Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks: On LaMarcus Aldridge Retirement and Roster

With a month remaining the regular season, the roster shuffle that has beat such a steady rhythm throughout this season for the Brooklyn Nets took maybe its most unexpected twist of the year with the sudden retirement of center LaMarcus Aldridge.

With the addtions of Aldridge and Blake Griffin on the buyout market, and then the signing of Alize Johnson to a multi-year deal earlier this week after he played through two 10-day contracts, the Nets had a full complement of 15 players on the roster and two two-way players. After 26 players have suited up for the Nets this season, things finally looked set — until they weren’t.

“This is one of those years where things seem to be changing on a whim,” said Nets general manager Sean Marks. “Every minute there’s something else around the corner.”

On Friday night before Brooklyn’s 130-115 win over the Charlotte Hornets, Marks addressed the impact of Aldridge’s loss to the roster and where the Nets stand with 16 games remaining.

For starters, there’s no facsimile of Aldridge’s combination of stretch-5 shooting range and old-school post skills waiting to be grabbed. With Kevin Durant having recently returned to the lineup from a hamstring strain and James Harden on the way from the same, Marks emphasized waiting to see how things shake out with those two back on the court. Meanwhile, the Nets lost two-way point guard Chris Chiozza — who had been playing regular minutes with Harden out — to a fracture in his right hand earlier this week, likely for the rest of the regular season.

“We’ll do our due diligence as always and keep grinding away,” said Marks. “We’ll look at what we’ve got. I think with certain guys coming back this week and slowly working themselves back into the rotation and playing more minutes, I don’t think we want to jump to any conclusions of what we might need or what we might be missing. We’ll look at every alternative and everybody out there.”

Harden, leading the league with 10.9 assists per game and leading the Nets with 8.7 rebounds per game, is averaging 25.4 points per game since joining the Nets and was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for both February and March. He’s played in just one of Brooklyn’s last eight games for a total of four minutes.

“I can tell you that James is progressing well,” said Marks. “He’s looking forward to having at least one or two more playdays, which means he’ll play 4-on-4, 5-on-5 with the group in practice and then hopefully if things go smoothly he’ll be out and joining the guys in a game. But he’s progressed well. He’s met his markers up to this point and we’ll just continue to progress him along and hopefully it’s not too much longer. At this point, I can’t put a timetable on whether it’s two days, five days, or so forth.”

The Nets have been without Spencer Dinwiddie for far longer. Dinwiddie started the first three games of the season, but suffered a torn ACL in that third game and has been sidelined since. As he works his way through rehab, Dinwiddie has regularly been posting video of his progress on social media, raising the question of a potential return this season.

“I've talked to Spencer and our performance team has talked to him as well,” said Marks. “He’s in great hands rehabbing and progressing well in Los Angeles. We know the staff that he's working there well. Again it goes back to me just saying I would never bet against Spencer Dinwiddie. That's what we saw four years ago with him. He has a chip on his shoulder, he loves to prove people wrong, so who am I sit up here and say he's not going to be able to do something? I think that's only going to backfire.

“I think the primary concern for Spencer is his long-term health. Not do anything that's detrimental to his career or his career longevity. So if there's an opportunity for him to come back and play during this playoffs we'll have to evaluate at that time. But again, I think these are questions and answers that I really couldn't give right now because we'll just have to see how he progresses during the next month, two months or three months and so forth. But the priority here is going to be his long-term health and what happens to Spencer, two, three, four years down the road.” 

If this is the roster the Nets take into the playoffs, with Durant and Harden healthy and in rhythm with Kyrie Irving, the Nets will be fronted by a big three that has fronted a historically elite offense, even while rarely being whole throughout the season.

“I think we have to be confident,” said Marks. “I think we know what our goal is; we know what we're striving for. We know what it is we’re shooting for. I think during the same time, we need to be realistic about it and stay humble, and keep grinding. I mean, this season — as I mentioned before — this has been one where you never quite know what's around the corner. And right when we think, OK, here's our roster, all of a sudden things change. And there's 30 other NBA teams going through very similar things to what we are with the pandemic and everything else. And we have to stay flexible. But obviously, I like the roster. I love the talent on the team.

“Hopefully as soon as we get this group together, playing together and that continuity that Steve and everyone else has talked about, getting them used to each other on the court, yeah, that'll be key. And the sooner we can do that, the better obviously; and then we'll see where it goes. You know, obviously, the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.”