It’s championship or bust for Nets

The Nets may be sitting eighth in the East and stuck in the play-in coming out of the All-Star break, but that hasn’t dented their confidence.

General manager Sean Marks proclaimed the goal is still a championship, while Kyrie Irving’s message for the rest of the league down the stretch was: Watch out for Brooklyn.

“Championship. That’s it. I’d be doing 17 players and another 60 staff members over there a massive disservice if I said anything other than that, because that’s what we’re all here for,” Marks told a group of season-ticket holders.

“We have an incredible ownership group with Joe Tsai — talk about putting your chips in the middle. He’s supported us and supported us and continues to support us. So from that standpoint, we know what our expectations are.”

They’ll have their work cut out for them.

Brooklyn’s remaining strength of schedule is 13th-toughest in the league, according to Tankathon, and just four of the remaining 23 dates are against teams outside the playoffs or play-in.

Kyrie Irving
NBAE via Getty Images

That hasn’t dimmed Irving’s hopes in the slightest.

“I’m just saying, just watch our squad after the break. Like, just watch. Just watch,” Irving could be seen saying on a Twitch broadcast Monday night.

“This is great downtime right now before things start getting going again. I think there’s like 20 some-odd games left. I’m telling y’all, watch. Just watch. … God willing we’re healthy and everything works out.”

Part of everything working out would be Irving becoming eligible to play home games, either by getting vaccinated (which at the moment appears unlikely) or New York City mandates being lifted.

Currently he’s only eligible to play in eight of Brooklyn’s 23 remaining regular-season games and, due to being barred from road games at the Knicks and Raptors, one of their final eight.

Still, with Chicago lifting its mask mandates at the end of this month, how hopeful was Marks of seeing Irving playing home games at some point this season?

“Yeah, I have to be optimistic, like everybody here. We all know what’s at stake here. If you turn on CNN or BBC or Fox or whatever your flavor is, you see how everything’s changing, right?” Marks said. “We’re starting to see a sense of normality getting back to life. … Vaccine rates are obviously high. So I am optimistic. I have to be optimistic. I think that’s the only way to look at this.”

Marks said credit for recruiting Goran Dragic should go to Steve Nash, who was the veteran point guard’s mentor in Phoenix. He took a lead role during their pitch in Florida.

“I have to give full credit to Steve on this one, without a doubt,” Marks said. “We were with Goran in Miami over the weekend, spent some brief time with him, and it was really intriguing to me to see the relationship that Goran and Steve have, the respect they have for one another and really respect that Goran had for Steve for many, many years ago.”

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