More than three months after the NBA halted play, the Brooklyn Nets are ramping up to return. With the team scheduled to depart for Orlando on Tuesday, July 7, general manager Sean Marks met with the media via videoconference on Wednesday to cover a range of issues, including how he and the team have worked through a difficult time.
“What sustains me is the people we have in our organization and that starts from the very top in our ownership group and the amazing support that they've shown,” said Marks. “Since the facility has been back open and I come in and see the people that come in and have sacrificed so much, not only in the past four months, but in the past four years and put the Nets and us as a priority over, to be quite frank, themselves in a lot of different ways. That sustains me.
“There's an incredible opportunity for us that lies ahead and people realize that, but it's coming in every day and seeing the care and empathy that these people put forward. That certainly does. Ultimately, it's our job, and if there's any way we can do something here and use this platform and use this opportunity wisely from a player, from an organization, from a front office standpoint, we certainly will.”
Here are five key takeaways from Marks’ conversation:
ON HEAD COACH JACQUE VAUGHN
Jacque Vaughn took over as Brooklyn’s head coach with 20 games remaining the season, but got only two games in before the season was suspended. As the Nets consider what to do with the position for next season, the truncated season and the unusual circumstances of the single-site restart in Orlando after a four-month delay are not the typical landscape for a coach taking over in midseason with an eye on making a case to keep the job. But Marks said wins and losses are not the focus in the evaluation.
“We know what Jacque is about and the type of person he is and the character and the leader that he is,” said Marks. “I think for us this has been about he gets to know the new players and continue to develop relationships with them. Not only the new players but the existing group. I think we just see what happens down the line. I've had plenty of great conversations with Jacque. Probably too many for his liking since we're on either Zoom or Face Time. I feel like it's five or six times a day. We have a very close relationship and a very honest and open relationship, too.”
Marks praised the work Vaughn has done during the hiatus. A former assistant coach and scout in San Antonio and a head coach in Orlando, Vaughn has been with Brooklyn since 2016.
“What I’ve witnessed so far with Jacque and the group here, the empathy that they’ve shown and their care and honestly selflessness has been amazing,” said Marks. “So I love what I’ve seen, these guys are working hard they’re giving everything they possibly can for the last three months and whatever lies ahead.”
ON POSITIVE COVID-19 TESTS AND ORLANDO OPT-OUTS
Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan have both tested positive for the coronavirus, and Jordan has joined Wilson Chandler in opting out of competing in Orlando.
“Our job here is just to support them and their families in any way possible, and we realize it’s completely their decision,” said Marks. “This is voluntary, this is by no means mandatory that people show up in Orlando in the bubble. And everybody has their own reasons as to why this may not be a fit for them, or weigh their needs a little bit differently from others. Some people have families, some people have extended families that are affected by this. I don’t want to be the one to sit here and judge and say you guys should do this, you can look past this or look over that. I think this is a time when we need to show an unparalleled amount of empathy across the board, across the organization, and I think that’s what we’ve done. I have no reason to believe that at this point more people will opt out. But again, this is a very fluid time, and I think we just have to understand that and make arrangements when these type of things happen and adapt and we move along as best we can.”
Marks said on Wednesday that Dinwiddie’s status to play in Orlando was not yet decided, but that he was included among the team travel party scheduled to depart on Tuesday, July 7. Marks said the travel party could still be altered between now and Tuesday, and that COVID-19 replacements can be added after the team travels to Orlando.
“That would be up in the air yet,” said Marks of Dinwiddie. “I don't know. I would hope these guys decide to do what's best for them and for their health and family first and foremost. If they decide to go to Orlando we know we'll be taking best care possible of them but at the end of the day it goes back to what I said before. Everybody has a different set of circumstances in their life that they're dealing with whether that's family issues or the health and wellness of themselves. And we need to support those guys whatever decision that they make.”
ON SIGNING TYLER JOHNSON
During his first summer as Brooklyn’s general manager, Marks submitted an offer sheet to young restricted free agent guard Tyler Johnson, only to see the Miami Heat match the contract. Last week, the Nets added Johnson, who had been waived by Phoenix earlier this season.
“I think bringing a guy in like Tyler gives us another opportunity to evaluate,” said Marks. “It's no secret that we tried to onboard Tyler several years ago but I think we have to look at Orlando as an opportunity to evaluate, you mentioned staff before, but players as well. Everybody uses this opportunity to show what they can and we see how we evaluate them and what the makeup of next year's team looks like based on what we've seen from not only Orlando but the work we've seen this past summer and the work they've all put in.”
Johnson was traded to the Suns in February 2019. He’s averaging 10.5 points in 307 career games over six seasons.
ON PREPPING FOR RESCHEDULED NBA DRAFT
With the entire NBA calendar scrambled, the NBA Draft has been pushed back to October 16.
“That’s given all 30 teams some more preparation time, more time to evaluate,” said Marks. “The evaluation structure and schedule obviously looks quite different with no Chicago combine right now. We’ve been doing the Zoom meetings with the draft eligible players and so forth, so it’s taken on a different tone. It’s definitely a different look and feel but we’re all going through this at the same time together, so it’s how do we navigate this and how do we come out of with this with making hopefully the best sound decisions that we can.
“I think our scouts have done a heck of a job over the last few years, so giving them more time hopefully can only benefit us. So I’m looking forward to really getting set for an October draft and we’ll go from there.”
ON BLACK LIVES MATTER CONVERSATIONS
In the wake of protests following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, Marks said there have been multiple conversations throughout the organization between staff, coaches and players.
“I do think it was important for Kyrie (Irving) and for all our guys,” said Marks. “They had a platform and are able to voice whether there’s concerns, frustrations and really to have a conversation starter. So I think this is what makes the NBA great, where we have players that are able to get on a platform and at least have these conversations and spark conversations. So I support our guys that want to stand up for not only for this cause but the many causes that they’ve done in the past. So the fact that Kyrie in particular did this, but I think we’ve seen multiple of our guys stand up, whether it’s through social media or articles that have been written — Garrett Temple for one — so again we support our players in their endeavors.”