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Brooklyn says ‘Hello’ to the new Nets

Lin Leads ‘High-Character, High-Quality’ Group of Additions to Roster

July 20, 2016 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Jeremy Lin of Knicks’ “Lin-Sanity” fame got his first taste of Brooklyn on Wednesday afternoon as he and five other new members of the Nets met the local media at Sunset Park’s HSS Training Center. Eagle photo by John Torenli
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Six of the 10 players added to the Brooklyn Nets’ roster this summer were on hand for a formal meet-and-greet with the local media Wednesday afternoon at Sunset Park’s HSS Training Center, kicking off an era general manager Sean Marks and first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson hope will be looked back upon as the turning point for a franchise still seeking its first-ever NBA title.

“It’s about bringing high-character, high-quality guys here,” Marks intimated before officially introducing Jeremy Lin, Trevor Booker, first-round draft pick Caris LaVert, Anthony Bennett, Justin Hamilton and Joe Harris to the throng of reporters gathered at the team’s Industry City practice facility.

“That’s what we went out and tried to find, and we did that,” Marks emphasized.

During their first four seasons here, the Nets were built on signing high-priced free agents – Deron Williams — and big-name players acquired via trade – Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce – in the hopes of entering our fair borough with a bang.

That formula worked, to a degree, as the Nets reached the playoffs in each of their first three seasons here, and even made it as far the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2013-14.

But the bottom dropped out of former GM Billy King’s and billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s original “Blueprint for Greatness” in Year Four, as the Nets finished a dismal 21-61, missing the postseason for the first time since arriving here in 2012 and watching attendance figures dwindle at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

Enter Marks, a product of the international flavor-based San Antonio Spurs’ organization, and Atkinson, noted throughout the NBA as a player development guru.

The two have brought in a bushel of new players, mixing still-developing youth with proven veterans, as their template for success in team building going forward.

“I see a great combination of youth and veterans,” said Atkinson, who lured Lin to Brooklyn via his previous connection with the point guard as an assistant coach with the arch rival Knicks during the well-chronicled “Lin-Sanity” era at Madison Square Garden back in February 2012.

“All these guys are going to fit the style we want to implement here with the Nets. We’ll figure out specific roles, but I like the Blueprint,” Atkinson added.

Blueprint II is admittedly designed for the long haul, not the quick fix.

The Nets aren’t fit to compete for a conference title, or perhaps even a playoff spot, in the upcoming 2016-17 campaign.

But Lin, tabbed as Atkinson’s “quarterback/full-time point guard” for the foreseeable future, believes in the vision Marks and his former coaching mentor have set up for Brooklyn basketball.

“I want to win, I’m 27-years-old and coming into this position. [Coach Atkinson’s] going to do everything he can to help us grow,” Lin said.

“On the defensive end, it’s going to be tight and a lot of team concepts and communication on the defensive end. That’s really, really important,” added Lin, who comes to Brooklyn after helping Charlotte make a breathtaking late-season run to the playoffs last year.

“On offense, I think it’s unselfishness. Guys coming in want each other to succeed. I know Kenny’s philosophy on basketball and we see eye to eye on moving the ball a lot.”

New additions Randy Foye, Luis Scola, Grevis Vasquez and Lincoln High School legend and second-round pick Isaiah Whitehead were not on hand Wednesday, either due to previous commitments or training for the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio.

But Marks is confident that this new combination of players will fit into what he and Atkinson see as the dawn of a new era of Brooklyn basketball, one that favors teamwork over star power.

“This is an exciting group,” Atkinson gushed. “We’re thrilled to get started.”

Lin, obviously the most well-known of the players brought here to support foundation piece and former All-Star center Brook Lopez, should benefit from being the unquestioned lead horse in a field littered with question marks.

Booker, a versatile power forward noted for his defensive grit, and Hamilton, a 7-foot center coming off an All-Star campaign in Spain, figure to shore up the paint for Brooklyn, which lost ultra-reliable big man Thaddeus Young, and the three years and $39 million remaining on his contract, in the draft-day deal for LaVert.

“Trevor is a proven veteran in the NBA,” Atkinson noted. “He’ll give us a toughness and defensive stability. I’d like him to lead our defense. … Justin will be a great complement to Brook.”

Scola, who is currently getting ready to compete for Team Argentina in Rio, is the oldest of the new additions at 37.

Vasquez, who spent last season with former Nets head coach Jason Kidd’s Milwaukee Bucks, is being looked upon, along with Lin, as a potential mentor for the likes of NBA backcourt neophytes like LaVert and Whitehead.

“Luis and Greivis are ideal fits for the team culture we are building in Brooklyn,” Marks said. “Both are terrific competitors who will provide leadership and veteran experience to our locker room.

“Luis adds toughness, scoring and passing ability to our frontline, while Greivis is effective from either backcourt position, both as a facilitator and a scorer.”

While it certainly won’t happen overnight, the Nets’ new brain trust feels that the influx of fresh talent will be the first step toward eventually hanging an NBA championship banner right here in Downtown Brooklyn.

“There’s a different vibe, different environment, something I want to be a part of,” Lin said.

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