Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson talked Thursday to ESPN’s Michael Kay about 2019 free agency, tanking, D’Angelo Russell and more.
The big question everyone wanted to hear was his thoughts and plans for 2019 free agency. The Nets can free up an estimated $50 million to $70 million in cap space, which can translate to two max contracts.
With that dancing in the minds of Nets fans, Atkinson addressed the idea of landing two premier free agents next summer..
"I think you have to dream big, Michael. You have to dream big. It’s a little bit on us, how we play this year …. the word around the league. Players they talk to each other, ‘What’s it like in Brooklyn? How do they treat you? How do they treat their families? What are the fans like? What’s the Barclays Center like?’ I think we have all those things in our favor. Players talk and I think they will seriously consider us."
These comments from Atkinson show the Nets have great confidence heading into that big summer. Brooklyn is not just known to be a great basketball city; the club is known for having a great staff and the assets around them.
Atkinson addressed the culture Brooklyn and how it stands out from other NBA teams when it comes to attracting those free agents.
"We are in the great city of New York, there’s nothing like that. Brooklyn is a special place. I live in Brooklyn, our whole staff lives in Brooklyn, all of our players live in Brooklyn.I feel like there’s something special going on and like i said, I think through word of mouth and players talking to each other and agents talking about it, the success we had like Joe Harris, guys like Spencer Dinwiddie, who were out of the league, and their agents say, ‘Come to Brooklyn, get some opportunity, the coaches will let you play a little bit.’We got a lot of positive things.’"
Brooklyn is a great destination option for free agents. The city of Brooklyn is still apart of New York City and is a borough filled with basketball fans. Now, one flaw Brooklyn may face when it comes to free agency in 2019 is their losing.
The Nets have been improving each season since Atkinson took over as head coach but Brooklyn takes pride in not taking the tanking route.
Atkinson was asked about his thoughts on tanking and how Brooklyn have done a great job fearing away from that route. This is what Atkinson had to say about the Nets and tanking and if he ever talked to Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown about the strategic move.
"No, because we never talked about tanking. We (Atkinson and general manager Sean Marks don’t use the word, we don’t talk about it. We talk about internal improvement, we talk about player development, we talk about culture, but tanking is not a word we use.I don’t think the fans of New York want to see that."
Teams and fans across the league have to respect what the Brooklyn Nets have done over the past several seasons. The Nets have not took on taking and play to win with pride. They have been improving steadily since the disastrous Billy King era and have rebounded quite well since.
The Nets coach was then asked about how good D’Angelo Russell can be and whether or not he is the guy to build things around.
"He’s a talented guy, Michael. He’s got great court vision,he’s got incredible hand-eye coordination, really understands the game. He wants to be great and has been in our gym all summer.In the NBA, it’s not an obligation. You have to want to be there and he has been there really working on his body. He’s got to make some strides, hes got to get stronger, work on his explosiveness a little bit but he is proving it to me by being there everyday in the off-season”"
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These comments on Russell show that Atkinson has great faith in the young point guard. It shows that Atkinson appreciates and praises his offseason work ethic and the passion he has to improve his game especially during the offseason, where players are not obligated to put in that effort.
In the final portion of the interview, Atkinson talked about some of the offseason acquisitions.
He commented on Kenneth Faried‘s strong play in Denver over the past couple of seasons, Shabazz Napier‘s great year in Portland and mentioned how he was on Brooklyn’s scout sheet as an opposing X-Factor when it comes to scoring, especially shooting the ball, and how Ed Davis is a solid rebounder who brings that needed toughness to Brooklyn’s front court.
As the interview came to a close, Atkinson was asked who are the top two coaches in the NBA currently.
"Pop (Gregg Popovich), you got to give it to Pop. He has done it for such a long time. Second best, wow that’s a tough one, I would probably go with Brad Stevens right now. He has done a phenomenal job."
Atkinson closed the interview with Michael Kay mentioning he would be happy with another eight to ten win improvement for the 2018-19 season. Last season, the Brooklyn Nets had 28 wins going 28-54.
If Brooklyn can successfully make that jump next season, that can put the Nets in playoff contention.