This morning on the Brooklyn Nets Facebook page, Nets on YES analyst Sarah Kustok sat down with Brooklyn Nets General Manager Sean Marks, and asked a few questions about the start to the Nets season, some of the surprises and dissapointments, along with some questions from Brooklyn season ticket holders. Below is the transcription of the interview, or you can head to the Nets facebook page to watch the interview.
Sarah Kustok: Sean obviously it’s been a busy time for you, but looking at the big picture of things. What do you think Nets best strategy is over the next five years? Building through the draft, or through (free) agency?
Sean Marks: Well I think it’s probably a combination of all of the above, we obviously have a strategy moving forward, but that strategy needs to remain fluid. So depending how this years free agent goes, and this years draft goes, we may take some little detours a long the way. But again, I think we know what we want, in the type of player that fits into this Nets identity, and into the Brooklyn culture here. We’ll use a combination of not only the draft, and free agency, but scouting Europe and the D-League.
SK: Just your creativity, I feel like that’s something that you have already shown early on this season and through the offseason.
SM: Yeah, well we are going to have to be creative, it’s no surprise the sort of hands that we have been dealt here. But again, I look at it like it’s a great opportunity for not only myself but Kenny, the whole coaching staff, the front office that’s here, to dig in and do something pretty unique and pretty special in an incredible environment.
SK: To say the least, it’s been at fantastic at Barclay’s Center. What has been the biggest surprise and biggest disappointment to date?
SM: Well I don’t know if there’ been a whole lot of disappointment, I think one would obviously be the unfortunate injuries, namely loosing Jeremy (Lin) with the hamstring. But then I look at that and say we can take some positives out of that. Isaiah Whitehead has had an opportunity to step right in there, getting some pretty meaningful NBA minutes that he probably wouldn’t have otherwise this early in his career. Other than that, I don’t know that there’s been disappointments along the way, I will say that it’s never a dull moment. We like it, when you’re starting to build something from scratch here, taking ownership in it. I think it’s great when you see everyone coming in here with new, fresh ideas, and that’s what we’re all about. The surprises along the way, I don’t know that it would be a surprise, but how the players have revelled and jumped into Kenny’s culture and the practice plans and the environment that not only Kenny, but his staff, his staff have done an incredible job of really showing the players how much they care about them. If you come to practice, you see that emotion, you see what guys go through in practice, it’s a great environment. So I don’t know if its a surprise, but it’s great to see.
SK: I know Kenny gets asked about it a lot, you mention Jeremy (Lin) being out, what has his progress been like as he works to get back?
SM: Jeremy is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever seen. I don’t think he’ll mind me saying this but he said “I’m used to proving people wrong, I’ve done that my whole life. I’m going to prove people wrong coming back from this injury.” I said “look, just take your time, you don’t need to prove them wrong by coming back too soon. So just take your time.” You know you’ve got the right guy, the right fibre, when one of your lead players says something like “I want to prove people wrong, I’m itching to get back”. He’s so vocal, still at practice, in the locker room, and has been from day one when he was out with his injury. He’s progressing well, I don’t want to put a time limit on it, or a day, but I suspect it’s pretty soon.
SK: And the positive from that you mentioned, Isaiah Whitehead, how much has he grown in your eyes in the short time that he’s got on the floor?
SM: It’s been great, we know with any young guys coming into the league, you’re going to have to live with some of the good and some of the bad. Initially, Isaiah’s first step in the league was woah, the game fast, the pace of the game, and the size of the athletes and so forth. I think he’s getting used to it, used to using his body, he’s a big kid and he’s using it well. For him it’s about never taking a moment off, a day off, and always staying in tune and in the moment. We’re seeing him growing and his progression, so he’s done a nice job.
SK: How different has it been for you to build up a team in Brooklyn as a general manger? And is this what you anticipated coming into this role?
SM: I’m not sure that you ever know quite what to anticipate, or what you’re getting yourself into. I will say this, it’s been a great challenge, I love coming to work every day. Everyone here feels pretty much the game, I think we enjoy collaborating together, we enjoy pushing each other. Not only front office, but coaching staff, and players too. It’s a real collaborative effort here, the players have a voice, it’s fun for me just to see this grow. We know it’s going to come, it’s been exciting.
SK: We know you had the background experience from San Antonio, Kenny from Atlanta, how has this continued to grow that is Brooklyn?
SM: You hit it right on the head, we’re going to make this Brooklyn’s culture, we’re going to make this the Brooklyn grit, whatever you want to call it, the catchphrases used here. It goes without saying that I’m going to be associated with San Antonio, and Kenny with Atlanta from the past, but were going to build this as ours. We’re going to take some of the things we’ve learned along the way, along my playing and coaching career, and Kenny is the same. We’ll try to make this something special, and our own Brooklyn culture here.
SK: How do you feel about the progress of the team, and the speed of all the players on the court?
SM: The progress of the team has been good, it’s been unfortunate that we probably haven’t won a couple more games along the way. I look at a guy like Trevor (Booker) for instance, he’s been asked to fill a much larger role this year. As Kenny said, in his opening, player development isn’t just about helping Isaiah Whitehead and Caris LeVert, it’s developing Brook Lopez, Trevor and the rest of these guys that have been in the league five, six or ten years. Trevor has been given the opportunity to play different minutes, larger minutes, different periods of the game. The ball is in his hands, we all love watching him go coast-to-coast, grab the defensive rebound and push the pace, something Kenny and the staff are asking him to do more of. Trevor’s tenacity and aggressive style really fits in with what we’re trying to do, and I know the fans love that too.
SK: How many years in advance does your vision extend, are you looking at this year, or next, or down the road, in terms of roster construction and scouting?
SM: I think that goes back to what we were saying before in staying fluid, making sure that we are ready for any surprises along the way, because things change quickly. We can have everything planned out for the next six months or the next year or two years, and next thing you know, there’s a new CBA coming out, some teams make some drastic trades, some guy surprises you in the draft, or theres a good group of free agents that come up. In terms of the question, yes we’re planned out for sure one, two, three years from now, but we also know that it can change minute by minute. We just went through restricted free agency again, and things change, we just have to make sure that we are ready to adapt, grow, and move.
SK: We sit here in the HSS Training Center, home to not just the Brooklyn Nets, but the Long Island Nets, what has the D-League done for you? Being in the same building, playing at Barclay’s Center, for not only those players, but some of the Brooklyn Nets as well.
SM: Yeah, it’s terrific for these guys, the Long Island Nets, because we get to see them everyday. Practice is about to start in an hours time, so the front office of the Brooklyn Nets will be able to watch the Long Island Nets and pay close attention to them. It’s great when were able to assign Chris McCullough or Anthony Bennett, Yogi (Ferrell) has been back and forth, to Long Island where they get those meaningful game minutes. Then they come back up to Brooklyn, and the dividends pay off, especially when you look at a guy like Anthony Bennett, who goes down and plays a couple games, and next thing you know he’s called back up on Saturday against Milwaukee, and he ends up with fourteen rebounds. We’re seeing the advantages of having the Long Island Nets right here.
SK: Awesome, Sean, we can not thank you enough for your time.