BROOKLYN — After finishing last in the NBA last season, the Brooklyn Nets want to build on their underwhelming 2016-17 outing. Modeling their franchise off of other winning organizations, the Nets look to remove themselves from the bottom of the league.
“We have to show the NBA that we’re not the last year’s Brooklyn team,” forward DeMarre Carroll said.
After their ill-advised trade with the Boston Celtics to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in 2012, the Nets are showing signs of treading forward.
They will finally have their own first-round selection in 2019, after trading away four first-round picks to the Boston Celtics in the deal. In 2016, the franchise hired former Spurs assistant GM Sean Marks as the general manager and former Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson as the head coach. Despite the losing efforts, the Nets have put their energy into creating a winning culture.
“I look at this like Atlanta when I first got there,” Carroll said. “Sean Marks built a culture with high-character guys, also guys who can play that San Antonio-type style.”
Marks, who spent six seasons with the Spurs — three as a player and three as a coach — has made moves in the offseason to acquire players that model the “Brooklyn Grit” culture. Via trade, the Nets acquired former second-overall pick D’Angelo Russell and veterans like Carroll, Allen Crabbe and center Timofey Mozgov to further establish the culture.
The Nets were 12th in the league last year in points per game, scoring 105 points a night. Combo-guards Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell are looking to become a formidable duo, replacing the scoring of the franchise’s leader in points, Brook Lopez.
“His IQ is so high and his passing is so phenomenal,” Nets guard Jeremy Lin said of Russell. “I think it’s going to be so much easier than maybe I had anticipated at first. We were last place last year; we need both of us to both be extremely good for us to take the next steps forward.”
Russell, who was traded from the Lakers after they drafted UCLA standout Lonzo Ball, looks to wipe off the negative connotations about himself and buy into the Brooklyn philosphy.
“I feel a lot of people are coming in with the same mentality, as far as wanting to take those leaps and building a foundation,” he said. “It’s a year where you got 12-15 guys that really want to prove something. I think it’s all on our shoulders.”
While the Nets showed some positive signs on offense, their defense was abysmal, ranking 29th in opponents PPG. Carroll, who has served as one of the better defenders in the league over the last several years, will look to shore up the Nets’ defensive woes.
Carroll credits Nets coach Kenny Atkinson — who was his assistant coach in Atlanta — for making him the defender he is today, and now he wants to pass along the same knowledge to his younger teammates.
“Offensively we got a lot of guys who can score the ball, but who’s going to step in there who’s going play defense? That’s what I got to instill in these young guys, sometimes it’s not all about scoring,” he said. “Everyone can’t be Kevin Durant and LeBron James.”
Brooklyn will begin their training camp tomorrow in Annapolis, Maryland at the United States Naval Academy before opening up their preseason play against the Knicks on October 3rd.
“People already have low expectations for us this year, but that’s good for us,” forward Allen Crabbe said. “We’re just going to play with a chip on our shoulders each and every night and go out there and prove people wrong,”