“I hope that I can capture all that I’ve learned and bring it to New Jersey,” Marks said during his introductory press conference before Friday’s game.
Nets chairman Dmitry Razumov looked like a deer staring into the headlights of an oncoming car beside Marks when his new GM said, “New Jersey.”
Fortunately for Brooklyn, that was the only hiccup in an otherwise flawless start to the Marks era on the court as the Nets beat the crosstown rival New York Knicks, 109-98, on Friday night despite being a 4 1/2-point underdog. (Note: If you want tips on where and where not to bet online, this site is recommended reading.)
The biggest challenge ahead for Marks will be rebuilding a competitive team without its own first-round draft pick until 2019.
“Sure, draft picks are one way to build a team, but there are several other places and other ways to go out there and do it,” Marks said. “Obviously you can commit to free agency. My staff and where I’ve learned, I’ve seen it done around the NBA where you’re building not only through free agency, but through the European market, you’re building within your D-League franchise and just developing players there. Yes, for sure, not having a draft pick as we stand right now, but that too can change.”
The current roster Marks inherited lacks many trade assets outside of Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young and rookies Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough.
Therefore, Marks will have to find the next Manu Ginobili or Boban Marjanovic – a foreign player who slips through the cracks of the draft altogether or sinks to the bottom of the second round and turns out to be a diamond in the rough. Or, Marks needs to find the next Hassan Whiteside – a talented player that failed to stick in the league, only to make the most of a second chance when given the opportunity.
“I think you look for players that are going to fit within your culture,” Marks said. “You can bring in a star player, but if he doesn’t fit with the vision and where you’re going, that can derail a system as well.
“Whoever we bring in here, they’re going to play team basketball, they’re going to be competitive on the floor, the coach is going to have a defensive mindset and a system that gets them playing well and are accustomed to where I come from.”
For years the Spurs – Marks’ previous home – rarely would splurge in free agency. Instead, they would find role players who could be plugged into their system and flourish. In Brooklyn, Marks will likely have to use free agency and trades as his main resources to rebuild the organization.
“To be honest, it’s time for me to see if I can do this, and it’s not on my own,” Marks said. “I’ll be bringing in a staff and it’ll be a collaborative approach. I think this is the right environment to do it.”
Expect Marks to try and pry away as many members of the Spurs’ organization as possible to help him turn the Nets around in Brooklyn. Spurs assistant Ettore Messina will be high on Marks’ list of potential coaching candidates. Messina also has ties to owner Mikhail Prokhorov as the former coach of CSKA Moscow. Don’t count out fellow Spurs assistant Ime Udoka as well.
“The relationship that (Gregg) Popovich and R.C. (Buford) had together, nothing was done without the other not knowing,” Marks said. “That’s important. It’s inclusive, it’s a partnership. That’s what I’ll be looking for not only in a head coach, but the relationship that I have with ownership and the relationship that I have with all my staff.”
After the game, Young was asked what characteristic he would want in any coaching candidate the team hired for next season.
“A guy that’s going to be a straight shooter, not going to beat around the bush and a guy who demands out of his players each and every day,” Young replied.
While Marks vowed many additions and new positions to be added to Brooklyn’s basketball operations, he will also likely overhaul the roster by next season.
Hollis-Jefferson and McCullough missed substantial time due to injuries in the first half of the season. Markel Brown has also seen inconsistent playing time. Expect all three players to get considerable minutes as the organization begins to develop them further and evaluate potential roles for all three in the future.
“I’m excited to be here and this is going to be a tremendous time,” Marks said.
For one Friday night against the Knicks in what has been a nightmare season for Brooklyn, it was indeed a “tremendous time” for Nets fans to begin the Marks era.