The rebuilding in Brooklyn, New York is in full swing. There has been a conscious effort to change the narrative. Out went Jay – Z as the face of ownership. He has moved on to form his own sports agency. Billy King was sent packing. Lionel Hollins was the first casualty. Why did the Brooklyn Nets feel that this was the right time for change? The new bump in the salary cap was the most likely response. Also the current model was a failure.
The Brooklyn Nets Rebuilding Efforts
In order to place this off-season into proper context, a review of the previous season is in order. The Brooklyn Nets realized that their attempt at building a contender was in fact futile and began to make adjustments. First they reached a buyout settlement with the oft-injured and majorly disappointing point guard Deron Williams. Then they bought-out Joe Johnson’s contract and made him a free agent.
A Marked Man
In February the Nets made the decision after an exhaustive search to hire Sean Marks as the general manager. Marks was a former player, assistant coach and front office executive. He was an off-spring from the San Antonio Spurs tree. He learned under the leadership of both Gregg Popovich and R.C Buford, both of whom are widely regarded as top notch. He’s from New Zealand, where to be successful you must be tough. Marks came in with a simple mandate. This was to fix the calamity that Billy King caused.
Mistakes of Previous Regime
King’s tenure was an effort to make the Nets relevant as they transitioned from New Jersey to Brooklyn. He effectively mortgaged the Nets future against the present. In that he traded away all the draft picks he could to get established veterans. The Celtics were only too happy to accept the draft picks as payment to offload their aging veterans. To King’s credit the Nets made the playoffs three of the four seasons since relocating to Brooklyn.
Who is Kenny Atkinson?
Marks first order of business was to find a man suitable to lead this rebuild. Kenny Atkinson was just the person. Atkinson who is from New York was an assistant with the New York Knicks for four seasons before moving to the Atlanta Hawks. Atkinson even served as the Head Coach of the Dominican Republic national team recently. While at the Hawks Atkinson was as an assistant under Mike Budenholzer. Budenholzer has a relationship with Marks dating back to when both were members of the Spurs organization. Atkinson also served as the Houston Rockets Director of Player Development for one season. He has a reputation for developing young players, which will prove handy for the Nets moving forward. Atkinson was so coveted that Marks recruited him during the Hawks playoff run.
Time for New Blood
Key additions to the team this was led by Jeremy Lin. Others include Trevor Booker, Anthony Bennett, Randy Foye, Greivis Vasquez, Luis Scola, Joe Harris and Justin Hamilton. Caris LeVert, and Isaiah Whitehead were the players selected for the Nets in this year’s draft. Indiana University stalwart Yogi Ferrell also signed with the Nets after going undrafted.
Jeremy Lin in particular is a player with star potential. Remember, Linsanity from three seasons back? Lin is a star in the making. He has the charm and humility necessary to endear him to fans of the most famous borough. Lin is a point guard and floor general. As a pro, his road is well documented and so are his shortcomings. His experience in the playoffs should also pay dividends as well.
He was educated at Harvard where he majored in Economics and has a minor in Sociology. Despite public perception, it’s better to have a smart than purely athletic. Lin has been an underdog throughout his entire basketball career, dating back to high school in California. He represented Harvard very well doing his collegiate days earning All-Ivy League honors in three of his seasons there.
Lin is expected to be Coach Atkinson’s eyes and ears on the court, his metaphorical right-hand. He has great court vision, and is a willing passer. He’s very aggressive driving the lane. His three-point shot is fair to pretty good in terms of accuracy. He’s a pesky defender and has no issue being physical when needed. Lin in effect is a poor man’s version of Steve Nash, that plays defense.
Back We Go to the Brook
Make no mistake, the Nets will go where Brook Lopez takes them. Another academically inclined player, Lopez was an All-Star in 2013. As the center, Lopez is literally the pivot/fulcrum of the Nets offense. Lopez is a surefire average of at least fifteen (15) points, seven (7) rebounds, and one and a half (1.5) blocks per game. Lopez has shot over fifty percent (50%) from the field throughout his career. He is also a consistent free throw shooter with eighty percent (80%) accuracy. When he plays and dominates the Nets win, simple as that.
Bojan the Beast
Bojan Bogdanovic has improved steadily throughout his tenure as a Net. Now entering his third season, Bogdanovic is expected to take that leap in performance. It is expected that his workload will increase. He performed very well at the recently concluded 2016 Rio Olympics where he represented Croatia. This performance provided optimism to the Brooklyn faithful. His shooting from long range is an asset in this new age NBA where success depends on ‘pace and space.’
Redemption Opportunity Knocks
Anthony Bennett was the first overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2013 NBA draft. Thus he was the first Canadian ever selected at number one. Unfortunately Bennett was considered a disappointment from day one. After one season in Cleveland he was jettisoned to Minnesota as part of the Kevin Love trade. After an uneasy year, Bennett was waived by the Timberwolves. He signed with the Toronto Raptors in 2015. They sent the NBDL twice and waived. Bennett’s work rate and desire was brought into question on several occasions. His inability to pick his team’s offensive schemes and sets. A new year under Coach Atkinson maybe just what the doctor ordered.
Randy Foye was the seventh overall pick by the Celtics. He literally became a journeyman before ever playing a game as he was traded to Trailblazers and then on the Timberwolves. In Minnesota, he was part of what can only be described as a dysfunctional family. Three seasons later, Foye was traded to the Washington Wizards. While there he was implicated in the Gilbert Arenas affair. Over the following six seasons, Foye played for four different teams. The fact that he keeps getting chances prove his potential is evident. One must remember that he was the Big East Player of the Year beating out Rudy Gay while at Villanova. A native of New Jersey, playing in New York is coming home to play with the Nets.
Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead are the rookies the Nets are looking to for contributions. They are expected to play significant roles in the rebuilding process. Both men had to come through some challenges and disappointment to get to the league. Whitehead, though supremely talented was inconsistent at Seton Hall and that relegated him to being a second-round pick. LeVert has injury concerns in his past including the scary “Jones fracture.” Fortuitous that the physician who performed his surgery, just happens to be on the Nets staff. If all goes well, LeVert expects to be ready for training camp. One must remember that Kevin Durant suffered a similar injury in October 2014. Safe to say Durant recovered pretty well, and LeVert expects to do the same.
This is a Process
The upcoming season is not solely about wins and losses. It’s about development. It is about rebuilding the Brooklyn Nets franchise.The Nets have made it crystal clear that they are about taking their time. Marks and Atkinson are collectively starting from scratch. They have the full support of the ownership group led by Mikhail Prokhorov as well as the fans. The Nets washed away the King era and all of its remnants . The Nets have started anew and they are okay with it.