The second round of the NBA playoffs aren’t even finished, but the Nets have been eliminated for more than two weeks, and already are looking toward next season.
Nets general manager Sean Marks and coach Steve Nash (yes, he’s still employed) are expected to address the media Wednesday for the first time since their shocking first-round loss at the hands of a Celtics sweep, and there are plenty of questions that must be asked.
It remains to be seen how forthright Marks and Nash will be with the answers: both to the assembled press, and to themselves when they look in the mirror.
For Marks, or Nash, or both:
Do the Nets have a culture problem?
“Culture” was Marks’ oft-used buzzword when he arrived in 2016 from the Spurs, and the Nets nurtured one that made players want to come to Brooklyn. But since they landed the big fish, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, has player empowerment given way to enabling?
Even Marks admitted at the time that culture never gets built for good, but is an ongoing process that requires constant work. Irving has run roughshod and James Harden couldn’t wait to get out of town, so it appears the Nets could have some work to do on that score.
Are the Nets still committed to keeping Irving if he decides to opt out, considering the off-court drama and uncertainty?
Irving has missed 123 of 226 regular-season games since he signed with the Nets in July 2019, with reasons ranging from injuries to personal leave to refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Talks on a max contract extension were sheltered after he refused the vaccine.
Irving — who already this offseason has labeled himself a martyr and the media puppets, before calling his critics “cockroaches” during a live stream Tuesday on Twitch — can opt out of his $36.5 million pact for 2022-23. Just how much stomach do the Nets have for a long-term commitment, and what kind of protections would they want?
How would he evaluate Nash’s performance this season, when a potential championship campaign ended in a first-round exit?
Nash’s former assistant, Ime Udoka seemed to get the better of him as head coach of the Celtics in the first-round sweep. Is there anything to engender confidence that Nash can develop and grow into a championship coach?
Does he need to consider adding a defensive coordinator?
While finally getting injured Ben Simmons—last season’s Defensive Player of the Year runner-up—onto the court should help immensely, so would find a defense-minded assistant coach to replicate what Udoka gave to the Nets last season.
What has he learned from the past two seasons?
After progressing with every savvy move at the start of his tenure in Brooklyn, Marks’ batting average has dipped the last two years. The megadeal for Harden to create a Big 3 ended with Harden, Durant and Irving playing just 16 games together. And Jevon Carter and James Johnson, acquired just last summer, are long gone.
What is the Nets’ biggest offseason priority, in terms of personnel?
Watching the Celtics and the defending champion Bucks play what looks like a championship series, many feel length and athleticism on the wing should be at the top of the list. But it’s Marks’ opinion that matters most.
How important is being together from the start of camp?
Irving’s early absence and then part-time status proved to be the Nets’ undoing. With Joe Harris (left ankle surgery March 21), Simmons (microdisectomy back surgery May 5) and Seth Curry (arthroscopic left ankle surgery May 9) all having procedures in the past two months, who is ready for camp in September bears watching.
Exactly how much will owner Joe Tsai pay in luxury taxes?
It’s not just Irving. Even if the Nets don’t re-sign LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin, decisions on Bruce Brown (free agent), Nic Claxton (restricted free agent) and Patty Mills (player option) are in question. Tsai is going to pay roughly $96 million in luxury tax for this season, and could approach $350 million in tax and salary next season.
Who will appear in the new Nets comedy?
Ronny Chieng is set to play a (fictional) recently promoted Nets GM in comedy series being developed for Hulu. The story is inspired by Tsai. Will there be any characters based on Marks or Nash? And with the show filming in New York City July 20-Aug. 5, will any Nets make cameos?