Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Brooklyn Nets have nearly enough cap space for two max players. So we know they are going to be hunting for top free agents in a couple of days. They have a strong core of young players and are coming off of a season in which they increased their win total by 14 games and made the playoffs. So it seems logical that they'd be a strong suitor for some of the top free agents.
But besides their recent on-court success, there's another element in Brooklyn that could be attractive to potential free agents: their medical and performance staff.
Here's how Nets veteran Jared Dudley described the medical staff shortly after the season:
"They send you a text message every morning of how your body feels or what's going on. You do testing on Mondays of if your hamstrings, your hips, your glutes, and so they can tell each week if you're fatiguing and need more rest or do you not need more rest. You have to wear a Catapult vest for your loads, for how you're running, so they basically have numbers for everything. And that dictates how your practice schedule is going to be, what you need to do in the weight room, and so with all that information, you can help your weaknesses and keep going on your strengths. So I think it's a huge advantage (in attracting other players)."
The Nets have invested money into their performance/medical staff, which is widely viewed as one of the best in the league. Dudley, currently a free agent, joked that there were about 30 members of the staff.
"I don't think it's quite 30 but it's up there," Nets GM Sean Marks said, smiling, during his end-of-season news conference.
The GM described his approach to the medical/performance staff this way:
"When we first embarked on this, it was we're going to have to do things maybe slightly a little bit differently. We knew we weren't going to have a plethora of high first round picks and so forth. So it's about developing guys both on the court and off the court and teaching habits and so forth," he said.
"Credit to ownership. When they see a budget that maybe looks a little different than in the past where we're going to have to spend money where maybe money hasn't been spent before. Our players bought in and we had the veterans come in here and they've seen it. You can read their social media and everything else. They've seen it from other teams. They've been around the block a few times. When they come here and say, 'look, things are being done a little differently but you know what? At the end of the day I feel better than I ever have.' that's a credit to the performance team."
How could this help with free agency? The Nets have been heavily linked to Kyrie Irving, a player who has had significant knee ailments during his career. They're also expected to get consideration -- though are not the favorites at the moment -- for Kevin Durant. Durant, obviously, will be rehabbing an Achilles injury next season. So it's fair to assume that the performance and medical staff will be a factor in those players' -- and any other veteran players' -- decision making.
And it will be a part of the Nets' pitches. The New York Times reported that the Nets' dream scenario includes pitching Durant on their medical/performance staff. The New York Daily News reported that it will be a part of their pitches in free agency.
This isn't to suggest, though, that the Nets are the only team that will be pitching players on their performance/medical staff. Today's players are sitting games when healthy and prioritizing their bodies in ways we haven't seen in previous years. So I assume that most teams in the NBA, by now, have made significant investments in that realm.
But the Nets have been widely recognized as having one of the best in the league.
"I think players feel that and they're benefiting from it," Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said at his end-of-season news conference. "At the end of the day, I know when I played, it was if I feel good I'm going to play good. Especially when you get older, Jared Dudley, if you feel good - they have the corporate knowledge, they understand how to play the game - but if you go out there and your body is feeling great you're going to bring it and play well. I think we understand what that's all about."
Of course, only individual players know how much the team performance/medical staff factors in to their free agency decisions. So it's impossible to predict how much of an advantage the Nets' performance/medical staff will be when they meet with players. But we know the Nets will use it as a selling point.
There's been plenty of debate about the merits of Brooklyn pursuing top free agents at the risk of stifling the progress they've made with their current group. They appear committed to adding a big free agent to the mix, and testing that chemistry/cohesiveness.
We'll find out next April if that was the right approach. And we'll find out in a few days just who they end up with. But, no matter how it shakes out, it seems Brooklyn will have a solid selling point to free agents when they talk about the medical/performance staff.