What the fuck is happening in Brooklyn?
The drama-filled collection of Hall of Famers that we know as the Brooklyn Nets have added another note to their Wikipedia page as Kevin Durant calls for Sean Marks and Steve Nash’s sacking. What’s going on?
With no trade in sight, it looks like Kevin Durant is making one final power play before training camp. (Sean Carroll illustration)
I’ve never been on a rollercoaster in my life, I’m petrified of them.
The closest I ever came was for my friend’s 12th birthday party at Luna Park. After lining up for just under an hour, I hopped in the car with my friend before immediately regretting the decision, thinking: “fuck the absolute shit out of this thing” and quickly asked to get off.
Earlier in the day, I had loved going on one of those vertical rides, the doughnut-looking thing that slowly crawls up a metal pole before dropping instantly and catching itself at the last second. After leaving the rollercoaster, I went straight back to the vertical ride and spent the rest of the day there.
Up and down, up and down, up and down. Just surrounding myself in warm familiarity before it was time to go home.
If I had just stayed on the rollercoaster, I might’ve enjoyed it. Regardless, I acquired a core memory on that sunny day in 2010.
Sean Marks and the Brooklyn Nets front office had a similar formative decision to make when acquiring Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the free agency of 2019.
They had built an exciting, overachieving team that clearly loved playing with one another, and they did it with almost no draft assets after the infamous KG-Paul Pierce trade emptied their cupboard. This chemistry, versatility and roster flexibility (and location) were attractive enough for two of the biggest free agents that summer to ditch their plans with the New York Knicks and join the “younger brother” Nets.
Marks was given a choice between getting on the Luna Park rollercoaster, the unknown, the high-flying, the risky and signing the two stars or turning around and enjoying what he knew worked, the up-and-down contraption filled with D’Angelo Russell leg kicks, Jared Dudley three-point celebrations and an island of misfit toys.
It’s not as simple as picking an amusement park ride, though, and the heights of a rollercoaster barely hold a flame to potentially winning an NBA championship and being crowned one of the smartest executives in basketball history.
If the Nets had won the 2020 title (if Kevin Durant wore the right shoe size), the trio of Kyrie, KD and James Harden might’ve sparked a new dynasty and Marks would be known as the architect who dragged Brooklyn out of NBA hell and into the history books.
Fast-forward to the present day and, depending on which report you believe, one or both of those stars are calling for Marks’ resignation if they’re to keep wearing a Brooklyn jersey. What the fuck happened?
After a post-free agency lull, the Durant soap opera kicked back into full hear with Shams Charania, The Athletic reporting that KD has “lost faith” in the Nets’ front office, reiterating that he wants to be traded. The latest little nugget of news here is that Durant doesn’t want to play in Brooklyn as long as Sean Marks or the head coach, Steve Nash are there.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN has described this as a desperate play for power: "The timing of it is also unusual. While star players have gotten coaches fired for decades and will get them fired for decades, he didn't express this, as far as I'm aware to the Nets at the end of the season.
“And he didn't express this to the Nets when he made his trade demand. So doing it now is a maneuver. A maneuver that I don't think worked.”
For what it’s worth, Kyrie Irving thought he’d share his two cents, reiterating that the agrees with KD according to Michael Blinn, The New York Post. For those who have forgotten, the offseason started with questions around Kyrie’s future but he picked up his $36.5 million player option on 29 June, saying he’s committed to Brooklyn. The next day, Kevin requested a trade.
Let’s take KD at face value, if it’s actually an ultimatum between Steve and Sean or his on-court talents, what should Joe Tsai do?
Tsai quickly posted on Twitter, backing his front office, saying: “Our front office and coaching staff have my support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”
A rare front office/ownership viral tweet, don’t see many of them. It’s worth noting that if KD had responded to that tweet in any way, it might have been a top-ten all-time Twitter thread but hey, that’s why they’re rare.
At the moment, Steve Nash isn’t a great coach in the NBA. He graciously pivoted between flummoxed and confused on the sidelines and no sane person would look at Brooklyn’s offence the past two seasons and confuse Nash for Tex Winter.
But at the very least, he managed to keep this team drama-free for long enough to make two postseason runs and as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, the odds are that he’s going to be good eventually. Still, if the decision were between firing Nash and keeping KD, it’s an easy one.
What about Sean Marks? Without Marks, there is no Kyrie or KD, without Marks, there might not even be an interested billionaire in Joe Tsai who sees it as a worthy investment.
When the two stars joined the Nets, Brooklyn had Jarrett Allen, Spender Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince, Nic Claxton and Joe Harris on the roster. If Durant was healthy, that’s one of the better supporting casts he would have ever played with.
Even the following season, a lot of the depth and future assets were shipped off for James Harden (which is a testament to the war chest Marks had amassed alongside the cap space for KD and Kyrie), but an injury to Dinwiddie in his third game cut his season short. Despite this, it took seven games for the 2020 champion Milwaukee Bucks to eliminate a Nets team with a hobbled Harden and absent Kyrie.
If it were a simple question between two neutral people, you might side with Durant, but Tsai’s tweet is a businessman’s vote of confidence in the people he has worked with for years and the people who have taken this team to where it is now.
The opposing argument is that Kevin Durant is very good at basketball.
After the news broke, Nate Duncan, Dunc’d On Basketball NBA Podcast said he would do whatever it took to keep Durant on his roster. The idea here is that whichever team KD plays for is a championship contender and banners fly forever.
Yes, banners fly forever but… I don’t know, that’s usually my argument. There’s just something about moving on from one of the league’s best front office members for the short-term gain. If Marks is fired, what’s stopping KD from asking for a trade six months down the line? All of a sudden, you’re stuck with a lesser GM and no Kev.
What if they fired Marks, tried for another season and then re-hired the GM? No, I’m sounding like a 2K MyLeague player.
There’s always the possibility that both sides talk it out, realise that their best-case scenario is right where they are and play the season like normal. But if that were to happen, there’d be some unsettled feelings floating around a team with the three poster boys of unsettled feelings: Kyrie, KD and Ben Simmons.
If we’re treating The Book Of Basketball by Bill Simmons as somewhat of a bible, there’s a zero percent chance this team wins an NBA championship with all the off-court issues hanging around the team.
Somehow, one of the teams that might’ve reignited the sport's “secret” to winning might be tearing it all down in a matter of seasons. If that’s the case and Brooklyn is starting a rebuild with few future draft picks or top-tier prospects, wouldn’t you want Sean Marks there to lead you out of hopelessness, again?