When a season ends too early, even a shortened offseason can go by too slowly. The agonizing Game 7 loss to the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks started the clock on the countdown to the 2021-22 season for the Brooklyn Nets that will have the superstar trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving in place from day one.
We’re getting closer to that moment, with the latest mile-marker on the trip the annual pre-camp media session from general manager Sean Marks. Marks had an active summer reshaping the roster around Durant, Harden, and Irving, and on Tuesday at HSS Training Center, joined by head coach Steve Nash, he discussed the offseason transactions and looked ahead to the upcoming season.
Here are three key points Marks addressed on Tuesday:
There’s no point downplaying this, and Marks won’t bother. Even with a roster that was in progress throughout the 2020-21 season, even with Durant, Harden, and Irving playing a total of eight games together during the regular season, the Nets had the most efficient offense in NBA history, setting a record for points scored per 100 possessions. When the trio took the court together in the first-round playoff series win over Boston, they blew those regular season numbers out of the water.
Pair that otherworldly offensive potential with the reinforcements Marks added — playmaking backcourt depth in Patty Mills; the return of center LaMarcus Aldridge; veteran forwards Paul Millsap, James Johnson, and DeAndre’ Bembry — and the expectations for the new season are at the highest level.
“I think our goal is to be the last team standing,” said Marks. “There’s probably, my guess, six, eight, 10 teams that have that same similar goal and a realistic one. For us, it’s about owning that and not shying away from it and doing everything we possibly can putting people into place, whether it’s staff members, players, rounding out the roster, in order to try and accomplish that. I think we’ve also got to take into account that it’s a long season. Anything can happen as we’ve seen just over the course of last year. The ability to stay flexible and be able to pivot, this year, the previous year and years in the past has always been important and we’re going to have to do the same thing here. You just never know what’s just around the corner. I give our scouting department a heck of a lot of credit, our draft department and our coaches. The work that these guys have put in over the summer with our players has given us the best shot at being exactly that, the last team standing.”
ON CONTRACT EXTENSIONS FOR KYRIE IRVING AND JAMES HARDEN
Both Irving and Harden were hobbled during the playoff series against the Bucks, with Irving missing the last three games with an ankle sprain and Harden returning to push through those final three games after suffering a hamstring strain. Marks said on Tuesday that “they feel good, they look great.” The Nets have gotten Durant’s signature on a contract extension and while discussing that and other moves after Brooklyn’s summer signings, Marks expressed confidence that extensions would be finalized for Irving and Harden as well. Wishing to conduct talks in person and also give players some space over the summer, Marks said he’s “looking forward to sitting down with them over the course of the next week, two weeks, and furthering those discussions.”
“This is something those guys know exactly how we feel, and I think they’ve been vocal about wanting to be part of this and build this together,” said Marks. “I think we’ve got an opportunity to hopefully build something special here for the foreseeable future. The fact that they want to collaborate, they want to come here together, they want to build this together. I look forward to those discussions with Steve and myself and obviously ownership, who’s been incredibly supportive through this whole thing, and with the players. Just like any decision, it’s a partnership and it’s a collaboration.”
ON THE RETURN OF LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE
When the veteran center expressed his intentions of returning to the NBA this season, “I tried to talk him out of it,” said Marks. “I said, ‘Why? You don’t need this. Why would you come back?’ ”
Aldridge played five games for the Nets after his midseason signing last season before retiring after an episode with an irregular heartbeat, an issue he had been dealing with for years. His return to the Nets after receiving medical clearance is a massive addition to the Brooklyn frontcourt, just as it was when Aldridge was added last spring. He brings a distinct skill set with his ability to work out of the post, face up, and also distribute the ball, and his return alters Brooklyn’s frontcourt depth significantly.
“It’s not something that we take light-hearted, it’s not something he should, either, and he was very comfortable, wanted to be back here and stated, like several of our guys, that there was unfinished business here, so to bring him back in the fold, we thoroughly enjoyed our time with him last season, and we all saw what he was capable of doing and the dynamic that he added to the team both on the court and off the court,” said Marks. “It gives Steve another very versatile big to play with, so after he had cleared those — the specialists had given him the green light — and he had come to terms with it on his own, he was fighting to come back. And I think that’s what you love to see in a player, that they want to be here. And he’s well aware of what’s at stake and so forth, which is to be that last team standing, and he wants to be a part of it.”