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With Nets up for sale, GM Sean Marks tries to keep vision alive

Nets general manager Sean Marks addresses the media

Nets general manager Sean Marks addresses the media at HSS Training Center in Brooklyn on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Credit: Errol Anderson

Sean Marks was lured from the Spurs to take the Nets general manager job 20 months ago because of the firm commitment he received from owner Mikhail Prokhorov to support a long-term rebuilding project that would overhaul every aspect of the corporate culture.

On Monday, Marks confirmed that Prokhorov is deeply into negotiations to sell the team, but he told Newsday that he not only will remain committed to his long-term vision but also would expect any prospective owner to speak with him before the sale to learn details of that plan and the unwavering support Prokhorov has provided every step of the way.

According to published reports, Prokhorov originally sought to sell up to 49 percent of the team to a minority partner, but he now is considering selling controlling interest within the next few weeks. The Houston Rockets recently sold for $2.2 billion, and Prokhorov reportedly is seeking $2 billion for the Nets.

“All I will say is I’m having open discussions with Mikhail all the way through this,” Marks said. “It’s been going on for a while. I think if he finds the right strategic partner, which is what he’s asked for, then, he would probably look to sell the team. But that’s out of my realm.”

Marks said he was not aware of a particular timeline for the sale and was unsure whether Prokhorov, who also owns Barclays Center and has not included that property in the sale, would surrender control of the Nets. He is said to prefer selling 49 percent with a three-year window to gain majority control.

“Mikhail has been looking for a strategic partner that is in alignment with his vision to grow this team,” Marks said. “He’s never told me, ‘Hey, I want out.” But things can change. It would be hard to say, ‘He’s in, he’s out.’ I don’t really know that.”

Marks said the Nets’ “business side is excited about the opportunity” the Nets moves have created to build the brand. The Nets reportedly lost upward of $50 million last season but have a chance to break even this season.

But if and when a sale is imminent, Marks expects to have the chance to articulate the same vision to the new owner that he did to Prokhorov.

“I would hope so,” Marks said. “I would think that if anybody was going to buy an NBA franchise, that owner would want to get their feet on the ground and meet the people. I would encourage that. It’s a big part for me.

“We really enjoy having Mikhail walk through HSS (Training Center) or Barclays. It’s very important that [ownership] group can feel what’s happening and that they’re kept up to speed and up to date.”

No matter who the owner might be, Marks said he plans a steady course for franchise development. “In terms of whoever may or may not come in next, it’s really irrelevant,” Marks told Newsday. “It’s not something I’m focused on. I’m purely focused on the vision we laid out a year and a half ago and doing everything we can to stay the course.”

The general manager emphasized the importance of the “very strong relationship” and open lines of communication he always has maintained with Prokhorov and Dmitry Razumov, who is CEO of Onexim Group, a private investment fund founded by Prokhorov. They were intimately involved in three offseason trades engineered by Marks that involved considerable financial commitments for Allen Crabbe (three years, $57.3 million), Timofey Mozgov (three years ($48 million) and DeMarre Carroll (two years, $30.2 million), and D’Angelo Russell will be eligible for a significant rookie contract extension next summer.

“We’ve had great buy-in from ownership all the way through in terms of ‘Whatever you need,’ ” Marks said. “Everybody cares about their bottom line, but at the same time, Mikhail has never wavered in his commitment to our group here.

“If there’s been a trade that I liked, a deal we wanted to do, something as simple as a staff salary or adding more people or more pieces or making a renovation, there’s never been a question. He’s been terrific to work for.”

Sustaining that level of support will be the test for new Nets ownership.

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