Even Joe Tsai is surprised how quickly Nets became contenders

Joe Tsai all the time believed within the Nets’ rebuild. He wouldn’t have shelled out billions of his personal {dollars} to purchase the staff if he didn’t.

But even the visionary who co-founded one of many world’s greatest corporations admits he couldn’t have seen this coming, Brooklyn’s inconceivable rise from the NBA’s cellar to championship contender. Or even favourite.

“The revival of the Nets was already under way when I bought in 2018,” Tsai informed The Post. “Sean Marks put the foundations in place with guys like Caris [LeVert], Jarrett [Allen], Joe [Harris] and Spencer [Dinwiddie].

“This core group enabled us to attract top free agents in the summer of 2019 with Kyrie [Irving] and [Kevin Durant] while keeping the necessary assets for the James Harden trade. In hindsight this ‘process’ was brilliant, but I certainly didn’t see it coming at the time.”

Back when Tsai, Alibaba co-founder and now chairman of Nets dad or mum firm BSE Global, purchased 49 % of the Nets from Mikhail Prokhorov in October 2017, they have been coming off an NBA-worst 20-62 season. They improved to 28-54 in his first season as co-owner, and made the playoffs the subsequent.

For the Nets, 2019 proved transformative, from making the playoffs in April to touchdown Durant and Irving in June to Tsai taking over a controlling interest that September for $2.35 billion — the best quantity for a sports activities staff to that time. Since then, the e-commerce billionaire has opened his pockets even wider to pay the costliest trio in NBA historical past by including Harden.

Despite not having gained, the Nets open the playoffs Saturday versus Boston already bearing the burden of being a betting favourite, the scrutiny of being a superteam and weight of being the NBA’s villains — one thing Tsai is conscious about.

Nets NBA playoffs Joe Tsai
Nets proprietor Joe Tsai throughout Brooklyn’s sport in opposition to the Clippers on Feb. 21, 2021.
NBAE through Getty Images

“I don’t know if we’re favored. I saw a poll that says we’re the most hated team around the country,” Tsai famous, referring to a BetOnline survey. “We have players that play for each other and hold each other accountable. When they do that, basketball is beautiful, and they have a ton of fun.”

As a lot as Tsai has loved watching his Nets and Liberty play, he’s arguably taken simply as a lot pleasure in seeing BSE lead in the neighborhood, from the meals banks to the polling websites to the vaccination efforts and, maybe most of all, Barclays Center being the flashpoint for BLM protests and different social justice actions.

“I’m proud that Barclays Center became the epicenter of social justice dialogues in New York City. People from all viewpoints had a chance to hear each other out in what became the de facto ‘town square’ of Brooklyn,” Tsai informed The Post, including, “I also remember our sweep of the West Coast when we went 5-0 with that big come-from-behind win in Phoenix and us taking bodies [twice] at Staples Center.”

He’d like to get a rematch with any of these Western foes within the Finals.

The Nets’ Big 3 heads into Saturday’s postseason opener having logged simply eight video games collectively. No staff in NBA historical past has ever gained a title with its prime three scorers taking part in so few video games collectively.

But its becoming that Tsai — who co-founded an organization named after a miraculous against-all-odds story — is assured his groups can buck the percentages.

“I’ve learned in life that if you are determined, you can make history,” Tsai mentioned — pointing to Sabrina Ionescu changing into the primary Liberty participant and youngest WNBA star with a triple-double. “The Nets Big 3 play at such an elite level that their chemistry comes naturally, and more important, they play in a way that makes all of their teammates better.”

Keeping them collectively previous subsequent season is going to value Tsai. All have op-outs after 2021-22, with Marks confirming a want to retain all three. But can they? If so, the Nets have an opportunity to carve out an enormous piece of the town’s sportsscape.

But in contrast to Prokhorov’s bombastic arrival, Tsai doesn’t view a rivalry with the Knicks as a zero-sum sport. This city is sufficiently big for the each of them.

“The Nets and the Knicks both belong in this city, so nobody is going to take the city away from anyone,” Tsai mentioned. “If both New York City teams are competitive, that’s the best for fans because they get to enjoy great basketball and have a chance to argue over family dinners.”

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