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Sean Marks: Highlights from Brooklyn GM's Conversation at Nets Fan Event

Marks looked back on the season and what's to come in a Barclays Center session hosted by YES Network's Michael Grady

The Brooklyn Nets are going back to work, but before they tip off the final stretch of the season by hosting the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center on Thursday, general manager Sean Marks held court on the arena’s practice court on Tuesday evening.

Before a crowd of season ticket members, in a conversation hosted by YES Network’s Michael Grady and streamed live across the team’s digital channels and on the YES app, Marks fielded a range of questions about Brooklyn’s season, the blockbuster trade deadline deal that brought in Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond, expectations for the rest of the season and more.

When it came to those expectations, Marks didn’t hold back.

“Championship. I mean, that’s it. I would be doing 17 players and another 60 staff members over there a massive disservice if I said anything other than that because that’s why we’re all here,” said Marks. “We have an incredible ownership group. Joe Tsai, talk about putting your chips in the middle. He has supported us and supported us and continues to support us. From that standpoint, we know what our expectations are.”

Here are some other highlights from the conversation:

ON THE SEASON SO FAR AND THE RETURN FROM ALL-STAR BREAK

In the final days before the All-Star break, the Nets shook off a losing streak and went into the weekend with a 31-28 record. They have 23 games remaining and they’re awaiting the return of Kevin Durant from a knee sprain and the debut of Ben Simmons as a Net. Marks said it was “tough” to expect either to be playing in “the next three or four days.” But he liked what he saw overall as the Nets took the court together for practice shortly before he met with the fans at Barclays Center.

“It was our first practice back after All-Star, and you could feel an exuberance, you could feel a different vibe,” said Marks. “Guys are hungry to get back after it. It’s tough when you’ve had four or five days off and there’s some new siblings in town and guys want to rekindle relationships. It was exciting to see a lot of the conversations that were going on today for sure.”

ON PLUGGING BEN SIMMONS INTO THE BROOKLYN LINEUP

In Simmons, Marks acquired a 25-year-old, three-time All-Star. At 6-foot-11, Simmons has a playmaker’s skillset in a center’s size and the ability to guard all over the floor.

“Just to have that versatility, and I’m going to keep harping on the versatility that he brings offensively and defensively,” said Marks. “It’s going to be a matchup nightmare for other teams. There’s no question that he’s already proved that he can do that, and it takes a little bit of a load off of Kevin. Maybe it puts Kevin in a different light. Maybe it puts Kyrie in a different set of circumstances where they don’t have to handle the ball all the time. They can get out there and run the wings and vice versa. Ben can run those wings and when we see how fast he is at spreading the floor, I think if we’re coming at waves against the opposition, playing at pace, that should prove good for us.”

ON SIGNING GORAN DRAGIC

If it wasn’t enough to bring in Simmons, Curry, and Drummond, on Tuesday morning the Nets announced the signing of veteran guard Goran Dragic. Dragic began his NBA career playing behind Nets head coach Steve Nash in Phoenix. He was an All-NBA Third Team selection while with the Suns in 2013-14 before going on to a strong seven-year run in Miami.

“I have to give full credit to Steve on this one,” said Marks. “We were with Goran in Miami over the weekend, spent some time with him, and it was really intriguing to me to see the relationship that Goran and Steve have, the respect they have for one another and really the respect Goran had for Steve for many, many years ago — we won’t give Steve the actual age here — but the fact that he was his vet and rookie, that’s a unique relationship there. To watch those two tell stories together it was certainly refreshing for me to sit back and almost just envision things to come.”

ON KEVIN DURANT’S IMPACT

Before suffering a knee sprain in early January, Kevin Durant was an MVP frontrunner, leading the league with 29.3 points per game. Durant’s impact behind the scenes is just as significant, such as his quick connection with rookie Cam Thomas.

“I don’t think I can put it into words. I haven’t seen many players like that,” said Marks. “I was fortunate prior to my time in Brooklyn to be around some elite players being a journeyman. Watching Steve Nash, watching how he prepares for games and how he takes care of his body. Watching Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili and how competitive they are. Chris Paul. Kevin is like that. These guys want to master their craft. They don’t just want to be good, they want to be elite. You watch how Kevin approaches even a day like today where he’s been off for All-Star weekend.

“I know we talk about this a lot but it’s something I have to say again. Every single rep is at game speed and that’s not easy to do. You or I do one or two reps at game speed we’re seeing a chiropractor. Kevin does it over and over again. We watch him in a game — and it would be great if you guys could see him behind the scenes — you see him in a game and I’ve only known him for a couple years now, you go, I’ve seen that move 2,000 times, and he does it every single practice and it transfers right to the court. Great lesson for the young guys out there.”

ON PATTY MILLS

The free agent signing of guard Patty Mills has been a blessing for Brooklyn. After 10 seasons as one of the league’s top sixth men in San Antonio, Mills has started a career-high 41 games in Brooklyn’s 59 games. He’s averaging a career-high 13.4 points per game and is the only player in the NBA in the top 10 in both 3-pointers made (186) and 3-point percentage (41.9) this season. That earned him his first invite to All-Star Weekend to compete in the 3-Point Contest.

Mills made the move to Brooklyn in the wake of leading Australia to an Olympic bronze medal, the country’s first, with a superlative 42-point show in the bronze medal game.

“Very impressive. I’m not surprised,” said Marks. “He actually told us that during free agency. He said, look, I’m coming in here with the Olympic Patty mentality. I’m going to let it fly. I’m having fun. I know what’s at stake here. I know the goals that this organization has. He’s been terrific. He’s been somebody that Steve has been able to lean on. Obviously, I have. We’ve all gravitated to Patty. He is such a charismatic personality. It’s electric. People want to be around him and he’s just so welcome. There’s far more to Patty Mills than just a basketball player, and he’s a damn good basketball player.”

ON THE BROOKLYN FANS

Marks closed the event with a shout-out to the Brooklyn fans and their growing support.

“Personally, I’ve been here five and a half years. I know a lot of you guys out there and the 18,000 in this building have been Nets fans for decades,” said Marks. “I’ve been waiting a long time and I’ve put blood, sweat and tears into this, but it pales in comparison to what you guys have done so I really appreciate it and it comes from myself and ownership and the coaching staff and players. We really appreciate it. We appreciate hearing you. We appreciate your support without a doubt and I don’t just say that as a token thank you. It’s impressive. Every single night we come out here and see the fan base growing and as loud as it is, all I’ll say is, buckle up, hold on, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.”

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