NetsDaily Off-Season Report #8

Every Sunday, we’ll be updating the Nets’ off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help take the edge off missing the playoffs, relying on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who have slipped interesting stuff into larger stories and blogs.

A week of workouts.

So what do we think the Nets think after a week of workouts? More importantly, who do we think the Nets like. First of all, remember the individual workouts are the final step in the vetting of draft picks. All these prospects, including those from overseas, have been scouted multiple times. Kiki Vandeweghe noted this week that he had seen Chase Budinger of Arizona play five or six times, including twice in person.

Still, reading between the lines of what Vandeweghe and chief scout Gregg Polinsky have been saying and what the beat reporters and draftniks have been writing, we think we spot a few trends.

--It’s a deep draft, if filled with risky youngsters. That means the Nets, with three picks in the top 40—as many as any other NBA team—have some advantages in moving up, moving down and moving picks around. (The Nets with #10, #21, and #40, are joined by Seattle with #4, #24 and #32, Minnesota with #3, #31, #34 and Portland with #13, #33 and #36.)

--The window is open for a trade, particularly of #21. The Nets have two nice assets they could move to make such a deal work, all or part of their $3.3 million trade exception and Keith Van Horn’s $3.75 million expiring contract (with the small buyout). Think a young player on the outs with his current team. Also think a shooter.

--The Nets, no surprise, look like they want to go big with the first pick unless someone surprisingly drops into their hands. Best bet right now: Darrell Arthur of Kansas, followed by JaVale McGee of Nevada and Marreese Speights of Florida, not necessarily in that order. Vandeweghe and Polinsky both commented on Arthur’s shooting, something he didn’t showcase in Lawrence. Both praised McGee’s potential and Vandeweghe talked about how Speights could get minutes right away.

--The Nets want to see what Anthony Randolph and Danilo Gallinari can do. Randolph is scheduled for next Thursday. We suspect Gallinari will be joining him this week. Don’t be surprised if Kosta Koufos joins that mix, too.

--The second pick, IF they use it, looks like a shooter, with Brandon Rush and Chris Douglas-Roberts ahead of Chase Budinger. Polinsky commented positively on Rush’s defense (but not Budinger’s) after he and Budinger went head-to-head Friday. Polinsky also said Rush was as advertised, an indication they liked what they see in Rush’s steadiness. Douglas-Roberts got some nice comments from Vandeweghe who called him a "throwback" and "deceptive", adding a simple "I liked him". And by the way, taking teammates from a big school is, as Marcus Williams and Josh Boone can tell you, not unprecedented.

--Second round we have always thought will be used on a European player (unless they trade one of the first round picks). Still, again based on what we are reading, we’re thinking D.J. White, if he lasts. Remember, there is no requirement that a second rounder gets a guaranteed deal, although the Nets have routinely given their second round picks guaranteed one-year deals with a second year team option.

Fallen Angels.

We have been intrigued by Vandeweghe’s stated position that one element of rebuilding is taking chances on "fallen angels"—players with talent but problems. (In the past, the team has gone with a "fallen arches" strategy, going for veterans on their way down, including some with their own problems.)

So we have nominated some angelic talent. (Obviously, we don’t have access to psychological or criminal records, some of which would be important in determining a player’s real value. We do read a lot, however.)

1. Julius Hodge, 24, a 6’7" swingman who played two years with Denver and Milwaukee after being drafted by Vandeweghe at #20 in 2005. He was supposed to bring maturity—he was a four-year player and had gotten his degree from NC State. But he admittedly got in with the wrong crowd and was shot five times in April 2006 after leaving a strip club. Until he dominated the D-League and Australia’s NBL this season, he looked like a bust. He's working out in the Nets’ practice facility and seems like a lock for a summer league spot. (If Hodge works out, he could be the make-up test for Antoine Wright, selected five picks ahead of him in 2005.)

2. Gerald Green, 22, a 6’8" swingman who played two years with Boston and then was sent to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett trade. Minny didn’t like what they saw in training camp and so declined to extend him. Then, they kept him on the bench and traded him to his hometown team in Houston. He played one game and was cut to make room for Carl Landry. So he’s a free agent. The Nets thought about taking him with the 15th pick in the 2005 draft, but went with Wright. He has talent, won the NBA’s Slam Dunk competition at the All-Star game and averaged 10 ppg in 2006-07. But he is seen as incorrigible, refusing coaching direction. Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce have dumped on him.

3. Sebastian Telfair, 22, a 6’2" point guard who was a lottery pick of the Blazers in 2004 right out of Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. A cousin, but definitely not a friend, of Stephon Marbury, he has the requisite zipcode, Brooklyn USA. Another free agent. After three lackluster seasons, and two arrests plus a state criminal investigation, Bassy seemed to have gotten his act together this past season at Minnesota, averaging nearly 10 points and 6 rebounds, and placing #10 in assists to turnovers ratio. Still can’t shoot though.

4. Sergio Rodriguez, 21, a 6’3" point guard lost in the Blazers’ point guard rotation. Spanish Chocolate and Nate McMillan don’t get along. Nate doesn’t think Sergio plays ANY defense. Nate may be right. Still, he sure can pass. Played well for the Spanish National Team and wows the fans. Nets considered him in 2006. On his rookie contract, making a mere $874,000 next season. Blazers have 15 players under contract, Rudy Fernandez (Rodriguez’s pal) on the way and four draft choices. Something has to give.

5. Andray Blatche, 21, a 6’11" power forward with great talent and a mushrooming arrest record. Shot twice in an attempted car-jacking (the gun theme again) as a rookie in 2005, he has since been arrested four times, three times for driving with a suspended license and once for soliciting prostitution. None are as serious as the crimes Marcus Williams pleaded guilty to…but Marcus had one brush with the law. Blatche said he wanted to play for the Nets last season and the Nets did pursue him, but the Wizards gave him a five year, $15 million contract. Still, Blatche is quite talented: He played in all 82 games and averaged 7.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. He started 14 games at forward and averaged 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds. In one start at center, he scored 12 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.

6. Sean Banks, 23, a 6’8" small forward with a checkered past but again some talent. He grew up in Englewood and played for Bergen Catholic. But in his senior year of high school, he was arrested. Englewood police say Banks used a lighted cigarette to burn a gang insignia into the leg of a 15-year-old girl. The burning, police say, was an initiation rite for "The Bloods." Still, he went on to play his freshman year at Memphis, becoming ESPN.com's National Freshman of the Year, and showing great poise. Then, he basically flunked out, was drafted by the Hornets but never played for them, spending time in the D-League. He knocked around the D-League and Puerto Rico league before taking off in the D-League, playing for the LA D-Fenders. He was named to the first team, all-D-League after averaged 21.4 ppg. Still, he was never called up. Why?

7. J. J. Redick, 23, a 6'4" shooting guard who wants out of Orlando but who the Magic don't want to give up...or at least give up easily. Redick may not play defense but he can shoot, or at least did at Duke, setting the NCAA record for three pointers. Maybe the best pure shooting in recent college history, nothing has gone right since just before the draft two years ago when he was arrested for DUI. He fell out of favor with Brian Hill, then his head coach and now the Nets' assistant. Then, he hurt his back and when Hill was gone, replaced by Stan Van Gundy, not much changed. How badly does he want you to know he wants out of Orlando? The latest Orlando Sentinel story mentioning his trade request leads Redick's personal website.

Speaking of Julius Hodge, we wonder if he ever brings up this game from 2005, when he and NC State beat UConn and Marcus Williams and Boone. Hodge's heroics sent the defending national champions home while the Wolfpack went on to the Sweet 16.

Cousins’ Infamy

Entering this postseason, Kevin Garnett (20,378), Ray Allen (18,227) and Paul Pierce (16,945) had scored the most career points of any active players who never played for an NBA title. Tracy McGrady (16,744) and Vince Carter (16,592) now head up the list of scoring by active players who've yet to play in the Finals. Carter has made it to the conference semi-finals on three occasions. McGrady has never been out of the first round.

Dueling Renderings.

The Nets and Knicks are locked in a quiet battle for basketball supremacy in the New York area. Both are now engaged in building new digs and have put up web pages showing just was the new Barclays Center and the renovated Madison Square Garden will look like when complete.

The Barclays renderings for the first time show the various entrances to the Frank Gehry-designed arena as well as ticket booths and wide views of what the arena will look like, featuring giant scoreboards featuring the likenesses of Devin Harris and Vince Carter replacing older renderings that showed Jason Kidd’s face.

The Garden’s page includes an interview with the MSG executive in charge of the renovation, Hank Ratner. No, conspiracy theorists, they are not related.

Supreme Decision.

Just how quickly those renderings will become reality could be determined this week. On Thursday, the nine US Supreme Court justices will conference on whether to hear arena critics’ last best chance appeal on the use of eminent domain to assemble the property needed for Barclays Center. The critics have lost at both the district court and the court of appeals levels. If at least four justices don’t agree to hear them out at the high court level, the lower court ruling will stand, clearing the way for condemnation of the needed properties. If the justices agree to hear the case, a full hearing on the case will be scheduled for the fall. In either case, expect the decision to be announced on June 16.

What’s the likelihood of the Court agreeing to go along? Very limited, say court watchers. The court decided a similar case three years ago, Kelo vs. the City of New London, one of their most controversial rulings. They’re not likely to revisit it. The public interest law firm that argued against the use of eminent domain in Kelo has filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the critics.

NetsDaily Draft Sleeper Pick of the Week

Bryce Taylor, 6’4" combo guard from Oregon. We mentioned him in our last report as one of two picks who are part of the Nets heritage. Taylor is the son of Brian Taylor, the athletic guard who helped the New York Nets win two ABA championships after playing high school (Perth Amboy) and college (Princeton) ball in New Jersey.

Young Taylor is as much an athletic freak as his father. Although only 6’4", Taylor had the second highest vertical in the Orlando PreDraft Camp, skying 41" in the one step vertical. (The highest was owned by another NBA son, Patrick Ewing Jr.). He also has an extraordinary wingspan, at 6’9"—three inches longer than O.J. Mayo. Whatever size concerns NBA scouts may have had were assuaged by those numbers.

At Oregon, Taylor started slowly and then excelled his last two years. Still, draftniks say they are surprised at what they have seen in workouts, particularly his versatility. He can shoot, pass, defend and play smart basketball, as one put it. Like father, like son.

Final Note.

What was Lawrence Frank doing hanging out with Miss USA and billionaire Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer last week? Ballmer received the Champion of Youth Award at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s 2008 gala held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.

Frank was listed as one of two "celebrity" attendees…the other Miss USA, Chrystle Stewart. We have heard about fears of a growing celebrity shortage. We now understand.

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