No Harden, no problem for stacked Nets
GM Marks: 'We like the roster we have now'
With less than a month to go before the most-anticipated season tip-off in Nets history, Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks isn’t looking for any more outside help at the moment.
Not even Houston Rockets superstar James Harden, who has been campaigning to make his way to Downtown Brooklyn since the COVID-19 abbreviated 2019-20 season ended.
“We like the roster we have now,” Marks said in the aftermath of making several smaller acquisitions and signings that further strengthened a team that is already front-loaded with twin superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
“I think it’s a good group of guys, a competitive group of guys. They’re obviously very talented, and it’ll be about how they mesh on the floor.”
Marks dawdled with the idea of trading some of his top home-grown talent, either Spencer Dinwiddie or Caris LeVert, and a bevy of draft picks to the Rockets for Harden, who was the league’s MVP in 2018 and played alongside Durant in Oklahoma City for several years at the start of his career.
But the price tag for a third superstar has apparently remained too high for Marks, who has built this team from the ground up over the past four seasons and is eager to see how it performs come Dec. 22, when the NBA starts its new year.
Thus far, Marks has made a few key tweaks to his team, getting rotation guards like Landry Shamet and Bruce Brown via a draft-day, three-team deal that cost Brooklyn its 2020 first-round pick, and signing veteran forward Jeff Green to a one-year deal.
The Nets’ top executive also took care of his top offseason priority this week, inking 3-point shooting savant Joe Harris to a four-year deal valued at a reported $75 million.
“Collectively as a group we obviously have big aspirations and goals,” said Harris after signing his contract.
“We are obviously not going to look super far ahead. We know it is a long road to where we want to go and it is about sort of taking it one day at a time and trying to get better, build that continuity. Build that chemistry. But at the end of the road, we definitely have championship aspirations and we would be fooling ourselves if we said we didn’t.”
The deal for Harden, who is coming off his eighth year in Houston and has expressed a desire to chase his first championship ring on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush, appears to be all but dead pending further developments.
And Marks doubled down on his belief that the Nets will be Eastern Conference contenders without going all in for Harden.
“If I make changes, if we change out the 15th guy, if we change up the No. 4 guy, the first guy, whatever it may be, that all adds a different dynamic to the camaraderie, to the spirit of things on the court,” noted Marks.
“So, I can’t really ask how that’s going to play out. The question is, we just have to be ready and flexible for whatever happens, and hopefully the decisions we make put the best roster available on the court. I couldn’t tell you how we would make trades and so forth, and whether that involves going after a bigger piece or whether that involves playing around the edges.”
Thus far, Marks has mastered the art of “playing around the edges”, picking up the likes of Harris, Dinwiddie and LeVert off the NBA scrap heap before turning them into legitimate rotation players and All-Star candidates.
He also went off script for his first big coaching hire, replacing interim Jacque Vaughn with Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash, who will coach his first NBA game when the Nets open their season, be it at Barclays Center or a bubble site.
Ultimately, this team will thrive or go bust based on the performances of Durant and Irving, both of whom came here in the summer of 2019 with the objective of delivering our borough’s first pro sports championship since 1955.
Marks is simply doing his best to keep his dynamic duo happy and thriving toward the franchise’s first-ever championship.
Adding Harden, especially if it’s after training camp begins next month, could be detrimental to the team-building Marks has done here since arriving in Brooklyn nearly five years ago.
“I think most teams are dealing with the same sort of situation, especially teams like you mentioned that haven’t had a couple of their pieces with them for a while,” said Marks.
“The good thing is we have a bunch of guys here who know why they’re here. They know what they’re a part of and they have a common goal, and that’s a good thing. Individual accolades and everything else will certainly be put on the backburner for an opportunity to hopefully do something special in Brooklyn.”
And it’s appearing more and more likely that the Nets will pursue that something special without Harden.
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