Burned by their Large 3, the Nets are relcalibrating what they need most


Nets proprietor Joe Tsai admitted that managing NBA gamers, juggling varied egos and alpha personalities, was “troublesome.” Few house owners in professional sports activities have ever discovered that lesson as publicly or painfully as Tsai.

Brooklyn has been a crystal-clear instance of that, and a evident cautionary story.

Tsai’s dynasty that by no means was.

The Nets assiduously constructed a supposed superteam on paper, solely to look at their three superstars — Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant — gentle that paper on hearth.

Tsai had a wan smile when he made his feedback throughout a speech on the BEYOND Expo 2023 opening ceremony in Macao, the e-commerce billionaire speaking about how AI would revolutionize the leisure business. However his comments about juggling NBA personas had been on-point.

“So we’re going to redefine digital leisure,” stated Tsai, the co-founder of Alibaba. “I’ll take you thru an instance of filmmaking. In making a movie, there are plenty of issues. What are the issues? OK, we have now to resolve who to select. Now we have to resolve the actors and actresses, proper?

“And actors and actresses are human beings. They’re very, very troublesome to handle. Consider me, I handle a basketball crew, and the gamers are very troublesome to handle. If you happen to’re in Hollywood, it’s very, very troublesome to handle individuals.”


Nets proprietor Joe Tsai may need he might use his AI leisure plans to substitute for precise gamers after the drama he has tried to navigate over the previous few years.
Getty Photographs

Let’s put apart for a second the continuing Hollywood writers’ strike — one which has quickly shelved the procuring of a Ronny Chieng pilot a few Nets GM loosely primarily based on Tsai. His feedback — about how Alibaba’s AI can change digital leisure — additionally apply to NBA gamers, as he discovered the onerous method. They weren’t as a lot controversial as confirming what Nets followers already knew.

Earlier than 2019 free company, The Publish had reported that there was inside debate in Brooklyn over turning the team’s culture over to Irving if he didn’t include one other star. Seems they had been proper to be frightened, and apparently not frightened sufficient, as a result of even their Large Three wasn’t sufficient insurance coverage.

Basic supervisor Sean Marks put collectively arguably essentially the most potent offensive trio in league historical past, solely to have all three demand trades inside a 12 months span.

Irving missed two-thirds of final season for refusing to stick to New York Metropolis’s COVID-19 mandate, and that absence contributed to Harden demanding a transfer simply days earlier than the commerce deadline.

Durant requested a trade last summer, in addition to the firing of each Marks and then-coach Steve Nash. After Tsai quickly satisfied the previous MVP to remain, Irving’s suspension this season and trade demand in February had been the straws that broke Brooklyn’s again. Durant asked out again, and the Nets dealt them each inside days, shutting their championship window.

Superstars welcome?


Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers drives to the basket during the game against the Utah Jazz on March 22, 2023 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Damian Lillard’s shut connection to Mikal Bridges has put him on the Nets’ radar ought to the Path Blazers star ask out of Portland.
NBAE by way of Getty Photographs

Tough to handle? Yeah, that will be an understatement. However issue typically comes connected to expertise. Would the Nets be gun shy about buying and selling for high-profile superstars once more (read: Damian Lillard)? Would they’ve second ideas?

Maybe — so long as that thought is ensuring they choose the suitable stars.

“It’s an important query and one thing that we’ve considered so much and can proceed to consider as we go, involving all of the individuals in these selections,” Marks stated.

“That doesn’t imply we don’t look again and say, ‘What if?’ Had we finished this? Ought to we have now finished this? So it provides us a second to replicate and say, ‘Properly, did we have now the suitable course of in place? Have been we actually, actually prepared for that group? Was the borough of Brooklyn prepared? Was the crew prepared? Was the encircling prepared once you herald Kevin, Kai and James and that group?’ However on the identical time, that period is gone and we’re onto one thing new right here.”

What individuals do is commonly extra instructive than what they are saying. And in Brooklyn’s case, that one thing new may be very telling.

After a lot chaos and unavailability throughout their failed Large Three experiment — Durant’s accidents, Irving’s suspensions and vaccine refusals, and many others., and many others. — the Nets have clearly taken nice pains to rebuild with gamers they will belief and depend on.

They’d years of historical past with Spencer Dinwiddie, and Dorian Finney-Smith is a famous glue man. Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges are well-regarded as high-character sorts. The latter — who was the centerpiece of the Durant commerce — hasn’t missed a recreation since his junior 12 months in highschool.


Mikal Bridges #1 of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles against Tobias Harris #12 of the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half of Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs at Barclays Center on April 20, 2023 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
The truth that Mikal Bridges hasn’t missed a recreation since junior excessive guarantees the Nets the type of reliability they not often loved with their Large 3.
Getty Photographs

Privately, Brooklyn coaches and executives have talked in regards to the reliability the newcomers have introduced. They’ve handled troublesome; now they’re trying to do drama-free.

“I simply suppose, yeah, it was completely different for them,” Bridges stated. “Clearly, earlier than the commerce and stuff with all the pieces that was most likely happening round right here it simply most likely felt like extra than simply basketball at that time.”

All-in or in no way

With a bevy of draft picks and glut of 3-and-D wings, Marks will certainly be busy this upcoming summer time. The Nets need to add size, rebounding and shot creation. However most of all, they want gamers who wish to be Nets.

“It’s obtained to come back authentically. It’s obtained to be actual,” Marks stated. “I imply, I feel we’ve seen it earlier than, not simply right here however across the league. You convey any person in and it’s not genuine to who they’re. We wish to ensure that people who wish to come right here wish to be a part of one thing particular and being a part of Brooklyn and a part of this distinctive scenario.

“Continuity is a giant factor. It’s a crew sport. It’s not about one or two gamers. You’re going to need to have participant 5, participant seven, participant 9 be on the identical web page with the coach, on the identical web page as participant one, two and three. So continuity is huge; it’s one thing that’s not misplaced on us for positive. … Will we construct fast and expedite this factor, as a result of a participant comes round that we all know, ‘Hey, this participant would match inside a bunch and provides us a chance to actually get again in and be contenders once more?’ That might occur, however on the identical time, I don’t suppose we’re in any hurry.”


Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks speaking to the media during a press conference at the Nets training facility in Brooklyn, New York.
Nets GM Sean Marks stated he isn’t in a rush to construct a roster that might be pieced along with a watch on continuity and chemistry.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Publish

If Lillard turned accessible, not a minimum of gauging the asking worth could be malfeasance, particularly with the Portland famous person figuring out within the summers with Bridges and calling the latter his favourite small ahead within the league.

He additionally would match the Nets’ new mission of swapping troublesome for drama-free.

Draft watch

Brooklyn will choose at No. 21 and No. 22 within the first spherical of the NBA Draft on June 22 at Barclays Heart, though many all through the league consider they might transfer a kind of picks in a commerce.

The Nets introduced in North Carolina State’s Terquavion Smith for a non-public exercise on Could 10, in response to an Instagram story from the 6-foot-4 sophomore guard that has since expired.

Smith averaged 17.9 factors, 4.1 rebounds, and three.6 assists for the Wolfpack, albeit on subpar 38 p.c taking pictures.



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