Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson are cornerstones of the Brooklyn Nets’ new foundation. They’ve spent the summer assembling the team they want on and off the court, implementing a new culture and are now almost ready to turn their vision into action on the court.
With training camp opening on Sept. 27, Marks and Atkinson held a press conference to discuss the upcoming season. With the topics ranging from group expectations to individual roles they covered a lot of ground. Here are five takeaways from today’s press conference:
1. Success Will Be Measured In Progress
Marks and Atkinson are playing the long game, saying they are more concerned with progress and development than straight wins and losses.
“The season won’t be measured entirely by wins and losses,” Marks said. “It’ll be measured by the progress that’s made throughout the season and the buy-in from our players.”
That’s not to say wins and losses will have no bearing at all, nor will the Nets wait until the end of the season to determine progress.
“Our goals aren’t necessarily six months down the road goals,” Marks said “It’s this next block of five games and asking did we improve from the last block of five games.”
“Hopefully with all the interaction the coaches will have throughout the year and the performance staff, you’ll see guys’ bodies improve, physical abilities improve and also the way they play the game,” he added.
“The fans, media and everyone around the team will see a team that’s building, improving, competing at a high level every night,” Atkinson said. “Individual improvement and our young players are getting better. We are interested in advanced stats, so we’ll see improvements in statistics in areas we think are important and the style we want to play.”
2. How They’ll Play
Marks and Atkinson have brought in players that they think would be good system fits for their ideal vision of Nets basketball, but that the system will reflect the players. Some points of emphasis:
- Team defense
- Sharing the ball/be a high-assist team
- Don’t take contested shots
“Down the line there’s certainly a feel for how we’d like to play, simply from our backgrounds – San Antonio and Atlanta,” Marks said. “An unselfish style of play, don’t take contested shots, move the ball, make the extra pass.”
“A lot of it will be predicated on what the roster looks like, you can’t say we’re only going to be a 3-point shooting team if you also have to involve Brook down there. Kenny will argue that Brook will shoot the corner 3 as well. We’ll be flexible, but he’s the guy with the system.”
Cue the man with the system.
“Emphasize team defense,” Atkinson said. “It’s not easy to overachieve in the NBA, but if there is a way to do it, we can do it with good team defense. On the offensive side it’s the same thing, we’re going to have to share the ball, we’re going to have to hopefully be a high-assist team that plays together.”
3. The Nets will monitor LeVert and bring him along slowly
Marks said the Nets will take a slow approach to Caris LeVert in his rookie season, as the 22-year-old first-rounder is still recovering from offseason foot surgery. LeVert has been working out with the Nets performance team – and is progressing well according to Marks – but his status for the start of the season is unclear. He is currently “limited” on the court and is mainly working on strengthening exercises.
“Caris is progressing well,” Marks said. “We’ll be progressing him slowly and building him in and hopefully has a long career ahead of him. He’s a guy that we’re certainly going to monitor.”
4. The Nets think Brook Lopez can get even better
Atkinson said development is not exclusively for younger players and riffed on how he thinks Brook Lopez can take another step and add another dimension to his game.
“The first thing we’re going to do is to challenge him defensively to improve,” Atkinson said. “Rebounding – I know that’s been a thing in the past – pick and roll defense and we have to find the right scheme that fits him. Offensively – I think it’s with all of these guys – become even more efficient than you are. Taking better shots, getting to the rim more, mixing in some 3-point shots to balance your game… We’re going to challenge to improve in those areas and again that fit our style of play and we do believe that he can take another step.”
5. The Nets think Jeremy Lin is ready to lead
Atkinson is placing a lot of responsibility in Jeremy Lin’s hands this season, but thinks the time is right for Lin.
“He came off the bench in Charlotte last year and did a heck of a job, but this is a different deal here,” Atkinson said. “You’re kind of the quarterback, the Eli Manning, those guys have a different level of responsibility and that’s new to him.
“He can be a darn good defender with his athleticism and his competitiveness and I think he feels a little slighted that he’s not considered a better defender, so we need to hold him accountable there. There’s a lot of things, but the last thing is make this team work, make it work on the offensive end and make sure everyone’s touching it and get that right feel of where we have balanced scoring and a balanced team. It’s a heck of a challenge, but he’s prepared for it, I think it’s the right time of his career and I think he’s smart enough and will grow into being a better leader as this thing goes on.”