Surprise was the word of the day when the Brooklyn Nets held Media Day on Monday, September 25.
Held for the second straight year at the new HSS Training Center, 168 39th Street, in Industry City, the event featured players who were all smiles and spoke optimistically of their goals despite having the NBA’s worst record at 20-62 last year.
The roster has changed drastically since last season, most notably with the trade of the longest tenured and highest scoring player in franchise history, center Brook Lopez. Because the Nets lost a plethora of draft picks in a trade that is considered by most basketball minds as the worst trade of recent history in 2014, General Manager Sean Marks, who grew under the highly successful San Antonio Spurs organization, has thought outside the box by acquiring young players via creative trades and free agency.
The biggest addition is D’Angelo Russell, who was drafted third overall by the Los Angeles Lakers just two years ago, before trading him for Lopez. This gives the Nets needed youth with a point guard that still has a ton of upside.
Jeremy Lin who had a solid first year with the Nets when he was on the court, was plagued by injuries, missing 46 games.
“With a year under our belts and (Head Coach Kenny Atkinson) and the players and the additions we brought, we should definitely be better than we were last year,” said Lin.
Russell and Lin are both point guards, but Lin feels the two can play on the same floor by playing different roles.
“I’ve shown and proven to play with other point guards. I played shooting guard in college. I know how to play off the ball and he does too,” Lin said. “(Russell’s) IQ is so high. His passing is phenomenal. I think it’s going to be so much easier than what I anticipated at first.”
Russell, who likely didn’t expect his tenure with the Lakers to be so brief, is looking forward to a new beginning. “I think we got a lot of players that are good at what they do,” he said. “When you think of Brooklyn, you think of Brooklyn grit and get it done the scrappy way. We have the personnel to do that.”
The transition should be easy for Russell, who came from one of the biggest markets in the league. “LA prepared me in a major way to come straight to New York and be how I am, how to talk to media and carry myself off and on court,” he said.
Nonetheless, expectations aren’t high just yet. “I think if we were to sneak into the playoffs, that would be a surprise and a lot of things would have to go our way, but a lot of things had to go my way for me to get here so I’m up for the challenge,” said Lin.
“[One goal] is just to say we fought every night,” said forward Rondae Hollins Jefferson. “A lot of games we lost last year because we didn’t put it in fifth or sixth gears.”
Management was also praised. “There’s a plan behind everything that the front office is doing and they got certain pieces and based on the information we received last season, these are specific parts designed to make us better so I think it’s on us to make it work and we’re excited about it,” said Lin.
“Sean Marks has built a culture and he’s trying to get high character guys that can play San Antonio-style,” said newcomer forward DeMarre Carrol, who the Nets hope can add a defensive presence they lacked last season.
The team also discussed the political climate. On Saturday, September 23, President Donald Trump withdrew the invitation of the reigning NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors, after the team stated it would have a team meeting to decide if members would attend or not. The following day, NFL players knelt during the National Anthem in response to the president’s criticism of those who choose not to stand.
“I think it’s great for everyone to take a stand,” said Lin. “I really like the way (Stephen Curry) did it. I think he did it in a polite way where he wasn’t trying to create hostility or separation. He was being firm in his beliefs and expressing to everybody what he believes and at same time being gracious and not name calling. He did a great job. I’m a minority too. I can’t fully understand the things that are going on but I can definitely to some degree understand and that’s something I’ve been reading up on everyday. It’s something that is very scary and serious.”
“My whole take is we as a whole organization have to discuss it, the players, coaches and front office,” said Lin of the team’s plans. “I don’t think we’re going to see one person individually do something. If we do anything, it will be as a team.”