Thursday, July 25, 2024

Nets GM Sean Marks says Mikal Bridges didn’t request trade, Knicks presented ‘by far’ the best offer

NEW YORKMikal Bridges didn’t ask for a trade, according to Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks. In his first public comments since the blockbuster between the Nets and the New York Knicks, Marks said Monday that the deal came together quickly and Bridges didn’t know about it “until I called him.” At that point, he said, he and Knicks exec Leon Rose were already finalizing the details.

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

The night that the two teams reached an agreement, SNY’s Ian Begley reported that “Bridges’ side was prepared to force the issue” by telling teams he wanted to play with the Knicks, and that his side had “made it clear” to Brooklyn that he wanted to reunite with New York’s Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart, his former college teammates. Marks denied this, and said that Brooklyn simply decided that the Knicks’ offer, which included five-first round draft picks (of which four are unprotected) and a pick swap, was too good to pass up.

“I think you have to look yourself in the mirror,” Marks said. “And as an organization you have to look at yourself and say, ‘OK, what’s the best path for us moving forward here?'”

Before the trade, the Nets had long maintained that Bridges — who will be introduced as a Knick on Tuesday — was a core part of their future. The plan was to trade for a star to play with him. After all, bottoming out wouldn’t do them any good, since they’d already traded away their draft picks.

At the same time as they made the trade with the Knicks, though, they made a trade with the Houston Rockets that gave them control of their 2025 and 2026 first-round picks. Neither of those trades would have happened without the other.

“They’re absolutely connected,” Marks said. “I think when you look at doing the deal we did with the Knicks, that was really only possible by controlling our own destiny a little bit more, where we get our picks back from Houston.” 

Asked directly about the 2025 and 2026 draft classes, which are projected to be strong, Marks said, “That’s always a factor in it.  We’re always looking two, three, four years ahead to try and navigate a pathway.” Rather than waiting for the perfect win-now trade to come around, it decided to pick a direction and bet on its scouting department. 

Marks said that there was “no shortage of interest in Mikal around the league,” but the offer from New York was “by far the best deal” that the Nets were offered. “I believe that this was the best pathway for us to go down right now, instead of waiting,” he said. “And we could have kept waiting. I mean, there’s no shortage of people who want to play with Mikal and the like because he’s a heck of a talent out there. And we’ll miss him.” 

It was a “difficult decision,” he said, to trade Bridges, whom he described as “a focal point of the organization” since the Durant trade. “At the same time,” he said, “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 for sustainable success.”

Marks said new coach Jordi Fernandez and center Nic Claxton were well aware the possibility that Bridges could be traded. Fernandez “bought in completely, not only when we first signed him, but to the outcome now,” Marks said. He added that Claxton, who re-signed on a four-year contract worth up to $100 million, “wants to be a part” of the rebuild.

“We were upfront Nic and told him the pathway of the team,” Marks said. “You know, ‘We’re not going to be adding the stars right now that you want, and I think for us to have success long-term, this is the pathway that we can go down.” 

Marks spoke to reporters at the Nets’ practice facility, while their summer league team was practicing. After practice, Noah Clowney, their 19-year-old big man, recounted how he found out about the Bridges trade.

“So I was actually playing pool with my family,” Clowney said. “We were playing 8-ball and ping-pong. And then I seen the trade on my phone and my initial thought was like, ‘Oh,’ like, it shocked me. ‘Cause obviously I’m not in the front office, I don’t know what’s going on, I’m just working on my craft. But I feel like Mikal should almost feel proud in a sense. To be traded for five first-round picks is superstar-level type things.”

Clowney said that he appreciated the way Bridges “came in every day with a smile on his face.” It is apt, then, that Clowney is focusing on the positives when it comes to the trade. 

“No shade to him, that’s my dog, I love him, but to see us going into more of a rebuilding standpoint, that’s an amazing opportunity for me,” Clowney said. “And I gotta try to take advantage of that.”

Since the trade, rumors have swirled around Brooklyn forwards Cam Johnson and Dorian Finney-Smith. “We’ve had some conversations with all the vets on the team because it does weigh on people,” Marks said, without indicating what moves might come next. “Free agency is still going, and I know it’s moving at a snail’s pace around the league right now, but that’s still going,” he said. “So let’s see how that shakes out over summer league and so forth.” The Nets would like to retain restricted free agent Trendon Watford, Marks said, but, generally speaking, they “have to be patient, we’re not going to be in a hurry.”

Marks said twice that they will be “strategic” in how they manage their newfound flexibility. Ultimately, they want to “find continuity,” he said, but whether they end up building this next iteration of the team primarily through the draft or by adding core pieces in trades or free agency will be determined by what opportunities present themselves. 

In a way, that’s how they approached the Bridges situation: They stuck to their plan until it was clear that there was a better one.

“An offer like this from a team, we’re not going to turn that down,” Marks said. 

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