on our record during first year of rebuild
The swashbuckling days of Mikhail Prokhorov's free-spending Nets felt far removed from the message at the team's practice facility Tuesday, when GM Sean Marks declared that success this season "won't be measured in wins and losses."
It's a standard line for a rebuilding franchise, which is an apt description of a team projected to finish near the bottom with few returning rotation players.
"(Success) will be measured in the progress that's made throughout the season, the buy-in from our players," said Marks said.
Until this crossroads, Prokhorov hadn't displayed the requisite patience for a long rebuild, having burned through four coaches and millions in luxury taxes since the move to Brooklyn. Just this year he downplayed the new strategy as a "small reset," a problem that would quickly lead to "championship contention" with the acquisition of "one or two players."
As much as that doesn't jibe with Brooklyn's current reality (unless those two players are LeBron James and LeBron James), Marks, who addressed the media alongside new coach Kenny Atkinson, said the Russians aren't operating under illusions.
In other words, he doesn't feel pressure to win games yet.
"Our owners know exactly what the expectations are, so they're 100 percent on-board, they've been on-board all summer long. They were on board when I first took the job, they were on board when Kenny took the job,” Marks said. “We wanted to be very clear on how we're going to build. This is not going to be something that's turned around in two or three months. As we've said before, we want something that's done strategically and systematically, build a strong foundation and not something that's a fleeting moment, something that will last and the couple of acquisitions that we've made so far and developing as Kenny said the young guys, that will help to establish that foundation."
Everything about that statement runs contrary to the philosophy under the previous regime, which followed Prokhorov's lead into salary-cap hell and draft-day purgatory.
The aftermath is this assembly: mostly young and unproven players led by Brook Lopez and highlighted in intrigue by Jeremy Lin, without control of its own first-round draft pick until 2019. Pundits and Vegas oddsmakers are predicting an a superfluity of defeats.
"I know there's plenty of long hours ahead, and months to go," Marks said. "But the building of this is something that I'm excited about."
In the interim, the Nets have set their goals on building a culture and a selfless style of play. Marks has rearranged the staff, firing some longtime employees, such as trainer Timmy Walsh.
The big player personnel move was signing Lin to a three-year, $36 million contract, and handing him the keys to the offense.
"This is a little different deal (for Lin)," said Atkinson, who, as a former Knicks assistant, worked with the point guard at the height of Linsanity. "Now, you are kind of the quarterback, the Eli Manning. There is a different level of responsibility. I think it is new to him. We just had a talk today — what can I do better to become a better leader?"
"He has to make this team work, make it work on the offensive end and make sure everybody is touching it and get the right feel that we have kind of a balanced scoring and a balanced team. It is a heckuva challenge for him. I think he is prepared for it and I think it is the right time in his career, I think he is smart enough and I think he will grow into becoming a better leader as this thing goes on."
Atkinson added that Lin feels "slighted" by his reputation as a poor defender.
"He can be a darn good defender with his athleticism, his competitiveness," Atkinson said, "so we need to hold him accountable there."
Then there is the annual question of Lopez's availability in the trade market, which wasn't a topic Marks was asked about Tuesday — but something he may be answering this winter.
At 28 years old and at the peak of his career, Lopez's career timeline doesn't quite mesh with the direction of the Nets. He could be more valuable on a contender, and thus represent Brooklyn's easiest path to recouping all those lost draft picks.
Atkinson said Tuesday that Lopez can improve on rebounding and his pick-and-roll defense — which are familiar assessments — but added that the center may add the 3-pointer to his repertoire this season.
"We do believe that he can take another step," Atkinson said.
Source: Daily News