Sean Marks has sounded a warning to Kyrie Irving following the season the Brooklyn Nets just had. Speaking to the media regarding the direction of the franchise and whether it’s committed to Irving, the team’s general manager said the Nets are “looking for guys that want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, play team basketball, and be available.”
The point guard was one of the biggest stories in the NBA this season, having refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, he was unable to play for most of the season and the lack of chemistry should be the main reason the Nets got swept in the first round of the playoffs.
Irving played his first home game of the season on March 27, three days after New York mayor Eric Adams backtracked on the city’s mandate that had prevented unvaccinated NY athletes from participating in home games.
He played all 14 of the Nets’ final games, including the four in the playoffs, which marked his longest streak of consecutive games played since the 2017/18 campaign. It would be good to have him continue in that vein next season and, should that be the case, it would make for some really interesting online sports betting in New York.
After balling out in Game 1 against the Boston Celtics and nearly helping the Nets escape with a win, Irving’s production waned in the following three games as he would only score 46 points in total, just seven more than his Game 1 haul of 39.
Kyrie can become a free agent if he turns down his $36.5 million player option for next season but has said he isn’t going anywhere. Of course, he told Boston fans the same when he was still with their team.
“When I say I’m here with [Kevin Durant], I think that it really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe [Tsai, the owner] and Sean [Marks, the GM] and just our group of family members that we have in our organization,” he said.
The All-Star is eligible for a five-year $246 extension with Brooklyn if he opts out but there are understandable concerns when it comes to committing to him long term as he’s only played in 103 games since joining the team three seasons ago.
Marks seemed to agree with Irving on coaching, sort of. The guard controversially claimed he doesn’t see the Nets as having a head coach back in 2020 and, in his address to reporters on Wednesday, the GM said he believes Kevin Durant is the best developmental coach in the organization.
“I think Kevin Durant is our best player development coach,” he declared.
That is saying something as the Nets have nine assistant coaches on the bench with Steve Nash, including the top-rate Jacque Vaughn. Of course, Marks was probably trying to point out that having someone like Durant on the team forces everyone to raise their game, yet the comment might not go down well with the coaching staff, especially given that they were criticized for the team’s lack of cohesion against the Celtics.
Marks has also noted that the Nets have lost their culture in an admission that there are deeper issues needing attention than simply improving the roster.
“Did we take a step back? Without a doubt,” Marks told reporters Wednesday. “The culture isn’t what it once was.”
The Nets have spent a lot of money acquiring championship-caliber players and it was expected that this would be their season. Apart from falling flat in the playoffs, it’s also been revealed that the Knicks are still significantly more profitable, with owner Joe Tsai still at a loss for his purchase of the team and Barclays Center.
They took some major steps in establishing an atmosphere that would make it easy for marquee players to step in and lead them to a title. According to forward Joe Harris, there was a perception “across the league that we had the best culture.” It’s why they were able to bring in players such as Irving, Durant, James Harden, Blake Griffin, and LaMarcus Aldridge.
It appears that, in an effort to build around Irving and Durant, the Nets have lost the identity they worked so hard to carve out. Harris is the only one who remains from the squad that began the transition, with D’Angelo Russel, Caris LeVert, and Jarrett Allen all playing elsewhere now.
Marks has recognized that having the most optimal roster isn’t all it takes to maintain success and it will be interesting to see how things shape up during the summer.