During this offseason, the Brooklyn Nets have quietly, down low, gone about the business of rebuilding their team, last place Eastern Conference finishers this past season, with the worst record in the NBA. They’re doing it without the spotlights and fanfare that other major market teams, such as the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers attract, negatively or positively. They’re really humble.
Brooklyn traded their center of nine years, Brooke Lopez and the 27th pick that they held in the first round of last month’s NBA draft to the Lakers (a recurring theme of this story) for guard DeAngelo Russell and center Timofey Mozgov in June, and completed a deal last week with the Toronto Raptors for 6-foot-8 forward DeMarre Carroll who turns 31 July 27, and a 2018 first- and second-round draft pick in exchange for center Justin Hamilton, who was then waived by the Raptors.
“They’re the future,” said Carroll, now the oldest member of this team. “I’m just trying to bring leadership, help these guys grow,”
Carroll further stated, “Sometimes you gotta go out there and lead by example. Sometimes you gotta be vocal.” This statement reflects the work ethic of Brooklyn’s head coach, Kenny Atkinson. Atkinson worked on Carroll’s development during his earlier years while both were with the Atlanta Hawks. Atkinson was an assistant.
Atkinson, in his sophomore year with the Nets, coached the team this month in the NBA’s Summer League that just wrapped up in Las Vegas. Most teams, even those with first-time head coaches, delegate their offseason Summer League coaching duties to the assistants, their seconds-in-command, but it’s Atkinson’s intention to build his rapport with his group of young Brooklynites, starting now, to begin their ascension from the lower rungs of the NBA’s standings. He feels that if they’re out there running, in the trenches, he should be coaching them.
In five games, Brooklyn went 3-2, lost No. 2 to the Lakers in a summer league overshadowed by the play and sneaker apparel of their rookie guard, Lonzo Ball, this season’s No. 2 overall draft pick who brought along his father, LaVar, now somewhat of a celebrity himself. He’s a savant of sorts, like Earl Woods Sr., Tiger’s father, and Richard Williams, Venus and Serena’s dad. And there’s L.A.’s other rookie, 6-foot-9 point forward Kyle Kuzma, their 27th first-round pick in last month’s draft, the pick that Los Angeles received in the Lopez trade with the Nets.
Kuzma put up 30 points, 6-of-10 of his threes and 10 rebounds to lead the Lakers to a 110-98 victory over the Portland Trailblazers, winning the Summer League Championship. Kuzma was voted the game’s MVP, and Ball the Summer League MVP. It’s building the front office rep of the team’s new president, Magic Johnson, as he built one on their court as a player. Flashy! Magic like! His left strokes have already gone viral. Right strokes got y’all already in spirals.