No NBA team has been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than the Nets, but general manager Sean Marks said the organization supports players who have tested positive for the virus or opted out of plans to resume the season in the NBA “bubble” at Disney World in Orlando, where the focus will be less on competitive goals and more on social issues.
After the NBA season paused on March 11, four Nets, including injured Kevin Durant, tested positive. When the Nets returned to Brooklyn recently to resume training, Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan tested positive, and forward Wilson Chandler opted out of attending Orlando for family reasons. Jordan announced he will not attend Orlando, but Dinwiddie remains part of the Nets’ traveling party, although he has displayed symptoms and currently is in quarantine.
Marks acknowledged the risks everyone is facing in Florida, which lately has become a hot spot for the virus.
“Regarding the players that have tested positive and decided to opt out, our job here is just to support them and their families in any way possible,” Marks said Wednesday in a video conference with reporters. “It’s completely their decision. This is by no means mandatory that people show up in Orlando in the bubble.
“This is a time when we need to show unparalleled empathy, and I think that’s what we’ve done. I have no reason to believe that more people will opt out. But this is a very fluid time, and I think we just have to understand that and…adapt and move along as best we can.”
Marks was involved in discussions with commissioner Adam Silver and other NBA executives when the plan to restart with 22 of the 30 teams was formulated. Starting July 31, the seventh-seeded Nets will play eight regular-season games to determine playoff seeding. They lead ninth-place Washington by six games, so it’s unlikely even with their depleted team, which is missing injured Durant, Kyrie Irving and Nic Claxton plus Jordan and Chandler, will fall out of the playoffs.
“There’s risk involved,” Marks said. “We hope we can mitigate this as much as we can by observing protocols…This gives our players and the NBA a platform to get back to work but also to stand up and speak on social issues or just give society something to watch on TV that I think [is] going to be hugely beneficial.”
During the past three months, social issues revolving around police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement have flared up. The Nets’ Irving urged the NBA not to restart because it might detract from the focus on social issues. Marks said Irving will not be in Orlando because it’s best for him to continue his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery in March, but the GM has talked extensively with Irving and the whole organization has been involved in group discussions about social issues. The team even invited CNN political commentator Van Jones to speak in a group chat.
Describing the importance of social concerns to every player in the organization, Marks said, “I don’t think there are words that can explain how important this is. I will say the organization has put out a statement and we stand behind that in saying enough is enough to be quite frank. I think this has been an amazing time for us as an organization and us as a group to grow stronger and closer together.
"It’s been educational for me and it’s been educational for our whole group. To be quite frank, it’s about time that society stands up, and the Brooklyn Nets without a doubt will be supporting the Black Lives Matter movement…This is something that’s huge today, and I look forward to seeing the change.”