Marks still believes Nets can win it all
General manager optimistic as stretch run approaches
James Harden is gone.
Kevin Durant is still on the mend.
Kyrie Irving can’t play in Brooklyn.
The Nets have lost 12 of their last 14 games.
What does all this mean to Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks as the team prepares to return from the All-Star break?
“Championship. I mean, that’s it. I would be doing 17 players and another 60 staff members over there a massive disservice if I said anything other than that because that’s why we’re all here,” Marks said from the team’s practice facility at Sunset Park’s HSS Training Center Tuesday evening.
“We have an incredible ownership group. Joe Tsai, talk about putting your chips in the middle. He has supported us and supported us and continues to support us,” Marks added. “From that standpoint, we know what our expectations are.”
Those expectations may have been lowered by a fan base starved for the franchise’s first-ever title and Brooklyn’s first major pro sports championship since the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the 1955 World Series.
But don’t tell that to Marks, who has watched his team fall from the top spot in the Eastern Conference to fighting for its playoff life as the No. 8 seed in a potential play-in tournament in the past month.
He thanked the Brooklyn fan base for sticking by the team, which is hoping Durant can return soon after the All-Star break.
“Personally, I’ve been here five and a half years. I know a lot of you guys out there and the 18,000 in this building have been Nets fans for decades,” said Marks to a collection of season-ticket holders at the event.
“I’ve been waiting a long time and I’ve put blood, sweat and tears into this, but it pales in comparison to what you guys have done so I really appreciate it and it comes from myself and ownership and the coaching staff and players.”
While the Big Three is no longer and Irving is still waiting for New York City vaccination mandates to be altered so he can suit up in Brooklyn, Marks is expecting a big lift when Durant returns.
“Kevin does it over and over again,” Marks said of the two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. “We watch him in a game — and it would be great if you guys could see him behind the scenes — you see him in a game and I’ve only known him for a couple years now, you go, I’ve seen that move 2,000 times, and he does it every single practice and it transfers right to the court. Great lesson for the young guys out there.”
Young or old, the Nets (31-28) will enter their final 23 games with a reshuffled roster.
Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond were the key pieces Brooklyn got back in the trade-deadline deal that sent Harden to Philadelphia.
Rookies like Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe have emerged as useful pieces and the Nets brought in Gorin Dragic Tuesday via free agency to help the team adjust to Irving’s home absences.
“It was really intriguing to me to see the relationship that Goran and [Nets head coach] Steve [Nash] have, the respect they have for one another and really the respect Goran had for Steve for many, many years ago,” Marks said.
Whether they go all the way this year or not, at least Nets fan know that a championship remains the goal.
Hearing it from the GM in the midst of Brooklyn’s worst stretch of the season had to be heartening.
“We really appreciate it. We appreciate hearing you. We appreciate your support without a doubt and I don’t just say that as a token thank you,” Marks said. “It’s impressive. Every single night we come out here and see the fan base growing and as loud as it is, all I’ll say is, buckle up, hold on, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.”
That ride begins Thursday night here at Downtown’s Barclays Center, where the Nets will host the Boston Celtics.
In local high school sports news, Alex Basner of the Brooklyn Friends School boys’ basketball team had a shining moment to remember last week.
The senior standout scored a team-high 39 points in an Independent Schools Athletic League quarterfinal triumph over Mary McDowell, including the 1,000th of his stellar career at the Pearl Street institution on his 10th made 3-pointer of the contest.
Though the Blue Pride lost in the ISAL Championship Game last Thursday, Basner’s milestone was the latest major accomplishment for a program that is not only developing young players, but fine young men.
“Alex has always been a terrific beacon of sportspersonship in his time at BFS,” said Blue Pride Director of Athletics David Gardella.
“He exemplifies what it means to be a student-athlete and is what ‘Blue Pride’ is all about. It was so great to see him celebrate such a huge accomplishment with his teammates in what was a great team victory.”
Basner, who finished his varsity career with 1,046 points, opted to thank others for No. 1,000.
“I’m very happy that I was able to reach this milestone, but I couldn’t have done it without everyone involved,” Basner noted humbly.
“As coach always says. ‘basketball is a team sport, when one person accomplishes something, the entire team accomplishes it.’ Scoring points is cool but winning games is what matters ”
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