Nets' GM, new coach handed 'reins' to rebuild team, Sean Marks says

ByOhm Youngmisuk ESPN logo
Tuesday, May 17, 2016

NEW YORK -- NewBrooklyn Netshead coach Kenny Atkinson got choked up and emotional during his news conference.

The Nets continued their arduous rebuild by introducing their newest and perhaps most energetic coach in years on Monday. The question is whether title-hungry owner Mikhail Prokhorov will be able to exercise a trait he hasn't often displayed and remain patient with the Nets' new process.

"We're all on the same page," general manager Sean Marks said at the Nets' new practice facility in Brooklyn. "In talking to Mr. Prokhorov -- he sat in, and he was right there interviewing Kenny with me -- he made it well clear that things were going to be done a little differently."

"He's given us the reins to build this thing our way, and if it takes some time, it does," Marks said. "But we'll be doing everything we can to turn this thing around quickly."

The Nets have their hands tied by more than just a lack of assets. They are basically handcuffed without full control of their first-round pick until 2019. This year's unprotected first-rounder goes to Boston, as per the 2013 Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade, with the Draft Lottery determining the draft order on Tuesday.

The Nets can try to improve via trade and free agency. However, forward Thaddeus Young said he has been told that the Nets do not want to trade him or center Brook Lopez.

"I'm certainly not looking to trade them," Marks said. "But again, you have to be fluid. You never know what will come your way. I hope they are a part of us. ... I have to maximize their talent and build around them. We have to wait and see."

Atkinson, a native of Huntington, New York, understands the challenges he faces in his first head-coaching job. He takes over a team that went 21-61 and has had six head coaches since 2012.

Atkinson, who was an assistant on Mike Budenholzer's staff in Atlanta and has a wealth of international experience as a coach and player, believes the Nets and Prokhorov will show patience, even if the owner said optimistically earlier this year that the team was just a few players away from turning it around.

"I think it gives you pause because you look at the past," Atkinson said of the Nets' shuffle through Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins and Tony Brown since 2012. "But that's why you meet with ownership, and that's why my relationship with Sean was important, because he had an intimate conversation, and when I came up here to interview with them, that was part of my question.

"I was more than satisfied with the answers. We're going to build something sustainable. We're going to build something for the long term, so that excited me and convinced me."

Atkinson said he plans to "build patiently [and] intelligently" by putting a competitive group on the floor first. Atkinson has a stellar reputation for his work ethic and player development, particularly with point guards suh as Atlanta's Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder.

Atkinson made clear that having a good point guard is vital for his vision.

"I think the point guard is like the NFL quarterback," Atkinson said. "That's how important the position is. It's theDrew Brees, it's the Aaron Rodgers. It's super important. It's going to be a big decision for us -- which way we go there."

Memphis' Mike Conley will be a free agent. Charlotte's Jeremy Lin, who played for the Knicks when Atkinson was an assistant with New York, can opt out of his contract. Teague could also be a trade candidate for Atlanta this summer.

"Obviously, we can't talk about any specific names," Atkinson said of point guards who might be available this summer. "But there's some exciting names out there. Hopefully, we get lucky. But I agree, that's an important position that whoever we get in here, we need to develop and play the style of play that we want to play."

On Tuesday, the Nets will watch the Draft Lottery and wonder what could have been.

"Is that tomorrow?" Marks said with a laugh. "We'll be watching for sure, but we've been reminded a lot about that. It is what it is. There's nothing we can do about it.

"We'll sit and see how systematic we can be about it come draft time," he said, along with admitting that the Nets want to be active in June's draft. "[Trading three first-round picks to Boston] was obviously prior to us being here, but I give them credit. I give Mikhail and the old regime credit for going after it the way they did."

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