Nets sound ready to make a run at big-name free agents


Since arriving in Brooklyn, GM Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson have cautioned the Nets are a long, long way away. They’ve talked about taking it slow, measured steps and hitting singles.

But after years of meticulous building, the Nets have finally moved the goalposts. Now it is time for them to stride into free agency and hit a home run, and come away with a bona fide star.

“That’s the challenge,” Marks said. “I’m not sure there’s pressure to act frivolously or out of the norm. This is something that if the right player is available, obviously like any other team we’ll target those guys. We’ll see how this builds out.

“It’s not about fast-forwarding or skipping steps. There’s a lot of people that played major roles in getting the team to where it is now: the team, the organization, the identity. For us to even have these conversations, that’s exciting.”

They couldn’t even get into the conversation with Kevin Durant during his last free agency, unable to get a meeting. This time they expect to at least be in the game for Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving, and a viable destination for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris.

“If you’re a top-tier player, this is an organization you want to be at, from coaching to the performance,” DeMarre Carroll said. “Our young core helped change some of the perspective of these top-tier players.”

Considering the priciest free agent Marks has actually landed has been Jeremy Lin (three years, $36 million), the Nets are clearly swimming in very different waters these days.

“The process we went through this year — and there’s a lot of positives that’ve come out of this year — can only help,” Marks said.
“It’s going to attract free agents. People are going to want to play here. They’re going to want to play for Kenny, they’re going to want to play in Brooklyn, they’re going to play for this ownership group. We have a lot of things going for us.”

Like the NBA’s second-richest ownership in Mikhail Prokhorov and Joe Tsai, the latter’s influence in China giving a star extra earning potential there. The Nets boast a quality staff, top facilities and a young core.

“The word is out. People know about it. People know how good Kenny and Sean Marks are and what they’ve done,” Jared Dudley said. “Free agents would definitely consider it. Now, them picking it, that’s where maybe Brooklyn has a little more to do.”

The Pacers have copious cap space, and the big-market Lakers, Clippers and Knicks will all be stiff competition for a max-contract star.

“There’s a lore they have about playing in the Garden, that Knicks jersey, even though they might not have been good for the last 15, 20 years,” said Dudley. “When I played for the Clippers and we were the 3-seed, they were talking about the Lakers. Out of 10 pages [in the newspaper], they got seven. That’s just how it is, and nothing’s going to change. Dolan could burn down Manhattan and they’re going to talk about the Knicks.”

But the Nets aren’t without advantages of their own.

“For us, the advantages they have here is the foundation and the culture we have. And not just in New York, in the NBA, one of the best young cores here. They have draft picks, they have cap space,” Dudley said. “Right now, Brooklyn has put [itself] in fighting position to be able to land somebody.”