The jubilation which has accompanied Sean Marks elevation to NBA GM is deeply misplaced, says Hayden Donnell.
That’s weird because yesterday, the team’s owner said he’d never heard of ‘Sean Marks’.
When asked specifically about Sean Marks, Prokhorov said: “I have never heard this name before.”
— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) February 17, 2016
Getting hired by someone who’d never heard of him is nothing. Marks has made a career of unlikely overachievement. The gangly, vaguely uncoordinated Rangitoto College alumni inexplicably spent 11 years in the NBA despite never averaging more than 4.6 points and 15.2 minutes a game. He played by far the fewest minutes of anyone who spent 10 years in the league.
The six NBA teams who signed him would have been only marginally worse off wheeling out Wilt Chamberlain’s carcass. He’s either an all-time great inspirational locker room glue guy, a tactical super-genius, or most people forgot he was on their team. The Nets are betting it’s one of the first two. They think Marks’ time as an assistant GM at one of the NBA’s premier franchises, the San Antonio Spurs, make him the perfect person to guide their raging trash fire masquerading as a pro-basketball team back to success. Many respected NBA analysts are praising the gamble.
Quite a turnaround for the Nets. Excited to see how Sean does in the job. Good guy, super well-respected around the league. — Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) February 18, 2016
That’s great for them. It’s terrible for Marks. He’s our Kiwi son, the faulty-but-loveable prototype that led to Steven Adams, a good guy by all accounts, and he doesn’t deserve the hell that awaits him at the Brooklyn Nets.
It’s very sad. An NBA GM is probably the single most important person at a franchise, responsible for hiring and firing the players and coaches. When the job’s done well – as it has been by the likes of wily Celtics legend Danny Ainge, the Rockets stats-geek Daryl Morey or Marks’ former boss, the Spurs’ RC Buford – you are a basketball deity, your sagacity marvelled at by nerds the world over. When done poorly you become a figure of intense scrutiny and merciless ridicule, as the Timberwolves David Kahn knows too well.
Marks seemed destined to become one of the good, even great ones. Unfortunately he’s landed in nuclear basketball wasteland where nothing can grow for generations.
Here are three of the main reasons why the dream gig he’s just landed is the worst job in the NBA:
1. He has literally nothing to work with
I went to the first ever Brooklyn Nets home game.
It was great. I ordered a burger with a medium-rare patty. Kris Humphries, the uniquely punchable former Mr Kim Kardashian, murdered Bradley Beal’s career with a humiliating chasedown block. Huge lumbering geek Brook Lopez pulled down 11 rebounds, scored 18 points, and in an unusual twist, didn’t snap his knees like plywood. The team won, 98-88.
I rode the subway home in a fog of happiness, slept soundly, and woke up the next morning with food poisoning.
The next 20 hours are a blur, but I remember trying not to vomit on a Canadian Customs officer, shivering in the guest room of a Montreal AirB&B, moaning about how I was going to die, and loudly spewing a quarter pound of medium rare patty into our host’s toilet just as she arrived home with guests.
My story is the Nets’ story.
The franchise started out in the throes of a swaggering, basketball debauchery and ended up crouched over the NBA’s metaphorical toilet bowl pleading for mercy.
The first act of general manager Billy King’s four-year reign of terror was to trade a first round draft pick that became the All Star Damian Lillard for the rotting vestige of Gerald Wallace. Draft picks – the rights to select good young talent – are the only thing a bad franchise which resembles hope.
He clearly enjoyed the sensation of carelessly tossing one of these precious jewels aside, as he gave up more picks to pay four years of a washed up Joe Johnson’s transparently terrible six-year, $120 million contract. Then all the rest of his picks went to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Thanks to King’s incredibly generous pick-shedding binge, Marks doesn’t control his own first round draft pick until 2019. He has no picks this year. No second round pick in 2019 or 2020.
It’s not like his roster is packed with assets for him to swing trades. Lopez, his best player, has a surgically repaired everything. Thaddeus Young is a useful veteran. I can’t remember another player on the 2016 Brooklyn Nets roster. They’ve won 14 games and lost 40.
Despite that, Marks is expected to build a championship contender. It’s like giving a guy two sheets of corrugated iron and telling him to build the Sky Tower. The Nets are like The Spinoff with air conditioning.
2. He’s working for an insane person
In January 2007, police were called to an out-of-control party at a French chalet.
They arrested the party’s host, a Russian billionaire named Mikhail Prokhorov, on suspicion of flying in prostitutes from Russia to service his guests. He was released three days later after it was found that, though he had paid for the women to fly from Russia to the party, they weren’t full-time prostitutes.
A few years later, Prokhorov bought the Brooklyn Nets.
Having a shadowy oligarch more accustomed to taking on Putin than sports politics as your team owner isn’t always that great. When Prokhorov acquired the team, he promised a championship within five years, then empowered King – who was most notable for shepherding the Philadelphia 76ers through years of mediocrity, and pushing a deeply unpopular casino development – to engineer that miracle by over-spending on aging players. It was a terrible mistake, and one he still doesn’t seem to understand.
On the plus side, he is committed to motivating his team. Here he inspiring players by doing pushups on a stick placed across two basketballs.
That leads us to yesterday, when Prokhorov said he didn’t know who Marks is. For his sake, let’s hope it stays that way.
3. This is his first GM job
Marks’ only GM experience is as an assistant to someone running a an almost excessively functional basketball organisation. Putting him in charge of the Nets is like making Bill English the Prime Minister of Greece.
But if anyone can do it, Marks can. He’s an unathletic YMCA dad who spent 11 years in the best basketball league on Earth. Almost immediately upon leaving, he became an executive on a championship team. He has a dunk reel on YouTube despite not being able to jump. Now he has the chance to turn a terrible team with no assets, a horror movie roster and a delusional owner into a functional NBA side.
It’s his greatest challenge yet, and one that, unfortunately for kiwi NBA fans, will almost certainly kill him.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.