NetsDaily Off-Season Report #19

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 data into larger stories and blogs.

Player Development...For Real.

Beat writers remarked about it before the draft: Don't expect the Nets to trade their picks, they wrote. Kiki Vandeweghe is heavily into player development, they wrote, and it's not just a slogan.

In fact, there is ample evidence the team has been more heavily invested in player development this summer:

--For the first time in recent memory, the team sent players to two summer leagues--in Orlando, the second in Salt Lake City, giving the coaches an opportunity to try different mixes and the players an opportunity to show what they can do--with varying results. Ryan Anderson for example tried his hand at small forward and the Europe-bound Jaycee Carroll tried playing the point. Neither worked that well. Julius Hodge, however, looked good in the point forward role in a couple of games.

--Although the team has sent individual players to the Pete Newell Big Man Camp, formerly of Hawaii and now of Las Vegas, in the past, this year the Nets sent five of their young players west: all three rookies--Anderson, Brook Lopez, and Chris Douglas-Roberts--along with Josh Boone and Sean Williams. Boone hurt his elbow on the rim (good news/bad news situation, we think) and lasted only a day, but still it's the intention that counts. Rod Thorn who went west with the kids thought they all did "pretty well".

--The entire team is in the gym this week--"voluntarily" of course--with all their shirts tucked in. That's happened before, but the intensity level seems higher. Also in the gym already a couple of training camp invitees, Hodge and Brian Hamilton, who played for both summer league teams. Hamilton scored 23 points in eight summer league games at guard.

--Word is that Vandeweghe is going to take personal change of Yi Jianlian's development when the Chinese star finally comes back to the United States. Vandeweghe was player development director in Dallas when two young players--Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash--needed work and he sees Yi as a challenge.

Of course while this is nice, the proof will come sometime after October 27.

Carrino on Yi.

Chris Carrino is the Nets’ play-by-play announcer on WFAN. During the Olympics, he worked for NBC Sports, calling games from a studio at NBC’s New York headquarters. With him was long-time NBC basketball analyst Steve "Snapper" Jones. They called the China-Lithuania game (in the middle of the New York night) one day last week.

Here’s some of their comments on Yi’s (foul-plagued) performance. While Doug Collins put a lot of blame on Yi for not getting involved in the Chinese offense, Jones criticized the Chinese ball movement, particularly that of the point guards.

(Chinese guards throw away a pass intended for Yi)

Carrino: "Yi is going to have to assert himself with Yao having such difficulty getting the ball inside."

Jones: "You know it doesn’t do any good if you have 7’ 6", 7’1" players and them you not see the ball in high percentage area. If you’re on the Chinese team you’ve got to recognize where your advantage is."

(End of the first quarter)

Carrino: "Yi who will play with the New Jersey Nets in the NBA this season, the sixth pick in the 2007 draft by Milwaukee, traded to the Nets with Bobby Simmons, one of his best friends on the team on the Bucks for Richard Jefferson, Yi with six points and five rebounds in the first quarter."

(Yi gets called for his third personal early in the third quarter)

Carrino: "Some significance with Yi going to the bench now, six points, eight rebounds for Yi, who has to go to the bench three fouls."

Carrino: "I believe they called a foul on China. Yi is called for his fourth personal foul."

Jones (laughing): "Yi is saying ‘I just came back in the game!’"

Carrino: "Now he’s out."

Jones: "Yao’s saying ‘Where’s my break? It’s been 40 seconds!’"

(Yi gets called for his fourth personal late in the third quarter)

Carrino: "Yi had a great start to this game, six points, eight rebounds, but he picked up his third at the start of the third quarter and sat down, now comes back and picks up his fourth."

(Yi returns to the game during fourth quarter garbage time)

Carrino: "Yi had a great start to this game, then foul trouble put him on the bench and he’s not been a factor in the second half."

Jones: "That’s also something he’s got to have to deal with, how to play with fouls so you don’t take yourself out of the game and the calls that have been going against him, they’re touch fouls. You know when you’re getting hammered."

Yi as Clutch Shooter.

Who was the best clutch shooter on the Nets last season, the player with the best shooting percentage in the fourth quarter or overtime, with less than five minutes left and neither team ahead by more than five points ?

82games.com says it was Antoine Wright at 48.1%, followed by Vince Carter at 44.2%, Jefferson at 42.5%, Boone at 40%, Jason Kidd at 39.1% and Boki Nachbar at 35.7% Not awe-inspiring.

That same website says two Nets picked up in the off-season were better: Yi at 57.9% and Simmons at 57.1%. Yi, in fact, had the best clutch shooting percentage of any rookie. No wonder he was able to hit that 18-footer against Germany...the greatest shot in the history of Chinese basketball.

Armstrong Still Around.

We were intrigued by ads for Darrell Armstrong's basketball camp in Staten Island. Armstrong's camp takes place next week at Staten Island's Fast Break Hoops gym. It's his second camp this summer, the previous one having taken place in June. In camp literature, DA is still listed as a Net, shown playing in a Nets uniform and among those who are expected to help out is Sean Williams.

The Nets roster also shows Armstrong still on the team, although listed as a free agent. The Nets have not renounced his rights meaning they have the added flexibility of using him in a sign-and-trade at some point...or having him fill that third point guard role. He has been quoted as saying he would like to play another year or begin an NBA coaching career. Armstrong turned 40 this summer. No indication he was at the Nets "voluntary" camp.

KVH Buyout?

We've read and have always assumed that Van Horn has a nice buyout in his contract, that he would get paid a few hundred thousand dollars when the Nets finally waive him, sometime before the beginning of next season.

Not so, suggests ESPN. In it's latest listing of free agents, it notes that KVH has no "no salary protection" meaning no buyout. That of course would make his contract even more attractive as decisions are made near the October 27 roster deadline. A team looking to get under the luxury tax threshold could trade a similarly salaried player for Van Horn, then immediately waive him, taking the salary off the books. Van Horn's salary has been listed at both $3.75 million and $4.26 million. The Nets have not confirmed anything, at least publicly.

Krstic Back on the Court.

Nenad Krstic is no longer on the Nets' roster but the Nets intend to keep tendering him that $2.76 million qualifying offer in hopes of bringing him back or getting something for him if he decides to go elsewhere in the NBA.

For him, it seems, everything is about qualifying. He is playing for Serbia in the Eurobasket Qualifying Tournament. Serbia needs to place high in the tournament so it can return to the European championships next year in Warsaw. The Serbs took their first step in that direction on Wednesday, beating Italy, 78-64. Italy was without Andrea Bargnani, Danilo Gallinari and Marco Bellinelli, all recovering from minor injuries or just resting before NBA training camp.

Krstic started and played 20 minutes, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds. He shot 2-for-4 from the field, 5-for-7 from the line, and had four steals but five turnovers...an indication he is still rusty. He'll get a chance to work off some of that rust, and pick up frequent flier miles as well. Over the next month, he'll play seven games in Serbia, Finland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Italy. Among the other NBA players in the tournament: France's Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Yakhouba Diawara, and Rony Turiaf; Serbia's Kosta Perovic, and England's Luol Deng.

Draft Position as Predictor.

It's hard to find an NBA Finalist without at least one high lottery pick in a power position. Whether it's Shaquille O'Neal (#1 in 1992), Tim Duncan (#1 in 1997) or Kevin Garnett (#5 in 1995) winning it all or Kidd (#2 in 1994), Van Horn (#2 in 1997) or Kenyon Martin (#1 in 2000) getting close.

Taking a look at the Nets' roster, half are lottery picks--Van Horn, Carter, Stromile Swift, Keyon Dooling, Jarvis Hayes, Devin Harris, Yi and Brook Lopez--with four being picked in the top five. Of course, we're counting KVH...who isn't going to play.

Here's a list, in case you're wondering where the new guys were picked. (We also added Julius Hodge in hopes he will help us forget Wright, picked five places ahead of him.)

1997 – Keith Van Horn (2)

1999 – Vince Carter (5)

2000 – Stromile Swift (2), Keyon Dooling (10), Eduardo Najera (38)

2001 – Trenton Hassell (30)

2003 – Jarvis Hayes (10)

2004 - Devin Harris (5)

2005 - Julius Hodge (20)

2006 - Josh Boone (23), Mo Ager (28)

2007 - Yi Jianlian (6), Sean Williams (17)

2008 - Brook Lopez (10), Ryan Anderson (21), Chris Douglas-Roberts (40)

Bobcats Acquire Nets Second Round Pick in 2009.

The Charlotte Bobcats this week traded the draft rights of Kyle Weaver, selected with the 38th overall pick in this year's draft, to Oklahoma City in exchange for the Nets' second-round pick in 2009. Oklahoma City acquired the pick from New Jersey on July 27, 2006, in a deal that sent current Sacramento Kings forward Mikki Moore to the Nets. The pick is the only one the Nets owe. They have all their first round picks and all their second round picks after this year. They also have the Mavs' first round pick in 2010 and the Warriors' first round pick in 2011, with protections through 2013.

A New Way to Watch the Nets.

Taking a page from the NBC Olympics playbook, the NBA is getting ready to offer games online, in real time this coming season. The league would make games available online as long as the viewer lives in the team's local area.

Here's how Sports Business Journal described the plan:

The NBA has authorized its teams to launch three distinct digital services by the start of the 2008-09 season in late October: video streaming, interactive TV and video-on-demand.

But the service that is certain to create the most waves is the streaming, which is one of the reasons why the league is negotiating on behalf of its 30 teams to cut live local deals.

'We hope to have a model in place this season,' said Bill Koenig, NBA executive vice president of business affairs and general counsel. 'Our opening up of the rights will certainly be done.'

The plan would allow viewers to watch live games online within their local market for the first time. That could mean Chicago Bulls fans could watch live action on Bulls.com or on the team’s local RSN Web site, in this case, Chicago.ComcastSportsNet.com. Whether the online offering is free or not is still to be determined.

The NBA will use geo-blocking technology to ensure that people outside of a team’s territory will not be able to access its games online to comply with the league’s local marketing rules.

So you won't be able to watch the Nets play if you're on a business trip to North Carolina or on vacation in Puerto Rico, but it will make posting to message boards much more efficient.

Final Note.

We always thought Ed Stefanski was forward thinking. Now we are certain of it. Ed held a conference call the other day with bloggers who follow the team, putting him in the forefront of GM's not just in the NBA but in overall professional sports.

We would like to sign on to what "Can't Stop the Bleeding" wrote in response: "Rather than a mere goodwill/PR gesture, this was an all-too rare example of the independent media being taken seriously. I’m not holding my breath waiting for Omar Minaya (or Rod Thorn) to attempt something similar, but when the day arrives… I’ll certainly be one of the first to complain about not being invited."

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