NEW YORK — An inadvertent elbow in a pick-up game changed the Brooklyn Nets‘ plans on Tuesday. They had scheduled a press conference in which general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson were to discuss their remade roster, which is now headlined by Kevin Durant (who is expected to miss the 2019-20 season as he recovers from a torn Achilles) and Kyrie Irving, but Atkinson didn’t speak because he had to accompany Irving to see a doctor.
Marks witnessed the incident, but declined to offer details about any potential injury to Irving. He seemed to downplay it by saying that “those type of plays happen frequently” in pickup and the organization likes to be cautious with all of their players.
“It literally happened 30 minutes ago, so I wouldn’t want to speculate at all,” he said. “But I think this is just a case of doing our due diligence. Kyrie goes and gets checked out like we would with anybody else. We always send staff with him. This is a great opportunity for Kenny to be with him, too.”
Irving will be Brooklyn’s main attraction this season, assuming that Durant does not return sooner than expected. For the last three weeks, he has been “religious” about coming to the Nets’ practice facility, Marks said, and his presence has, according to the general manager, raised the bar in their pick-up games.
“We’ve seen it out on the court already,” Marks said. “The leadership, the work ethic and the competitive nature that he has brought to the group has been terrific.”
Before Irving and Durant joined the party, Brooklyn has been known as a competitive, hard-playing team with a healthy culture in the Marks-Atkinson era. The Nets’ plan is to maintain that even though the personnel, expectations and attention will be significantly different. If that is going to happen, they will need Irving to be at his best, in terms of the leadership that Marks referenced, his production and his health.
“Definitely there’s different expectations as to how you go about building and the wins and losses and so forth, but it’s also a great challenge for us,” Marks said. “It’s a great challenge when you implement eight new players to your group, you implement new staff, and you say how much does our culture change, in what faces does it change, how does our system have to change and so forth along with all of it.”
Asked about how their offensive system would look with Irving in place of D’Angelo Russell, Marks said he would defer to Atkinson on that subject. Atkinson will now meet with reporters at media day on Friday, as will Durant, Irving and their new teammates, and they will all share how pumped they are about what’s ahead for the franchise. The most important questions Brooklyn faces, however, will be answered on the court.