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Nets GM Marks doesn't think rebuild will take long

Sean Marks Brooklyn Nets Sean Marks - The Canadian Press

NEW YORK (AP) — When the Brooklyn Nets made their first deal with the local rival New York Knicks in four decades, they traded away their best all-around player in Mikal Bridges.

Bridges was the key piece the Nets acquired when they sent Kevin Durant to Phoenix in 2023, and his brilliant play down the stretch got them into the playoffs that spring.

No key player came back this time. The trade with the Knicks was all about the haul of draft picks the Nets could accumulate for future success.

So, the Nets are heading into a rebuild, but general manager Sean Marks doesn't think it will be a lengthy one.

“This build, do I think it’s going to take time? I mean, I think we’ll be strategic in it,” Marks said Monday.

“But I do think being in this market, with this amount of draft assets, we’ve done it before. And so again, I think, not that it’s going to be expedited by any means, but I don’t think it’s a long process, either.”

The trade was agreed upon just before the NBA draft last month and completed Saturday. The Nets received the Knicks' first-round picks in 2025, 2027, 2029 and 2031, the right to swap first-round picks in 2028, a first-round pick from Milwaukee next year and a second-round pick in 2025.

Four picks in the first round of what's expected to be a strong 2025 class looks nice on the draft board, but it's probably not going to look pretty on the court or in the standings until then. Especially considering the Nets were thinking about multiple championships when Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden were in Brooklyn just three years ago.

“I think you have to look yourself in the mirror as an organization and sort of say what’s the best path for us moving forward here, and how do we do this and how do we have that sustainable success that we want,” Marks said. “So when you’re able to (add) that amount of draft assets over the course of the last year, I think that’s going to help us in our trajectory long term.”

Bridges averaged 26.1 points from the time the Nets got him at the 2023 deadline through the rest of that season, but that slipped to 19.6 in 2023-24 as the Nets went to 32-50 and missed the postseason. But Marks said the trade wasn't about Bridges' performance and denied speculation that the swingman asked to be dealt.

“I think it’s been reported that Mikal wanted to leave or requested a trade. That could not be further from the truth,” Marks said. “That’s just not in Mikal’s character. That’s not who he is and that definitely did not happen. He was told by me when I called him and let him know that we’re at the 2-yard line.”

The trade — the first between the teams since 1983 — allows Bridges to join former Villanova teammates Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo with the Knicks and could make New York a contender in the Eastern Conference. A few miles away, the Nets could be one of the worst teams in the NBA in new coach Jordi Fernandez's first season.

Marks said he told Fernandez during negotiations that moving Bridges and building through the draft was a path the Nets could pursue, and was up front with Nic Claxton before re-signing the center.

The Nets couldn't offer Marks good draft assets when he was hired in 2016, having dealt them to Boston in the 2013 blockbuster that brought Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn. That trade put the Celtics in position to draft Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to start the core of the team that won this year's NBA title.

Now the Nets will have draft picks and cap space. They just no longer have a talent anywhere near the level of Bridges.

“It's a difficult decision, because Mikal was the focal point or this organization for the last year since we did the trade,” Marks said. “So, not an easy decision, but at the same time when you have an offer like we did from New York, I think that sets us up on a very, very clear direction and pathway to continue to build this team to sustainable success and that’s the ultimate goal here.”