NEW YORK (AP) — Sean Marks started stumping for the Brooklyn Nets even before the season ended.
The Nets had just fallen into a 3-1 hole in a heated series with the Philadelphia 76ers last Saturday when Marks entered the referees’ locker room to complain. The NBA ended up fining the general manager $25,000 and suspending him for a game.
Marks said Thursday he had apologized and didn’t condone breaking league rules, but also made it clear he would be speaking up for his organization.
“It’s about standing up for your team and standing up for what you believe in and sending a message at what I deemed to be the right time and so forth,” Marks said.
Soon it will be time to bring the message to free agents.
Coming off a surprisingly successful season in which the Nets went 42-40 and returned to the postseason, the challenge now is balancing the building plan Marks has followed since arriving with the need to add significantly more talent than Brooklyn has in place.
“I’m not sure there’s pressure to act frivolously or just out of the norm,” Marks said. “I think this is something, if the right player is available, obviously like any other team we’ll target those guys. But we’ll just see how this thing builds out. Again, it’s not fast forwarding, it’s not about skipping steps.”
Marks had no choice but to build slowly when he arrived during the 2015-16 season. The Nets had no significant salary cap space and had dealt away years of draft picks in the 2013 trade with Boston to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. He drafted well from lower spots, signed cheaper free agents who performed well, and the Nets gradually improved to the point of finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference this season.
Now they have money, perhaps enough to sign a maximum salary free agent. Some players seemed to indicate on Wednesday the Nets need to sign a player of that caliber.
“Now the challenge for us and Sean is — I know kind of the message from our players is — we want more,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I don’t think we’re sitting here satisfied.”
But Atkinson believes this season proved the Nets are doing things right. He wants to stay the course, rather than lobbying Marks to rush out and sign players who might have the ability but not the makeup to fit the way they want to build.
The Nets also have to decide on their own free agents, particularly D’Angelo Russell. He was a first-time All-Star this season and could be a restricted free agent, allowing the Nets to match any offer he receives. Marks called Russell a Net, but also indicated both sides would have decisions to make this summer.
“I think D’Angelo knows how we feel about him,” Marks said.
“Our job is to keep talent on the floor and to get better talent and to keep developing that talent, so we’ll see where it all ends up.”
With Russell leading the way, the Nets’ strength was in the backcourt, along with fellow guards Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris, the NBA’s leading 3-point shooter. Brooklyn’s biggest weakness seems to be in the frontcourt, though Marks wouldn’t commit to any particular need.
“I can probably go down the list of things just like Kenny can and say, ‘I’d like that, that, that and this,'” Marks said. “It comes a point where you can’t get it all at once and I think we try to do that, that’s when all of a sudden, you fast forward the model, you fast forward the build and you end up perhaps having to dig yourself out of a hole.”
Unlike the last few years, the Nets enter the offseason with momentum. They play an exciting style under Atkinson in an attractive market, and that should only help Marks the next time he goes shopping for players.
“It’s going to attract free agents,” Marks said. “People are going to want to play here, they’re going to want to play for Kenny, they’re going to want to play in Brooklyn, they’re going to play for this ownership group. I think we have a lot of things going for us.”
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