Sean Marks

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Marks, Tatum, Irving

The Knicks need to keep on tanking to assure themselves a top five pick in the draft, Steve Popper of Newsday argues. The team with the worst record can’t fall any lower than the fifth pick under the new draft lottery rules, Popper notes, and the Suns currently hold that distinction after New York ended its 18-game losing streak. After the top five players, including Duke’s trio of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, there’s an apparent dropoff in talent. The team with the second-worst record has a 20% chance of falling to the No. 6 slot, Popper adds.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets have made so much progress over the last three seasons under GM Sean Marks that they’re in play for top-level free agents, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Brooklyn has turned into a playoff-caliber team under Marks’ guidance. “Things surrounding the team probably look a lot more attractive to the outside,” Marks told Lewis. “We’re a more attractive destination. The young guys we know are going to be Nets for the foreseeable future, we’re proud of their development and that’s a pretty good foundation. People have taken notice and said, ‘Hey, I [could] play with that group.”
  • Boston hasn’t played like champions most of the season but one of its young stars says they’ll end up with the Larry O’Brien trophy. Jayson Tatum declared to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (hat tip to Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston) that the Celtics are going all the way. “We’re gonna win the Finals this year,” Tatum said. “Feb. 16, Jayson Tatum says (the Celtics) are going to win the Finals this year.”
  • Kyrie Irving agreed to some extent with Marcus Morris‘ criticism shortly before the All-Star break that the Celtics weren’t playing hard enough or having enough fun, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald relays. Boston won its last two games before the break after Morris’ comments. “Well, I mean, there was some truth into it,” Irving said. “You know, we obviously understand that we have a lot of talent in our locker room, so it’s been a lot to manage. But we’ve come out pretty successful — obviously not as successful as we would like to be, but that’s just overall the attitude that you have to have in order to win in this league.”

Nets Notes: Russell, Kurucs, Musa, Marks

As Brian Lewis points out for The New York Post, Nets GM Sean Marks didn’t offer D’Angelo Russell a contract extension in October mainly because he wanted to see if the young point guard could prove himself to be a go-to option and leader. So far, so good on that end as Russell has stayed healthy this season and is averaging career highs of 20.3 points and 6.6 assists per game going into his first All-Star game appearance.

Russell has been the leading force on a Nets team that is surpassing expectations, having already won more games (30) than they did all of last season (28). Russell’s improvements have coincided with steady improvement from Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, and Spencer Dinwiddie, with veterans and rookies contributing in other spots as well.

The Nets will now look to build on their strong record and claim their first playoff spot since 2015, as Russell will look to lead the way and play his way into a big contract this summer.

There’s more on the Nets:

New York Notes: Ntilikina, Knicks, Faried, Nets

Although Frank Ntilikina‘s name keeps popping up in trade rumors, Knicks head coach David Fizdale says the club views the second-year guard as a distributor and defender “that can help us win next year and into the future,” per Ian Begley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Ntilikina’s role has been inconsistent in 2018/19, but Fizdale said he’ll likely have the youngster back up Emmanuel Mudiay at the point for at least the next few weeks.

For his part, Ntilikina has resolved to stop letting “expectations and outside noise” negatively affect his game, as Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News relays.

“I know me as a player and I know my ceiling is really high, higher than everyone thinks,” Ntilikina said.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • In addition to addressing Ntilikina’s role today, Fizdale also reiterated that the priority up front for the Knicks is to develop centers Luke Kornet and Mitchell Robinson. That means Enes Kanter may not have a spot in the regular rotation, Begley tweets. “I’m going to try my best to share those (center) minutes, but I do have a priority to grow (Kornet and Robinson),” Fizdale said.
  • With Kenneth Faried poised to clear waivers today, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson expressed some regret that he couldn’t find more minutes for Faried during his time in Brooklyn (link via Greg Joyce of The New York Post). Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis were ahead of Faried on the depth chart at center, and Atkinson’s preference for playing small made it difficult to work in the big man at power forward. “He did everything we asked,” Atkinson said. “He was a great guy. He busted his tail. He was in shape. Just didn’t think he had great opportunity here.”
  • A NetsDaily column makes the case that Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson and general manager Sean Marks have earned long-term contract extensions, arguing that Brooklyn should lock the duo up sooner rather than later.

Nets Notes: Graham, Russell, Kurucs, Marks

Forgotten Nets guard Treveon Graham is close to returning after missing the last two months of action, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. 

Graham, 25, has watched 28 straight games from afar as he rehabs from a hamstring injury. He was assigned to the Long Island Nets on Saturday, Brooklyn’s G League affiliate, and practiced with the team to continue working toward a return.

“He’s practiced a little bit, but that one I don’t want to put a date on it yet,” coach Kenny Atkinson said, according to Botte. “That’s obviously good news, that he’s starting to participate in practice and in some game activities. But no timetable for him. We love him and we miss him and I think he brings a defensive piece that I think really can help us. I think he’s gonna be a good player for us.”

Graham signed a free-agent contract to join the Nets this past July, coming off a season where he played 63 games with the Hornets. He scored 4.3 points per game on 43% shooting from the floor and 41% from 3-point range last year, with the VCU product currently in his third NBA season.

There’s more out of Brooklyn today:

  • Billy Reinhardt of NetsDaily ponders whether there’s any room left for D’Angelo Russell after the Nets agreed to a contract extension with Spencer Dinwiddie. Russell has started in all 30 games this season, but Dinwiddie’s stellar play off the bench has earned him early praise for a larger role.
  • Rodions Kurucs may have played his way into the Nets’ rotation after a strong game against the Wizards on Friday, Botte writes in a different story for the New York Post. Kurucs scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds in his first career start, earning some respect in the process. “The big question is can you do this long term, as the league gets to know him better?” Atkinson said of Kurucs. “This is a small pocket of games, but my experience says I believe this will be a season-long thing where he’s getting minutes now.”
  • General manager Sean Marks explained his decision to ink Dinwiddie on a multi-year extension last week, as relayed by Bryan Fonseca and Anthony Puccio of Nets Daily. “You want to reward a guy who has bought in entirely,” Marks said. “Go back three years when we first signed him. I think Spencer has showed terrific ability to improve, to develop, to be part of this culture and it’s deserving of him right now.”

Atlantic Rumors: Korkmaz, Kanter, Marks, Wallace

The Sixers are still mulling whether to pick up swingman Furkan Korkmaz‘s option for next season, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Philadelphia has a Wednesday deadline to make a decision. His option for the 2019/20 season is slightly over $2MM. If the Sixers decline, Korkmaz will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. The 6’7” Korkmaz has made four brief appearances this season after seeing action in 14 games last season.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks center Enes Kanter isn’t thrilled about being demoted to the second unit, Howie Kussoy of the New York Post reports. Kanter came off the bench against Golden State on Friday even though he’s the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder.  Coach David Fizdale is determined to develop his younger players.  “We all understand where our team is at and what we’re trying to accomplish right now,” Fizdale said. “One way or another we do have to bring our puppies along.” Kanter’s $18,622,514 salary comes off the books at the end of the season and the Knicks are expected to pursue higher-level free agents.
  • Warriors GM Bob Myers believes Nets GM Sean Marks has a blueprint for future success, as he told Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Brooklyn has hoarded cap space to be a major player on the free agent market next summer. “I think they’re on their way,” Myers said. “They play in a great city, and Sean is smart. They’re in a position now with their picks and cap space where they’ll be able to make some change, and it’ll probably be positive.”
  • Rasheed Wallace, who won a championship with Detroit in 2004, was invited to Knicks practice on Sunday to instruct the big men, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports. Wallace, who was invited by GM Scott Perry, gave rookie Mitchell Robinson plenty of food for thought. “He pushed me to talk more on defense. I have a tendency to be a little quiet. And him, he brings it,” Robinson told Bondy. Fizdale plans to invite another ex-Piston, Chauncey Billups, to deliver tips to his young guards.

Atlantic Rumors: Green, LeVert, Marks, Williams

Danny Green believes Kawhi Leonard will have a tough time leaving the city of Toronto once he settles in during his first season with the Raptors, Kurt Helin of NBC Sports relays. Green, who was included in the blockbuster deal that sent Leonard to Toronto, made the comment during an Inside the Green Room Podcast. “The city of Toronto is gonna be hard to turn down after being there. I’ve been going every summer for the past 10-plus years. It’s a great city and the fans are amazing. … I’m getting a great amount of feedback, a great amount of love and all types of different stuff from the fans. So it’s gonna be tough for him to turn down.” Leonard can opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

In other developments around the Atlantic Division:

  • LeVert played a total of 30 games at the point last season when D’Angelo Russell was injured, Milholen notes, and posted averages of 13.2 PPG and 4.8 APG in 27.2 MPG. Russell will start for Brooklyn and the Nets also have free agent addition Shabazz Napier at that spot. LeVert can also be viewed as a long-term insurance policy since Russell could become a restricted free agent next summer if he doesn’t sign an extension, Milholen adds.
  • The early returns on Sean Marks‘ first-round picks bode well for next June’s draft, Jason Max Rose of NetsDaily.com opines. The Nets GM found two valuable assets during the last two drafts in LeVert and starting center Jarrett Allen, even though those picks were in the bottom third of the first round, Rose notes. Thus, Marks and his staff have shown they can not only identify talent but develop players as well, Rose adds. The Nets could have two first-rounders in June, their own pick plus the Nuggets’ top-12 protected pick acquired this summer.
  • Dominating at the G League level would make for a successful rookie season for Celtics first-rounder Robert Williams, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. That’s where Williams will spend a good portion of the season, Blakely notes, and the big man must prove the left knee injury he’s dealing with won’t be a major issue. Williams also needs to show more maturity off the court, Blakely adds.

Eastern Notes: Marks, Thomas, Graham, Portis

Nets GM Sean Marks promised to season-ticket holders that the team is no longer interested in tanking, according to a Net Income story. “This is not a year we’re just going to sit there because we control our own pick and say let’s just hope that pick is as good as it possibly can be,” he said during the conference call. “It’s important for the fans to see the trajectory we’re on.” Brooklyn’s goal for the upcoming season is the postseason and Marks believes there are enough pieces to make it happen. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t make a push for the playoffs,” he said. “Isn’t that the objective here? We’re not sitting here trying to win 20 games, so let’s put our best foot forward and push each other and see where it goes.”

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Knicks forward Lance Thomas is very impressed with draft picks Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, Jordan Pandy of Newsday relays. Thomas expects both of them to make an impact in their rookie years. “You can just tell from the Summer League they were really going after it,” Thomas said. “Those guys were playing like they were playing for contracts even though they already have guarantees. I like to see that. I love the toughness, I love the grit, and that’s what it takes to survive in New York.”
  • The Nets’ signing of forward Treveon Graham could prove to be a huge bargain, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. The undrafted Graham was a rotation player for the Hornets last season and is as a career 43.8% 3-point shooter, Lewis notes. If he develops into a 3-and-D wing and can also contribute as a stretch four, he will be a steal, Lewis adds. Graham signed a two-year, $3.15MM contract.
  • Bulls forward Bobby Portis said contract extension talks with the front office are ongoing, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports. Portis can sign a rookie scale extension before the start of the season, otherwise he’ll be restricted free agent next summer if he receives a qualifying offer. “We’ve been talking about it,” he told Johnson. “We’re going to talk more in the next week or so. Hopefully, we get things done. I’m not stressing about it.”

Nets Notes: Russell, Napier, Faried, Whitehead

Nets GM Sean Marks won’t rule out the possibility of giving guard D’Angelo Russell an extension but it seems unlikely, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post (Twitter links). “For now, we’re going to see how this group plays together, how it all unfolds…I’m not going to rule out anything,” Marks said in a news conference, adding, “As we stand now, this is the group and we have no plans to make any crazy changes, whether that’s an extension or signing or trade anyone else. But things happen quickly.” Russell will make a little over $7MM this season and the team would have to decide whether to extend a qualifying offer of $9.16MM next summer if they don’t sign him to an extension.

In other news regarding the Brooklyn franchise:

  • The Nets will have to figure out how Shabazz Napier will fit into their backcourt but he’s not worried about it, Tom Dowd of the team’s website reports. The team already has Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie to play the point and Caris LeVert can also fill in at that spot. Napier was Damian Lillard‘s primary backup with the Trail Blazers last season. Napier signed a two-year contract on Tuesday. “That’s something I’m going to figure out when training camp starts,” Napier told Dowd about his role. “Right now, I’ll just continue to be who I am and come into training camp with an attitude of competing at the end of the day.”
  • Brooklyn took on Kenneth Faried‘s contract in a Nuggets salary dump but Marks feels Faried can be a major contributor next season, Dowd relays in a separate story. Faried has an expiring $13.76MM contract. “I think he fits with that Brooklyn grit that we talk about in terms of how he plays; he plays with high intensity, obviously at a fast pace,” Marks said. “His game will transition well to Brooklyn and what [coach] Kenny’s [Atkinson] wanting to do here.”
  • No one was more disappointed about the trade with the Nuggets than guard Isaiah Whitehead, the player shipped to Denver in the deal, as Bryan Fonseca of Nets Daily relays. Whitehead appeared in 89 games for his hometown team over the past two seasons. A source close to Whitehead sent a text to Fonseca after the trade that stated, “Being in Brooklyn meant everything to him.”

New York Notes: Near-Trades, Nets, Knox, Porzingis

The Nets selected Dzanan Musa with the No. 29 overall pick in Thursday’s draft and while GM Sean Marks said he was excited about the prospect, he admitted that the team was “very close” to trading up.

“You’re trying to figure out is the cost to trade up worth it,” Marks said in an interview with the FAN’s Mike Francesa (h/t Net Income and Anthony Puccio of Nets Daily). “And like most teams, you want to do it on the clock because you’re thinking: ‘Is my guy there? Is my target there? And what’s it going to cost to get there?”

”So at that point, we didn’t feel like it was worth it. We weren’t ready to give away the asking price. And at the same time, these two guys — [Rodions Kurucs] and Dzanan — we’d been targeting, so we’re definitely glad to have them in our family.”

Marks didn’t disclose which players or picks it would have taken to move up in the draft order, though he added that the organization likes its “solid vets on the team.”

Here’s more from the five boroughs:

  • Marks suggests the Nets will be active in free agency, as the pair of scribes relay in the same piece. “There are some things out there, whether it’s pending,” the GM said. “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.”
  • The Knicks feel No. 9 overall pick Kevin Knox and Kristaps Porzingis will make a good tandem at the forward positions, Marc Berman of the New York Post relays. Knox, who spoke to Porzingis via FaceTime after the draft, believes the duo can make an impact in the league. “He stretches the floor, shoots the ball, goes down low. I think me, him and some of the other guys will complement each other very well,” the rookie said.
  • The selection of Knox could give Porzingis another reason to sign a long-term deal once his deal expires next summer, Berman writes in the same piece. Porzingis is currently eligible for a contract extension, though the Knicks may prefer to wait to reach an agreement with the former No. 4 overall pick until next summer in order to preserve cap space.

Atlantic Notes: Harris, Celtics, Saric, Prokhorov

Re-signing Joe Harris is one of Nets GM Sean Marks’ offseason priorities, he told Alex Labidou of the team’s website and other reporters during a press conference. Harris averaged 10.8 PPG and shot 41.9% from long range in 25.3 MPG this season. “I think Joe made it pretty clear from statements he made that he’d love to be back here. That’s how the organization feels about him, too,” Marks said. Harris made just over $1.5MM and will likely receive a significant salary bump.

In other Atlantic Division developments:

  • The Celtics might regret not trading their own first-round pick for Grizzlies swingman Tyreke Evans to fortify their bench, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News opines. It’s possible but certainly no slam dunk that the Celtics will get a useful player with the No. 27 overall pick, Deveney continues. Boston didn’t know at the time it would lose Kyrie Irving for the postseason but Game 1 against the Bucks showed how badly the team could use a playmaker off the bench, Deveney adds.
  • Dario Saric‘s 3-point shooting is a key component in the Sixers’ playoff run, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Saric had 20 points and went 4-for-6 from long range in Game 1 against the Heat. “It’s the future of our sport,” coach Brett Brown said. “If you don’t have a four-man that can stretch the floor you aren’t going to play very long in the playoffs.”
  • Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s stake in the team in 2015 may have been purchased at an artificially low price, according to Josh Kosman of the New York Post. Prokhorov did not make it easy for Forest City Enterprises to find an outside buyer when it tried to sell its 20 percent share of the franchise, withholding financial information from prospective buyers, sources told Kosman. Prokhorov would up buying that stake at a $875MM valuation and that valuation increased 270% in three years when he sold 49% of the team last week.