Kevin Durant was not behind the James Harden deal, nor was Kyrie Irving – either himself, or by his absence from the team – but Nets general manager Sean Marks did say they both were in the loop, as the idea for bringing Harden to Brooklyn was a “collaborative effort.”
“We’re always looking to see how we can make the team better and moving pieces around, and everyone was kept up to speed on this throughout the process so I could get their thoughts,” Marks told Carton & Roberts on WFAN Wednesday. “It’s always been a collaborative effort, and that’s the way we’d like to continue to develop that.”
The deal has already been labeled “title or bust” by many, and has harkened back to the megadeal with Boston in 2013 that led to the situation Marks inherited from predecessor Billy King in 2016. Neither, though, is a fair assessment, says the GM.
“We had to weigh all the different options and opinions, from ownership, our coaches, everyone – without a doubt, we look at precedents, and weigh those against the window we have now,” Marks said. “But I don’t look at these two scenarios as being the same; they were different groups of players at different points in their careers. We’re trying to maximize the window we have with this group. I know what’s at stake. This is pro sports, at the end of the day my job and our entire staff’s job is to know what’s best for Brooklyn to bring a title here and have sustainable success.”
Owner Joe Tsai, above all, had to sign off on the deal, which puts Brooklyn in an even more perilous cap situation – but Marks is “lucky” to have an owner so engaged in the process, and not just one looking to get the job done no matter what.
“(Tsai is) engaged and knows what’s going on around the league,” Marks said. “We talk daily, and I love the fact that I have an engaged owner who is constantly asking me questions. We had multiple conversations, and I’m not sure who beat who to the punch. We all met and got a commitment out of Joe Tsai and the players that this is what we wanted to do, and we were ecstatic to do it.”
It wasn’t an easy trade to make – in addition to being very good NBA players, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert were Marks’ first two draft picks, as he even noted – and it was one that snowballed quickly but had to be made.
“We knew there were other teams engaged, and any time you can add a player of James’ caliber to your roster, you have to look very hard at it, because they don’t come around very frequently,” Marks said. “We do our background, and Mike D’Antoni has spent a lot of time with James and knows his ins and outs. It’s not fair for me to judge what happened behind the scenes in Houston – I don’t know, and quite frankly don’t care, because my job is to put the best group on the floor, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations I’ve had with James.”
On that title or bust notion, the other two Nets stars, Irving and Durant, have opt-outs after the 2021-22 season, and Spencer Dinwiddie has a player option this coming offseason – so the window may seem small, but Marks is hoping to make that crack a gaping chasm.
“We’re not doing trades like this thinking the window is fleeting. We signed Joe Harris to a long-term deal, traded for James, and while you never know if Kevin and Kyrie will stay, we’ll put our best foot forward to be the leader in the clubhouse, so they stay here and build something in Brooklyn,” Marks said. “Our expectation is to continue to build with this group, and the hope is that it’s a lot longer than a year and a half.”
And already, Harden is being a model citizen.
“I will tell you that I’ve really enjoyed my conversations with James, who is extremely engaged with what we’re trying to do here,” Marks said. “He has such a high IQ, and when you bring in a player like that, he makes others around him a whole lot better. He knows what’s at stake and what he gave up in Houston, and knows there will be some sacrifices, but we’ll see everyone make those to some extent.”
The Nets will still need punch behind that Big 3, and injuries and the trade have sapped the team of the depth they were lauded for a month ago…or so one might think, but not Marks.
“We will continue to try to build and develop, but we’ll continue to add pieces to this roster, and it’s a heck of an opportunity for younger guys to step up,” Marks said. “We’ve seen that happen in the past with Spencer Dinwiddie. It’s up to us to fill out the roster and hopefully plug some holes, but we’ll be looking for somebody to take this opportunity and seize it.”
So, could Dinwiddie be one of those additions, returning from his torn ACL this season?
“I’ll never rule Spencer out of anything, because there are very few guys who have shown the resilience he has to come back from any injury. He loves to prove people wrong, and has a chip on his shoulder,” Marks said. “But, an ACL tear is a serious injury and he has a lot at stake, so while I won’t rule him out, it’s going to be very difficult. There are a lot of things at stake here, but we want what is best for Spencer long-term.”
Listen to Marks’ entire conversation with Carton & Roberts below!