Sean Marks is as patient as Kenny Atkinson is positive. The Brooklyn Nets general manager is a long-term thinker, while the coach is unrelentingly upbeat and energetic.
So while neither was satisfied with the Nets’ 20-62 record this season, they weren’t shaken from their long-term plan in their season-ending press conference on Monday. They are laying a new foundation in Brooklyn and patience, planning and positivity are its key pillars.
“Obviously the losses weren’t easy, but we understood what we were getting into,” Atkinson said. “I know in the long run that the adversity we had to face – it’s almost like you deserve to face that, this is what it is – I think it made me a better coach, it made our players better players just to go through that struggle. So I liked the process and looking back on it, having to fight through some tough times. I think that will make us better in the long run.”
The long run; that’s where the thinking was on Monday, no different than on May 16 of last year, when Atkinson was introduced as the team’s head coach, or three months prior to that, when Marks was introduced as GM.
“We know that none of us are happy – and that includes our players – winning 20 games,” Marks said. “We know we have to build on this, we have to continue to build and continue to get the right caliber of players to fit into this group and be strategic along the way.”
Both Atkinson and Marks are hoping these days are behind them and they are encouraged by the Nets’ 11-13 record from March 1 until the end of the season. They liked the way Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez meshed together and elevated the team once Lin returned from multiple hamstring injuries, as well as the development of rookies Isaiah Whitehead and Caris LeVert.
Marks said it was nice to end the season on an uptick, but that the team’s finish won’t tempt him to buck the long-term plan in favor of a quick fix this offseason. That being said, he’ll still be involved in both the restricted and unrestricted free agent markets.
“The objective for us is to be in the playoffs. When that comes, we’ll see,” Marks said. “You don’t want to go and sign free agents and then the next thing you know your payroll is capped out and you’re a 25-win team. We’re going to have to build this strategically, have patience with it.”
The coach and GM highlighted other positive steps this season including Lopez’s evolution into a 34.6% three-point shooter.
“Brook in both of our minds is one of the elite centers in the league, there’s no question there,” Marks said. “You look at the way his game has translated, not only in Kenny’s system, but in the offseason, how he’s worked hard on performance aspect, changing his body and changing his game and adapting a bit. Does he fit in Kenny’s system? I think we’ve seen that he does.”
Marks also praised Atkinson’s development as a head coach, a role Atkinson said he grew into as the season progressed. Between Marks’ first full season as GM and Atkinson’s first go-around as an NBA