NetsDaily Off-Season Report #4

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.

Waiting for Most Improved and...

There's some speculation that the NBA is waiting for the winner of the Most Improved Player award to return from vacation before it makes an official announcement. We don't know the whereabouts of Devin Harris, but we have read Danny Granger, the other leading candidate, has been in Italy.

Moreover, we want to know if Harris and Brook Lopez have been invited to participate in this summer's USA Basketball’s senior men’s minicamp in Las Vegas. The camp is for younger players who could make the 2010 World Championship squad or the 2012 Olympic team. The 2010 FIBA championship will be held in Turkey, the Olympics in London.

USA Basketball is not announcing the roster, but NBA teams are leaking the names of those invited. Already we've read that Granger, the Grizzlies' O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay, the Celtics' Rajon Rondo, Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Kendrick Perkins along with the Blazers' Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden have been called. There could be as many as 24 players at camp.

Boki’s Deadbeat Experience

Sometimes, the grass is greener on the other side (of the Atlantic) and sometimes, it's not.

In an April 26 blog entry on his official website, Boki Nachbar writes about how he and other players haven't been getting paid by Dinamo Moscow, which was sponsored by a Moscow real estate developer, and what his plans are...

(Translated from the Slovenian...with a little license)

"It became clear in December that the salaries and other commitments to the players started to be very much delayed. I think that we somehow managed (especially with team spirit) to overcome the first months of the crisis til February.

"When I was named best forward in the EuroCup, no one from the club congratulated me.

"Currently, the club in a very difficult situation and it will be interesting to see if it can ever manage to improve things, especially financially. Naturally, my future depends on it. My contract binds me to Dinamo for the next two seasons, but in the contract are stipulations that permit me to leave, especially to the NBA. I wouldn't be fair to myself if I didn't consider all the options that will be presented in the following months. I just need to. I have begun ruling on all this by starting to prepare with my agent.

"The only other thought I want to focus on is a victory for the Slovenian coat of arms."

The Nets still hold Nachbar's "Bird Rights", which means they can sign him to a contract without cutting into the MLE. He's the Nets' free agent as much as Maurice Ager is. Also, if another team wants him and prefers not to use the MLE, they'll have to go through the Nets.

Who might be interested? On Boki’s website, he has a list of favorites. His favorite coach? Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni was his coach in Italy just before the Rockets drafted him back in 2002. Of course, Boki is on the record as saying he would like to return to the Nets and he did speak with Kiki Vandeweghe about returning during the EuroCup championships at the end of March.

Boozer in Bergen?

All right, we'll buy into the Carlos Boozer rumor. What rumor, you ask?

PsychoNetsFan34, over on the message board, writes about a random encounter he had with the 6'10" Utah Jazz big man--and his agent--at the Paramus Mall Friday afternoon.

So me and my girlfriend were having lunch at the Grand Luxe Cafe in the Paramus Mall today, and I noticed the guy sitting next to me was awfully familiar...it was Carlos Boozer and his agent. So after he finished his meal I finally said hey Mr.Boozer why don't you come play for the NETS. Shocked that I recognized him we got into about a 15 minute conversation about the state of the Jazz and Nets. I asked him what he was doing in NJ and he said "ya know house shopping and such." Shocked I said, "House shopping? You thinking of playing for NJ?" "Maybe...just maybe." he replied with a smirk. I told him I would be all for it considering we need a PF. He agreed completely and said Yi has potential but isn't a starter in the NBA. He was a super nice guy and left a HUGEEEE tip for his waitress. Total class act.

But my question now is this, is Boozer a Free Agent this upcomming season or 2010? Are the Jazz looking to move him? Because I could see Boozer just joking around, but why would he be in Jersey? He seemed pretty serious when he said house shopping. And Bergen county is an area where athletes from the tri state area tend to live. I hope he is being serious and maybe Thorn is secretly working a deal to get Boozer. If so I am all for it. This guy was a class act and I would welcome him on this team. In any case it was cool to have a conversation about basketball with a respective athlete.

It produced quite a lively discussion.

Is it possible? Sure, but hold your enthusiasm. It's a long, long time from May til November. Boozer has a player option in July. He can opt out of the final year of his contract, at $12.2 million, or he try to get the Jazz to extend him, as the Nets did with Vince Carter a couple of years ago. Or the Jazz can trade him to a team willing to give him an extension. That final choice would permit them to give long-term contracts to Mehmet Okur, who also has a player option, and Paul Millsap, who took over the PF spot after Boozer was injured. Boozer, who's still only 27, missed 45 games last year. No one in Salt Lake City believes Boozer and Millsap are coming back next year.

What could the Nets offer the Jazz? A straight-up deal of Boozer for Bobby Simmons would work, as would a deal adding a young player to either side of the equation, say Ryan Anderson and Ronnie Price plus a couple of Nets picks...they have five first rounders over the next three years. As we've written a few times, when superstars get traded (and Boozer has an Olympic gold medal, an NCAA championship and an All-Star uniform in his closet), it's rare that his old team gets back equal value. Instead, it winds up settling for a combination of expiring contract(s), young players(s) and draft pick(s). That's what the Nets got for Jason Kidd and what the Raptors got for Carter. Sometimes, that's the best option.

Of course, there are multiple other explanations. Here's a likely scenario: It makes some sense that Boozer and his agent, Rob Pelinka, are talking informally to teams to see what the market is. Agents are very often middlemen in getting teams to talk trade. It's also possible that Carlos was joshing with PsychoNetsFan34, or worse, looking for a residence close to Madison Square Garden!

Oden vs. Brook…and Yi

It is now a given that Brook Lopez had a better year than the much vaunted Greg Oden…much better.

Factoring in the difference in expectations—not to mention a difference in positions and a 50-pound weight differential, you could even make the argument that Yi Jianlian had as good (or bad) a year as the overall #1 pick from 2007. Yi was taken at #6 in that draft.

Oden was seen as a likely candidate if not a lock for the Rookie of the Year after coming back from microfracture surgery, but like Yi, he disappointed…just more so.

Yi averaged 8.6 ppg, Oden 8.9. Yi played a couple of more minutes a game, on average, but part of that has to do with Oden averaging 8.7 personals per 48 minutes. In rebounding, Yi averaged 5.3 to Oden’s 7.0, but Yi played a lot on the perimeter, Oden in the paint. And Yi showed some versatility, hitting 48 three’s, most before he broke his pinkie. Oden didn’t venture out beyond the arc.

Their best five-game stretches were similar as well. Oden averaged 16.4 points and 11.4 rebounds, Yi 15.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. In that stretch, Yi shot 46.0%, Oden 65.9% but most of Yi’s shots were jumpers, Oden’s paint attacks. Again, there’s a difference between 255 pounds and 285 pounds on a seven-foot frame. Yi’s second best stretch of five games was considerably better than Oden’s.

In Yi’s best game, he scored 27 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and shot 9-15 overall and 3-5 from downtown. He also blocked two shots. Oden’s best saw him score 24 points, grab 15 rebounds and shoot 9-14. Oden also had two blocks.

Does this mean we prefer Yi to Oden? NO! But when assessing Yi’s season, note that he wasn’t the only big man from the 2007 draft to disappoint.

FIBA Bound

That’s "bound", as in "on the way" or "tied up". If China wants Yi to play in the FIBA Asia Games this August—and at midweek it was hard to tell what’s going on—there’s little the Nets can do. It’s part of the deal between the NBA and Chinese Basketball Association which fields Team China. And it’s not just Yi. The CBA announced its team for the Asia Games this week and both Yao Ming of the Rockets and Sun Yue of the Lakers were listed along with Yi. China Daily later reported that Yi and Yao might not be on the team. If so, it’s unlikely to be his choice alone. It’s been reported that the Nets and CBA talk regularly and perhaps Vandeweghe is trying to persuade Chinese officials that working out this summer in New Jersey would be more productive than playing against the likes of Lebanon and Iran.

It’s a bit different with FIBA’s European championships in Turkey. There’s little government pressure, although Nets fans may recall that the Serbian government threatened to draft Nenad Krstic in the Serbian army a few years ago if he didn’t play. What drives the players is patriotism. Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez are all expected to play for Spain…Jose Calderon, too, if healthy. Marco Belinelli and Andreas Bargnani will play for Italy and Danilo Gallinari may join them, again depending on health. Nicolas Batum, Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, among others, will play for France, which boasts more NBA players than any country outside the US. Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, who was born in the UK, will don the red, white and blue of Great Britain. Nachbar, as noted above, wants to play for Slovenia.

If the Nets should draft an international player (say like Ricky Rubio!), the Nets might not want him to stray too far from East Rutherford, but under the agreement between the NBA and FIBA, the decision is the player’s, not the team’s.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

Jrue Holiday isn’t exactly a sleeper, but until recently, he wasn’t expected to be a lottery pick. That’s changed. The UCLA guard with athleticism reminiscent of Dywane Wade was seen as the best player in high school in 2007-08, then got little burn at the Pauley Pavilion. Now draftniks seem to have gotten word from GM’s that his raw talent and skills (including a defensive mindset) is more important in their eyes than what he did or didn’t do in his one year of college. A couple of mocks, Chad Ford’s in particular, have him resting at #11 after a quick rise from the 20’s. In fact, in a draft that has been weakened by the high number of players who stayed him, taking the best player available makes a lot more sense than it normally does.

For the Nets, of course, Holiday would seem a redundant choice. Don’t the Nets already have a thin 6’3" combo guard with a 6’8" wingpan and (supposedly) a defensive mindset? Well, yes, but they did last June too and were prepared to take Jerryd Bayless of Arizona if the Bobcats had passed on Lopez.

Lopez a Surprise?

Gregg Polinsky, the Nets’ quiet but effective director of player personnel, had this to say Thursday on the Nets’ luck last June: "I mean, in our wildest dreams last year, we figured there was no way Lopez gets to us at 10. That scenario was a blessing."

Vandeweghe has said the same thing recently.

Ahem. In a June 24 interview with WFAN, here’s what Kiki said about the possibilities of a top pick dropping to the Nets:

"Could someone in the top four or five drop? I don’t know…but I’ll tell you this, there are players we didn’t even think possible we’re doing research on, doing research on player projected very high that we thought would be gone.

"Rose and Beasley those two guys…will not be there at 10…thank you sherlock. After that, there are guys who are unlikely. It is very, very unlikely O.J. Mayo will be there, but there scenarios where you cant be sure.

"Brook Lopez is one of the guys you have to do due diligence on.
"I don’t think he gets to us but you have to do due diligence because I guarantee you there will be a situation where someone will be taken and you will say, wow, why did they take him and you have to be prepared, because two minutes before the pick you will get a call asking ‘would you do this?’ and you have to think fast…"

Gentlmen, you can take credit for being smart, you know.

House on Fire

It’s hard to watch Eddie House fire up those jumpers in the Celtics-Magic series without asking the question: Why did the Nets let him go? Would he have considered staying with the Nets after the 2006-07 season when he averaged 8.4 ppg and shot 42.9% from deep in 51 games? He was hurt at the beginning and the end of the season, the latter the result of a cheap shot by Indiana’s David Harrison.

Here’s how House put it last year:

"They just didn’t really have any money," House said of the Nets. "They wanted me to take a pay cut and to compete for a spot. I wasn’t going to be in the rotation, I would have had to compete for a spot. It was a no-brainer to come here. It was a chance to win, and it doesn’t hurt that you get a little raise as well."

House signed with the Celtics for $1.5 million, $100,000 more than he had made with the Nets.

The Nets didn’t want to go over the luxury tax and giving Jamaal Magloire $4 million two weeks earlier basically foreclosed the possibility of keeping House. It also led to the Nets releasing Hassan Adams. The Nets, in fact, were still over the tax threshold two days before the season opener, then sent Bernard Robinson, Mile Ilic and cash to New Orleans for David Wesley who they quickly released.

Eddie House or Jamaal Magloire? We report, you decide.

More Cleaning Up, Updating

We’ve been particularly industrious this week at NetsDaily. We’ve added a number of blogs to our blog rolls, both on the news page and the blog page. On the news page, we’ve added the player blogs of Vince Carter and Yi Jianlian, which is in Chinese…Firefox’s translation feature does a good job of making it understandable; as well as the Slippery when Nets and Nets Are Scorching fan blogs. On the blog page, we have put up links to dozens of the best team blogs around the NBA, including the Nets.

We’ve also added a "Social Networks" category on the news page, with links to the Nets’ Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube pages. Time for some updating, Brett.

And for history buffs, we've added Remember the ABA, Basketball Reference and Hoopedia to our Resource list.

Final Note

This must be a tough time for Eduardo Najera. Not only is he recovering from his February 5 hernia operation, the last in a series of injuries that ruined his season, but this is the first time in his college or professional career that he isn’t in the post-season. In four years at Oklahoma, he made the NCAA’s and in nine years as an NBA player with Dallas and Denver, he made the playoffs every year.

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