NBA Rumor: Nets Front Office

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David Levy, the longtime television executive, was rolled out by the Nets as an important addition to their revamped organization in September. But by November, the team announced a “mutual parting of ways.” So what happened? According to multiple sources, Levy had written into his contract that he’d have influence over basketball operations. But that didn’t sit well with members of the Nets’ staff, and the pushback meant Levy was essentially bought out.

NETS.COM: As the longest-tenured Net along with Caris LeVert, coming in at the start of Kenny’s tenure, is there meaning or responsibility in that, in terms of maintaining that culture? Joe Harris: There’s a lot of players that come and go. That’s just the norm within an NBA roster, but what Kenny and Sean have done in terms of the coaches, everybody that works within the organization, they’re all plugged into the culture as well. So even though players come and go, trainers come and go, everybody that is brought in, there’s still sort of the same mold and there are still enough pieces left around from the very beginning where that stuff is so solid, the foundation is so solid that people seamlessly adjust when they come in.

Joe Harris: I think you’ve seen it year after year where we’ve brought in D’Lo, Ed Davis, DeMarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe, players that weren’t here from the very beginning but they were able to seamlessly adapt, buy in to what was going on and then you see it again now with Kyrie and Kevin, DeAndre, Wilson, Garrett. It takes a little bit of time obviously, but it is sort of a seamless transition. I think at the end of the day it’s because Kenny and Sean, they don’t take chances on guys that might have questionable character. It’s always, all right, this guy, they’ll fit, they’ll buy in, and you see that year in and year out since you’ve been here.

Nets owner Joe Tsai spoke with Bloomberg Businessweek, and essentially said that he and Levy, the former president of Turner Broadcasting, had different expectations for the job. Tsai, who closed his record purchase of the Nets in September, also made Levy the president of J Tsai Sports. Through the holding company for his sports portfolio, Tsai owns not only the Nets, but the WNBA’s New York Liberty, a lacrosse team in San Diego, and stakes in MLS side LAFC and in the Premier Lacrosse League. “He was already looking ahead at how to grow the J Tsai sports portfolio, but we also needed someone to do the nuts and bolts,” Tsai told Bloomberg Businessweek. “Maybe he thought that he wanted to do something that’s bigger and he could just bring in other people to do it, and I’m of a view that before you outsource something you should do it yourself.”

Tsai wooed Levy, a 33-year veteran of Turner Sports, with a heavy portfolio. He was named CEO of the Nets, Barclays and J Tsai Sports, Tsai’s holding company that also controls the New York Liberty and his other sports investments in lacrosse, soccer and esports. Levy was also named an “alternate governor” of the Nets and a “venture partner” in Tsai’s family investment vehicle. Still, one team insider told NetsDaily that Levy was surprised to be managing something as small as the Nets after running Turner Media. And in fact, Levy told Bloomberg last month, “It wasn’t the job I signed up for and we agreed to part ways.” Both Tsai and Levy told Boudway they remain friends.

It makes sense that Yormark would exit along with Prokhorov, whose net worth is $10.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Prokhorov entrusted much of his global sports operation to the executive. Tsai, whose net worth is $10.3 billion, is nearing completion of a deal to buy the 51% of the Nets he didn’t own. He previously bought 49% at a valuation of $2.3 billion, which is a record for a U.S. pro-sports franchise. He had until 2021 to exercise the option to take control of the club, whose already improved fortunes were buoyed this offseason with the acquisition of star free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
1 year ago via ESPN

“I think from our standpoint is we stand true to who we have been for three years,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said Tuesday during a news conference at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center addressing the team’s summer business. “Competing and playing hard and playing unselfish basketball. The product on the court speaks for itself. “Guys, [coach Kenny Atkinson has] mentioned, they want to play here. They want to play in that system. The expectations, obviously they’re growing. It comes with a deeper team. The more talent you acquire, we all know that we’re all-in on that, not only from the two of us but the organization as a whole.”

Tsai agreed to buy 49 percent of the team in April 2018 at a record valuation of $2.35 billion. In order for Prokhorov to get the full amount, he needs Tsai to agree to acquire the rest of the team in 2021. That’s precisely when a fully recovered Durant is expected to come back to the court and become a major draw for both fans and sponsors. In the meantime, the mere hype around Durant and Irving, who is coming off two seasons with the Boston Celtics, should help the Brooklyn team generate an extra $29 million to $43.5 million through increased ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and merchandising deals, the inside source told The Post.

“Prices will go up and they will sell out,” University of Michigan Sports Management professor Mark Rosentraub said of Durant’s comeback. “No one in the NBA drives attendance like Kevin Durant.” “This is exactly the blueprint they pitched,” the insider said of Prokhorov’s two-part sale to Tsai. Prokhorov’s bankers had promised Tsai a new management team that would develop a core of young players and sign a big free agent, sources said. Tsai has already indicated he would exercise his right and buy the rest of the team. Durant will help seal the deal, sources said.

If Tsai agrees to fork over the full $2.35 billion for the team, he will then have another revenue generator to look forward to — the arena’s naming rights, which are set to reopen in 2022. The current sponsor, Barclays, is not likely to pony up to keep its name on the arena as it’s no longer building a commercial banking presence in the US, sources said. That means the stadium is free to woo other deep-pocketed corporations eager to tie their brand to the up-and-coming NBA team for big bucks.

So far the Nets have added Jeff Peterson and Andy Birdsong as assistant general managers and have several other positions to fill. Brooklyn Nets assistant coach: Fleming, who worked primarily with Rodions Kurucs, left to join the Chicago Bulls as their lead assistant coach. Currently, there are four coaches who could move to the front of the bench alongside Kenny Atkinson, Jacque Vaughn and Bret Brielmaier. 1. Adam Harrington: Assistant coach / director of player development. Since the beginning of the Marks and Atkinson era, development has been an emphasis for the organization, which Harrington embodies.

The developmental culture replacement Sean Marks instilled has seen the Nets make the playoffs and made it easier for co-owners on different timelines to stay on the same page. “The thing that brings everything together is — credit to Mikhail — their organization brought in Sean Marks, and Sean Marks brought in Kenny Atkinson. Those are incredibly far-sighted decisions,” Tsai said. “They learned from their experience first coming into the Nets how hard it is to build a good team.”

While Marks vowed to be active and aggressive in his messages to Nets fans, he was asked earlier in the day if he felt pressure to get a star? “I think that’s the challenge,” Marks replied. “I’m not sure there’s pressure to act frivolously or out of the norm. I think this is something that if the right player is available, obviously like any other team, we’ll target those guys. We’ll see how this builds out. It’s not about fast forwarding or skipping steps. There are a lot of people that played major roles in getting the team to where it is now, the team, the organization, the identity to where it is having us even have these conversations. That’s exciting.”

“What Brooklyn has done without lottery picks has exposed teams like the Knicks, Lakers, Suns and Kings, who have consistently been in the lottery but failed to make the playoffs,” former Nets executive Bobby Marks said. “If I’m an owner, I’m asking, ‘Why can’t we replicate what the Nets are doing?’” “The definition of sport is to compete,” one executive for an Eastern Conference team texted. “Thus, Brooklyn’s approach is the ONLY way to approach a rebuild. The 76ers are a historical franchise that was gutted for future picks. Some may argue the approach was creative or out of the box thinking. However, the actual pick selections were not accurate when it comes to talent evaluation bypassing players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kristaps Porzingis.”

This season marked back-to-back seasons of 50 or more wins for the 76ers for the first time since 1985 and 1986. Now the expectations have heightened, according to McConnell. “We have expectations where if we lose in the first or second round it’s looked at as a disappointment,” he said prior to Game 4. “Isn’t that the greatest thing about the NBA?” Atkinson said of the differing rebuilding methods. “They did it one way, and we kind of did it the other. They’ve had great success and great players. We just did it a different way. That’s the beauty of the NBA. There’s a lot of different ways to skin a cat. We took our particular situation and took another approach, and here we are playing against each other. It’s great.”

The fact that they’ve found a way to stay in lock-step, and not let their disparate timelines disrupt the organization — or Nets GM Sean Marks’ carefully crafted plans — is noteworthy. Marks claims the key is communication, presumably not the easiest thing with two billionaires — one based in Moscow and the other in Hong Kong. “That’s probably one of the greatest things about [them], and a credit to Mikhail and Joe. I haven’t noticed a differing of opinions. Both collaborate,” Marks told The Post. “I collaborate with them a lot. There’s no surprises. Just like within my group. I don’t like to hear surprises, they don’t like to hear surprises either.

With the clock ticking on Prokhorov’s majority ownership, there could have been temptation for him to prod Marks to cut corners, like Billy King’s Boston deal. Or conversely for Tsai — still the executive vice chairman of the Alibaba Group — to balk at paying the luxury tax or any big free agent (such as Kawhi Leonard, Kristaps Porzingis) that would cost him dearly years before his majority ownership. But so far that hasn’t happened, both billionaires working in accord. “The ultimate goal for everybody is to win the whole thing,” Marks said. “So however you get there and whenever you get there, and whatever route you take, they’ve got to understand “Hey, this is in the cards.” If you look at what Mikhail’s done in the past, he’s not afraid to step up.

After that, Marks knows things will be fluid as the Nets approach the summer with a significant amount of cap space and several players who will be restricted or unrestricted free agents. The Nets are in the process of a significant leap from the 20 wins from Marks and Atkinson’s first season. The next step will be determined by the moves that are made after the close of the season. “The players have decisions to make, we have decisions to make,” said Marks. “So, it’s going to be an interesting three months, but I give our players a heck of a lot of credit for how they’ve handled over half of the season. It’s really been led by them. They took the reins of this thing and they’ve been pushing and believing. I think you guys have commented on the camaraderie they’ve shown on the bench. It’s been terrific. Again, it’s contagious. When guys have a belief – and it hasn’t come from Kenny or I or anybody else having to sit down with them and say this is the trajectory of the team – it’s been led by the players.”

“We’re headed in the right direction,” said Marks. “I’ll copy Kenny (Atkinson) here where he says, ‘we’ve got a long way to go. We’re still grinding. We haven’t achieved anything yet.’ And I think that’s the mentality we’re all going to continue to have. Our players have that, the staff has that. Our guys have a chip on their shoulders. I think people enjoy maybe proving people wrong. I like the trajectory. Obviously we all do. But I think we’re humble and we realize that these things change pretty quickly and we’ve got to stay focused and driven.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Spencer Dinwiddie, who just signed a $34 million extension, is also having a career year as is Joe Harris, who is sixth in the league in 3-point shooting. Allen has been one of the league’s best centers on defense. And this rebound is coming without arguably the team’s best player, Caris LeVert, who is recovering from a frightening foot injury a month ago. Suddenly they’re two games out of sixth in the East and sources report they are hinting in talks with teams they could be a buyer at the trade deadline. That’s not something that has been heard in years.

What will the Brooklyn Nets look like in 2019-20? I’m starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel but is it just going to a short spurt of sunlight like years past? Or have we learned our lessons? Sam Amick: @Joseph M. I love what I consistently hear about the Sean Marks front office and the Atkinson approach on the bench, and those are two enormous components to have going in the right direction. They’re in a great market with a high level of player interest, in a new building, so they’ll get there.

No contract extension for Spencer Dinwiddie?

Dinwiddie will become eligible for a contract extension Dec. 8, three years after he signed his current deal. But unlike Russell – who could theoretically sign an extension for a max salary – Dinwiddie’s extension is capped at about $47 million over four years. Though it’s possible he could draw more in unrestricted free agency next summer, Dinwiddie – who has only once and only barely exceeded a minimum salary in his career – sounds open to locking in sooner. Not that he expects an offer. “If Sean Marks calls to give me a contract extension, I’ll take it,” Dinwiddie said. “But until he does, I’m looking forward to being a free agent.”

Khalid Green, who became a Nets scout a decade ago after coaching high school ball in Brooklyn, went on a podcast Friday and argued that “intrinsic bias” remains a big part of talent evaluation in the NBA and agreed that some decisions are tinged by “white supremacy.” Speaking on “Bill Rhoden on Sports,” Green added that the talent level among “Caucasian” basketball players in the United States has “dropped” and that certain whites in NBA franchises are “almost feasting on Europe as their savior,” describing Europe as the whites’ “motherland.” Green did not suggest any bias on the part of the current Nets front office, but talked about instances earlier in his career.

Green’s most controversial comments came when discussing what he and Rhoden called NBA teams’ “Great White Hope” mentality. “Here in America, the Caucasian that plays the game. it’s dropped, Their talent level has dropped,” Green told Rhoden. “So they’re almost feasting on Europe now as their savior. They have to go back to their motherland for their savior.” He cited a meeting he had as a scout prior to the 2011 NBA Draft when apparently discussing Jimmer Fredette, the Brigham Young star from Glens Falls, New York. “I never got caught up in that hype,” he said of Fredette, who was taken at No. 10. “I had a conversation,” Green started. “One of the scouts at the time said, ‘Well, If he was a black guy you would like him.’ This was in a meeting! I was kind of new at the time and I was like ‘No, I wouldn’t have liked him … He’s still slow. He’s not going to be able to get his shot off and he wasn’t athletic.’ And I knew what it was. I know It was a Great White Hope type operation.” “That’s where the intrinsic bias comes in,” he continued. “Because a lot of times people want that guy to succeed to make a statement on behalf of the whole race.”

A team representative tells NetsDaily that Green “has not been part of the team’s scouting department” for the better part of a year and is not employed by the team. He may still have a role in community relations, the rep admitted. On the podcast, hosted by former New York Times sports writer Bill Rhoden, both Rhoden and Green identify Green as a “national scout” for the Nets and Green’s LinkedIn account also identifies him as currently a “talent scout” for the team. The Nets do not normally provide scouts or even assistant coaches for media interviews.

However, he does suggest that Luka Doncic, drafted this June, is part of the same “Great White Hope” mentality, arguing that the 6’8” Slovenian guard does not possess either “athleticism” or “craftiness.” Green admitted that part of the disagreement about Doncic and other Europeans may simply be a difference among teams’ domestic and international scouting staffs. “It’s definitely like that in the NBA. And I’ve heard it from other NBA franchises where there are sometimes a split between European scouts and the scouts here in America and guys are intrinsically pushing for their guys and that’s a reality,” he added.

Although Atkinson said tanking might be something “upper, upper management” probably discusses, it’s not something he and Sean Marks talk about. “We’ve never talked about tanking, Sean and I,’’ Atkinson said. “I’m just going to be honest: Internally, we don’t use the word. We don’t talk about it. “We talk about internal improvement, we talk about player development, we talk about culture. Tanking is not a word we use. It’s just not in our [vocabulary]. I don’t think the fans in New York want to see that.

With the Brooklyn Nets signing Ed Davis and acquiring Kenneth Faried in a trade, and with Sean Marks giving the impression Tuesday that they’re closing in on their final 2018-19 roster, the short-lived Jahlil Okafor era in Brooklyn looks dead. “I won’t comment on Jahlil, because he’s not here right now,” Marks said bluntly. “But again, I will always bet on our coaching staff. Our coaching staff have done a heck of a job, our performance team, in terms of how they develop guys.” Marks then noted the need for a “floor spacer,” which Okafor is not. Hours later, of course, the Nets signed Treveon Graham, who is a floor space and despite his size, can play the 4.

With the Nets finally holding their own pick for the first time since 2013, many fans are wondering if they could — or even should — tank the upcoming season. General manager Sean Marks has insisted they won’t — both for the sake of building a winning culture today, and for luring free agents tomorrow. “That’s certainly one aspect of it. We want to show we’re competing on a nightly basis. Kenny [Atkinson] and his staff are well aware of the expectations, myself included,” Marks said. “But at the end of the day, we’re not going to try and skip any steps in order to maybe fast-forward the wins and losses and then take away our flexibility in the future.”

The recent free-agent addition of Shabazz Napier backs up Marks’ consistent assertion the Nets won’t tank like the 76ers. The past two seasons were ruined by point-guard injuries, and the Nets just gave the Connecticut product a two-year, $3.5 million deal to shore up that Achilles’ heel. “We never use that phrase [tanking],” Marks told The Post. “We’re trying to compete, and trying to go out there and show that ‘Look, we are making strides in the right direction.’ [Napier is] a guy that can do that. If we lose another PG and we’re short a PG, that all takes a back step, right?”

Sean Marks also couldn’t answer specific questions regarding the Dwight Howard trade and proposed buyout, but intimated the Nets will be active come July 1 when free agency opens. “As always, everyone has a lot of things on their plate or on the table, whether they act on them or not,” Marks said when asked if he wanted to preserve assets, not jeopardize another potential deal in the coming days. “And for us, there are some things out there, whether it’s pending. We’ll just have to wait and see in July, whether it’s how we use our cap space and how we move forward with that. We have flexibility in the future, which is important.”

Specifically, Marks talked to ESPN 101.3 in Boston Monday about how the Nets did have a long-term plan in place that included a bid for Kevin Durant! He also offers a less-than- veiled criticism of Mikhail Prokhorov for not wanting to pay “substantial” luxury taxes after the 2013-14 season. Marks laid out the Nets thinking as they worked on the deal, noting Brooklyn was in a “win-now” mode and Boston wasn’t. It was Marks, then assistant GM to Billy King, and Mike Zarren, Danny Ainge’s No. 2, who handled the nuts and bolts of the deal. “I thought that when we did the deal, I thought we would have a championship level team in 13-14, would be a playoff team in 14-15 and then, when the cap spike came in 2016, we’d in a good position to get a Kevin Durant or one of these marquee free agents just based on past success and we were all wrong,” offered Marks. “We misjudged the trade big time.”

“I didn’t think we’d have a one-year window to try to win a championship,” Marks told “The Huddle.” “And I guess when you don’t want to pay the luxury tax substantially, that can alter your plans as to what your roster is. If you change the course of direction as to how you do business, this is probably what the results were. We all paid the price dearly.” And Marks, like Dmitry Razumov, Prokhorov’s No. 2, said he wishes the Nets hadn’t agreed to swap picks in 2017. “I’ve said all along that my biggest regret is the pick swap that got Boston Jayson Tatum because I don’t think that had to be included in the deal and eventually, it was,” he added without explanation.

That 2014-15 season was actually Kenny Atkinson’s third year as an assistant in Atlanta, having been hired by Larry Drew a year before Budenholzer took over. But with Atkinson having just completed his second year as the head coach in Brooklyn – the second full season for a fully revamped basketball operations staff under GM Sean Marks – the year two effect is clearly in evidence. “When I look back and I look at the job Kenny has done, I say look at our players that have improved over the course of the last two years,” said Marks. “If you want to call some of them diamonds in the rough or so forth, but I don’t think we can argue with what Kenny and the staff have done in terms of developing talent.”

76ers coach Brett Brown, who went 75-253 (.229) in the four previous seasons combined, understands what Kenny Atkinson is going through as the coach of a team in the midst of a long-term rebuilding phase. “What I see is that he’s [Kenny Atkinson] really good at what they’re doing,” Brown said. “We went overboard with development, we went overboard with relationships, tried to hold the locker room together. Make them feel they had worth and help them. You blink, and five years later we’re in a pretty good spot. We’ve got a young foundation and we like the direction we’re pointing. From afar looking across the fence at this team – and Sean Marks is a very close friend of mine – they get Jeremy [Lin] healthy and the style of play, I can see they’re heading in the right direction. We’ve got respect for them.”

Now, almost exactly two years since current GM Sean Marks was given the league’s version of “Mission Impossible,” Brooklyn’s rebuilding process is further along than anticipated, albeit still a long way from finished. “Under the circumstances, Marks has been good,” a Northwest Division executive told The Athletic. “The cupboard was empty there.” A fellow Central Division executive concurred. “They play hard every night, have a style they are committed to playing, and there is more hope than despair there now.”

Mark Bartlestein, Carroll’s agent, is confident Nets general manager Sean Marks and Atkinson aren’t looking to move his client. “I’m sure there’s a lot of teams interested in DeMarre,” Bartlestein said. “He affects the game in a lot of different ways, and a lot of people would love to have him. But I know Sean Marks and Kenny value him big-time. I know for sure they’re not trying to trade him. There’s always conversations around the league and anything can happen, but I know the Brooklyn Nets put a great value on DeMarre . . . I want to make sure people realize that.”

“The biggest thing that Infor has done for us is making us more efficient,” says Marks as the video cuts to a shot of Trevor Booker looking at an iPad showing a replay of game action. “Our players when they’re using their app and they’re seeing their performance stats, their game stats, how those things marry, we’re educating them. Infor has done a really nice job there.” Phillips, CEO of Infor, said of “engaging” with the Nets, “Data science is invading every industry and we thought this was a cool opportunity to help a local team … trying to make them a better team.”

Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment announced Thursday that they will be moving corporate offices, including the Nets business operations, to Industry City next year. They will lease —and renovate— the floor directly below the HSS Training Center.. Business operations have been headquartered at Metro Tech, Bruce Ratner’s office complex in the borough. The lease at Metro Tech was up … and consolidating office space has been an organization goal since the Nets chose the Industry City site on 39th Street just off Upper New York Bay.
3 years ago via ESPN

As the league descended upon Toronto for All-Star Weekend in February 2016, the Nets were leaning toward hiring Bryan Colangelo over Marks, according to sources familiar with the process. During All-Star Saturday night, Razumov and R.C. Buford, then Marks’ boss as the Spurs’ GM, had a long talk in the chairman’s suite inside the Air Canada Centre, according to several sources. Buford’s message was clear: The Spurs might not grant Marks permission to take the job unless he would get to do it his way. Several other executives, including Bob Myers, the Warriors’ GM, also praised Marks in chats with Razumov that weekend, sources say.

In addition to the two years and $30 million remaining on Carroll’s contract, the Nets are also swallowing the remaining $48 million over three years on Timofey Mozgov’s contract, and $20 million over three years on Andrew Nicholson’s deal (a low-key salary dump in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade). For their troubles, the Nets landed the no. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, D’Angelo Russell, the no. 22 pick in the 2017 draft, Jarrett Allen, and a first-rounder (lotto protected) and second-rounder in 2018. The Nets are harvesting youth, and aren’t afraid to pay to continue accumulating assets.

But the deal with Boston was different. It was backed by logic — albeit flawed in retrospect — and lauded at the time as pushing the Nets into real contention. King had even gone around the room that evening asking about the proposal. There wasn’t much, if any, dissension. According to a report on Netsdaily.com, Milton Lee, the GM of the franchise’s D-League affiliate, represented the lone vocal opposition. “Looking back, my one regret — and I know Billy gets a lot of arrows for the swap rights for this year — was that I shouldn’t have done the swap, or that I should’ve put some type of protection on the swap there looking back on everything,” Marks said. “It wasn’t just Billy. This was a group decision here. This was the group in the room.”

From the Nets side, the interest in Unicaja’s players is just the latest indication of how intense Brooklyn’s scouting regimen has become. Miranda speculates who might interest the Nets that they’ve come all this way twice. Miranda’s first choice is Viny Okouo, a (barely) 20-year-old seven-footer from Brazzaville in the Democratic Republic of the Congo … and Serge Ibaka’s cousin. Miranda notes that Okouo has declared for the draft and although he was expected to withdraw, maybe he won’t. The Unicaja center has at 20 just begun his career as an elite player. The normal thing is that he withdraws his name from the Draft this season, as he still has two campaigns left before he arrives at his natural year of selection. But the Nets already know him firsthand and he is a player who, because of its physical characteristics, is very interesting for the NBA.

Marks was asked by Sarah Kustok what position he thought he needed to “fortify” in the off-season, the Nets GM identified the small forward, but noted as well “We need to look at everyone.” “I think we know the 3 position for us is certainly one that needs to addressed. I look at it too that we have some free agents of our own who we need to know what’s going to happen with them there first. “Again, where we are in our life cycle its not where we can say, ‘we’re only missing this.’ To be honest, we need to look at everybody. We’re looking at the best players available. That’s coming through the draft, that’s coming through free agency.”
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