NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Despite owning the NBA’s worst record, the Nets, at least on the surface, don’t appear to be a franchise in disarray.
Speaking to WFAN’s Evan Roberts in the Adorama Theatre on the StubHub Stage on Wednesday evening, Nets general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson said their rebuilding job is mostly going as planned and that spirits are mostly upbeat within the organization.
“With the group we brought in, the high character of our players, what we’re trying to accomplish as a team, Sean and I, it’s been a pleasurable experience despite not having a ton of victories, quite honestly,” Atkinson said of his first season as an NBA head coach. “More difficult than I thought the job (would be), but at the same time, just an enjoyable experience on a day-to-day basis.”
Marks and Atkinson have preached patience as they try to create a new culture with young talent in Brooklyn. It’s a multiyear process.
Marks, who took over last February, said being honest with players and fans has helped this season.
“We’re not going to sugarcoat it and tell people: ‘This is cake. We’re going to roll through here in six months, and it’s going be turned around and completely different,” he said.
Expectations were low to start the season, but being forced to play without point guard Jeremy Lin for 44 games due to hamstring injuries set the Nets even further back.
Atkinson admitted he’s caught himself wondering where the Nets (12-54) might be in the standings if Lin had stayed healthy all season.
“Yeah, you do think about that, and you’re human,” he said. “But I kind of try to twist it in a positive light, and looking at Isaiah Whitehead’s development, like going from his first game, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, is this guy an NBA player?’ to now you’re looking at him like, ‘This guy’s going to be a good player.’ Caris LeVert, the young guy, being in the starting lineup. So in a way, it wasn’t obviously ideal that he (Lin) got hurt, but other guys got opportunities to play. So I do understand the big picture and where we’re trying to go, so I do think it was a positive in a way. But definitely, in the ledger right now, it hurt us, there’s no doubt about it.”
Despite enduring dozens of defeats and being the only team mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the Nets have still been competing hard “97 percent of the time,” Atkinson said.
“There were a couple there (with poor effort), but that happens with every team in the NBA with the schedule the way it is,” Atkinson said. “But most of the time, they’ve been a joy to be around. Even the Oklahoma City game (a 122-104 loss Tuesday) … it wasn’t perfect, but I really felt like our guys are competing, they’re in the game, and we just have some stretches where we can’t put it together. But I do feel that’s getting better, and we’re improving.”
As for the next steps in the rebuild, Marks said he’ll look all over for players he believes are a good fit for the Nets.
“I’m off to Europe to scout over there,” he said. “We’ve obviously been scouting the D-League. As we mentioned earlier, we’ve got two first-round draft picks this year, so we’ll be creative in how that goes. And we’ll see. We’ll certainly try and play the free agent game, both unrestricted and restricted. Obviously if you’re in the restricted game, you just sort of roll the dice and see what happens, and that could be a way we go. But it’ll be very strategic in who we go after.”
To watch the interview, click on the video player above.