It’s year one of a likely three to five-year rebuild, so “shocking” isn’t a suitable description.
Though the Nets were actually worse off when starting point guard Jeremy Lin went down with multiple severe hamstring injuries, shortening his profound impact on this team, all in all the Nets have seen growth up and down the roster.
With the rise and evolution of second-year forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, rookies Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead, and December pick-up Spencer Dinwiddie, the Nets have quietly developed a handful of prospects, who’ve all undergone head coach Kenny Atkinson’s trial-by-fire test.
Atkinson’s belief of having guys learn on the job has been voiced throughout the season, but frankly he has no other choice. He has on several occasions offered praise for his team for standing by him throughout a campaign, which may draw many negative connotations.
“They just come to work, they’re pretty resilient, more resilient than I am,” Atkinson told the media after a team practice. “They come from winning cultures and I think they also understand that every situation is different, they understand where we are.
They’re smart guys, that doesn’t mean they’re accepting it,” he added. “I am really pleased with how they come to work every day. They come out with a good spirit and I hope that’s the culture we’re promoting.”
Atkinson and Nets general manager Sean Marks have openly discussed the idea of changing the culture in Brooklyn.
With a lack of future draft picks, they have tried to creatively respond to with acquisitions like the aforementioned LeVert, and the recent Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough trade, which landed them, among other things, the Washington Wizards’ 2017 first-round pick.
“We’re giving up a heck of a player, but at the same time we’re giving him the option to go to a good team,” Marks said of dealing Bogdanovic to the playoff-bound Wizards. “He’s in a contract year.
“Hopefully he’s going to play a long playoff run, but at the same time it helps us get back some of these picks, some of these assets that we no longer have,” he added.
The Nets trade with the Boston Celtics of a few years ago, which landed them Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry at the cost of a multitude of first-round picks, will once again rear its ugly head as we inch closer toward June’s draft.
The future was mortgaged and now the Nets, who didn’t have a 2016 pick to begin with, will have Boston’s 2017 choice (Boston will have theirs) and no 2018 first-round selection, at least not their own.
In Brooklyn, patience is a necessity. A 13-win season for the first campaign of the Atkinson-Marks era isn’t something to write home about. However, we’ve witnessed the growth, the culture change, and steady development toward what could have a more promising outlook for next season.
“Whether it works or not, I don’t know, but we’re on the same page,” said Atkinson of his dynamic with Marks as it pertains to this rebuild. “We have the same vision on how we can get out of it.
“My big fear was whether the average fan was going to understand that,” he added. “But you know, there haven’t been many boos and the fact that there has been some compassion and understanding makes me think that we don’t give the fans enough credit for what they know.”