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Nets restock front office with familiar faces

Add Hawks’ Peterson, Spurs’ Birdsong as assistant general managers

May 28, 2019 JT Torenli
Nets GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson went back to their former organizations in search of front-office help, hiring assistant GMs Jeff Peterson from Atlanta and Andy Birdsong from San Antonio during the Memorial Day weekend. AP Photo by Kathy Willens

With the NBA Draft three weeks away and a critical free agent signing period looming soon thereafter, the Brooklyn Nets spent Memorial Day weekend restocking their front office.

After losing assistant general manager Trajan Langdon to the New Orleans Pelicans earlier this month, the Nets countered by hiring a pair of executives that Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson are both quite familiar with.

On Saturday, Marks announced the addition of Atlanta Hawks assistant GM Jeff Peterson to serve in the same capacity here, and tacked on Spurs director of player personnel Andy Birdsong as a second assistant GM.

Brooklyn, which also waved bye-bye to G-League coach Will Weaver, assistant coach Chris Fleming and director of global scouting Gianluca Pascucci during this offseason, has orchestrated one of the biggest two-year turnarounds in the modern history of the NBA.

The Nets have gone from the NBA’s worst (20-62 in 2016-17) to reaching the playoffs and posting their first winning campaign in five years (42-40 in 2018-19) during that span, thanks mostly to Marks’ roster-building and Atkinson’s player development.

Though they were eliminated in five games by the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round of the playoffs, the Nets doubtlessly boosted their stock as an attractive destination for pending free agents, some their own and others from around the NBA.

In order to continue their push toward the franchise’s first-ever NBA title, the Nets went shopping for executives in the former homes of their two organizational gurus.

Peterson spent the past seven years with Atlanta, where Atkinson earned his stripes as one of the league’s top assistants from 2012-16 before taking over head-coaching duties here.

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Birdsong, who was also the GM of the Spurs’ G-League affiliate before coming to Downtown Brooklyn, spent three years in Atlanta working alongside Atkinson as manager of basketball operations.

Marks, who won NBA championships as a player, assistant coach and assistant GM in San Antonio before helming the Nets’ ship, was excited to bring both executives to our fair borough.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jeff and his wife, Lauren, to Brooklyn,” Marks said in a team-issued statement Saturday.

“Jeff is an innovative basketball executive who shares our strategic team building vision and will fit seamlessly within our culture,” he added. “His extensive scouting and front office experience will be tremendous assets to our group as we continue to move forward.”

Less than 48 hours later, Birdsong was added to the mix.

“Andy is an accomplished basketball executive who brings a wealth of experience in talent evaluation and roster construction to our front office team,” Marks noted.

“The knowledge he has garnered from his time as a member of such exemplary organizations as the Spurs and the Hawks will greatly benefit our group. We are excited to welcome Andy, his wife, Megan, and his son, Ace, to Brooklyn.”

Peterson and Birdsong will now get busy trying to figure out how the Nets will make the most of their two first-round picks (17th and 27th overall) and a second-round selection (31st) during the June 20 NBA Draft at Barclays Center.

They’ll also help Marks make some important decisions regarding the pending restricted free agency of All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell, as well as the potential signings of one, or perhaps even two, maximum contract players from a long list of big names that will hit the open market on July 1.

With two new executives in place, the Nets hope to at least make a bid for pending free agents like Golden State Warriors superstar and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant. AP Photo by Ben Margot
With two new executives in place, the Nets hope to at least make a bid for pending free agents like Golden State Warriors superstar and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant. AP Photo by Ben Margot

Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are among the most notable players that Marks and his restructured executive team can lure to Brooklyn this summer.

But Peterson and Birdsong are also here because they fit in perfectly with Marks’ and Atkinsons’ collective team-building vision.

One that has elevated the Nets from the depths of NBA irrelevancy to bonafide Eastern Conference playoff contenders.

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In local college sports news, LIU-Brooklyn men’s track-and-field standout Roderick Moodie saw his brilliant campaign come to an end in Jacksonville, Florida following a 23rd-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles at the NCAA East Regionals Saturday.

Moodie, who advanced to the quarterfinal event via a third-place finish on Friday, was unable to advance to the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas, but finishes his career as a Blackbird with program records in both the 60- and 110-meter hurdles.

The Kingston, Jamaica native posted a time of 13.99 on Friday, just shy of his personal best of 13.95, set back in April at the 125th running of the Penn Relays.

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