In Sean Marks’ fifth season as Brooklyn Nets general manager, the Nets compiled the winningest season in franchise history with a .667 winning percentage and recorded the highest offensive rating in NBA history.
It’s a long way from the 21-win team that Marks took over, but the 2020-21 season also came to an end earlier than hoped as injuries took their toll in a seven-game loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
“It hurts. It should hurt, but life moves on,” said Marks. “Nobody is feeling sorry for the Nets, and we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves. That’s pro sports. The good thing for us is we’re going to be busy at the combine, we’re going to be busy with the draft process, and we’re going to manage the off-boarding of this team and of this season. That’s the difficult part of this all. We’ve just talked to the players. That’s the initial thought for us right now.”
Marks was joined by head coach Steve Nash for a season-ending media session on Monday, with much of the focus on what’s next for the Nets.
“I'm extremely excited about where this could go,” said Marks, “and where we honestly envision this going.”
Here are some of the key topics Marks addressed in Monday’s media session:
ON THE BIG THREE
Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving are all eligible for contract extensions this summer that could keep them with the Nets through the 2025-26 season. All three delivered superstar production this season, but their time on the court together was limited. The Nets acquired Durant and Irving in the summer of 2019 and Marks added Harden in a blockbuster trade that sent out key young players a month into this past season.
“It’s probably too early to begin discussing what their futures are,” said Marks. “Obviously we’re committed to them. They play a big role in how we’re going to continue to build this, how we’re gonna drive our culture and the identity of our team. I think what you see out there is when they were healthy that’s a very, very elite unit. I don’t see any shortage of people wanting to play with them, people wanting to play alongside them or them wanting to be a part of something here. Now it’s gonna be up to us to continue to make Brooklyn an environment where not only do they want to re-sign, but our free agents want to return to us and future people think, hey there’s a heck of an opportunity for me there in Brooklyn to play alongside and along with those high-caliber players.”
ON THE END OF THE SEASON WITH THE LOSS TO MILWAUKEE
The presence of Irving, Harden, and Durant brought significant expectations, but the season ended short of a championship with an Eastern Conference semifinals loss in which the Nets were without Irving for the final three games due to an ankle sprain and Harden returned to play those final three games with a grade two hamstring strain that had taken him out of action in the opening minute of Game 1. The Nets dropped Game 7 in overtime, 115-111 and were inches away from winning the game in regulation on Kevin Durant’s 23-foot, 2-point, game-tying jumper with his foot on the 3-point line.
“I don’t look at it as failure,” said Marks. “I think the term ‘failure’ can be used in a completely different array of circumstances far more serious than what we went through. Is it disappointment? Yes. Without a doubt. We’re going to own it, we’re going to grow from it, as Steve mentioned. We’ll be better because of this and we’ll progress through this and we’ll learn from the rollercoaster ride that was this last season. But I don’t look at this as failure. I think we all grew as people, as individuals and as a collective unit here. We’re definitely going to come out with the resolve and the resiliency to attack next season and achieve our goals.”
ON NETS PLAYERS PARTICIPATING IN THE OLYMPICS
The Nets have six players among the player pool of 57 finalists for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team — Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris, DeAndre Jordan, and Blake Griffin. Spencer Dinwiddie (Nigeria) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (France) are also potential Olympics participants. The Summer Games will be held in Tokyo from July 23 to Aug. 8.
“That’s a collective decision where we’ll sit down with the player and also with the performance team and map out, this is what it looks like,” said Marks. “And USA will have some decisions to make as well, with (coach Gregg Popovich) and Jerry Colangelo, they’ll have decisions to make. Probably need answers relatively quickly there. I think our guys have been through this enough to realize what’s best for them, what’s best for their body, and what their ultimate goal is. It’s very difficult to turn down playing for your country and having the opportunity to go out there and having a heck of a summer and win an Olympic gold medal is their objective. For them to have to turn that down they’ve got to look at the big picture and say, ‘Am I not healthy?’ and so forth. For a couple of those guys, I know right now, it’s probably not the first thing they’re thinking about. They’re decompressing after the season, but it will be a collective decision from all the parties.”
ON WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE ROSTER
The Nets currently have eight players under contract for next season with nine free agents (including two-ways Chris Chiozza and Reggie Perry) if Spencer Dinwiddie does not exercise his player option for the 2021-22 season. Included in that group are Bruce Brown, Jeff Green, and Blake Griffin.
“We’ll look at every position on the roster like we always do,” said Marks. “We'll gather input, you know, Steve, and I will gather input from the rest of the coaching staff, from players, obviously, our scouts and analytics and all the different departments and so forth. But inevitably, there's going to be change here, that's the tough thing with pro sports, you know? You'd love continuity throughout and so forth, but there's going to have to be changes. And they may not all be because there's a decision that we decide to make, you know? Our players have to make these decisions too; we've got multiple players that have — whether it's options on their contract, where their free agent statuses are and so forth. So they're going to have decisions to make just alongside us, and we'll come together as a collective group. And again, the opportunity for them and the opportunity for us is to go out there and put the best Brooklyn Nets team forward to start training camp next season.”
ON SPENCER DINWIDDIE
The Nets lost Spencer Dinwiddie in the third game of the season to a partially torn ACL. One of the earliest and best discoveries of the Marks-era front office, Dinwiddie was signed out of the G League in December 2016. Two years later, he signed a contract extension that included a player option for the 2021-22 season, giving him the ability to opt out into free agency. In his second season with Brooklyn, Dinwiddie was a Most Improved Player finalist in 2017-18 and he averaged career highs of 20.6 points and 6.8 assists in 2019-20.
“We'll deal with Spencer when the time comes,” said Marks. “And, obviously Spencer has put himself in a position to secure his future long-term. We'd obviously love to play a role in that, whether that's here or whether we can help them. But you know, we'll focus on that at a later date.”