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Marks, Atkinson Eager To Put Nets’ New Pieces Into Play

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Brooklyn Nets may have plenty of new faces this season, but their goals are basically the same.

In the first year of general manager Sean Marks’ multiyear rebuild, the Nets finished with the NBA’s worst record in 2016-17, going just 20-62.

At a news conference Tuesday, Marks said he was hesitant to quantify his goals for the team this season, saying only that he hopes to see his young players continue to develop.

“As we saw last year (with point guard Jeremy Lin), one major injury can derail every plan you may have had and so forth,” Marks said. “So for us, it’s going to be about staying fluid throughout the year. See what happens. I’m obviously a big proponent of developing players, and the guy next to me (head coach Kenny Atkinson), that’s what he does. So it’s how he develops these guys over the course of the year.”

Brooklyn Nets general manager Kenny Atkinson. Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Gone from last year are Brook Lopez, Bojan Bogdanovic and Randy Foye. New to the team are D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov, DeMarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe and Jarrett Allen.

Replacing Lopez, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer who was dealt to the Lakers, will be no small task. With the exception of a couple of injury-plagued seasons, he manned center for the Nets for the past nine years.

MORE: D’Angelo Russell On WFAN: Nets ‘Could Definitely Put Something Together’

Brooklyn acquired Mozgov in the Lakers trade and then spent the 22nd overall pick on Texas center Jarrett Allen. The Nets, who open training camp next week, also signed former Celtic Tyler Zeller for depth.

“Losing Brook will be a challenge for our bigs, but that’s a great opportunity for some guys to step up,” Atkinson said. “Obviously, Timmy Mozgov had a great Eurobasket (tournament), so we’re excited about that. Excited about our rookie. I think he’s going to be really good. I think we’ll have to do it by committee at the big-guy position.”

Atkinson seemed particularly excited about Allen’s potential.

“Just seeing him in the gym, I think you’re seeing a guy whose athletic ability is pretty impressive, how fast he gets up and down the court, how quick he is off his feet, how well he moves. When we’re talking about modern kind of five men (centers) in this league, he kind of fits the bill.

“Listen, I don’t want to make the guy Kareem Abdul-Jabbar right off the bat, but definitely excited about him.”

The Nets must also replace Lopez’s leadership. Who will emerge? Marks said that, too, could be a role that is done by committee, but he did note that Carroll, who was part of winning teams in Atlanta and Toronto in recent years, “knows what he’s doing out there, and he didn’t come here to lose, so he’ll hold these guys accountable.”

The most notable addition was Russell, whom the Lakers drafted with the second overall pick in 2015. Just 21 years old, Russell is still developing. If there is a superstar in the making on the team, it’s him.

Nets guard D’Angelo Russell (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

“D’Angelo knows the expectations of him,” Marks said. “He wants to come in. He has a chip on his shoulder. He knows that defensively he’s got to get better, but he’s got to get better at a lot of different things, his all-around game. We all know he makes players better. He’s got a high basketball IQ. Now how does he take that on the court here with a new group of guys that he’s never played with before? And how do they develop trust together?”

While both Russell and Lin both predominantly played point guard last season, Atkinson believes they can see plenty of minutes together in his system, which allows for multiple ball handlers.

“I just think they’re good guys that are good basketball players,” Atkinson said. “I really believe that we can make it work. They’re both going to play. … The great thing about those guys is they’ve both played the wing in this league, too. They’ve both played two (shooting guard), and they both can guard the position. So it kind of fits into what we’re doing.”

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