NetsDaily Off-Season Report #9

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.

Arena Fatigue

So Frank Gehry of Toronto is out and Ellerbe Becket of Kansas City is in. We would have liked to see the Nets play in a Gehry-designed building, but delays and an economic crisis changed that landscape.

We’ve decided to reserve judgment on the new design, which will be unveiled in a couple of weeks. We assume that the images published by the Times are first drafts. However, to suggest, as the Times architecture critic did, that Ellerbe Becket’s designs are second-rate is not the case. They’ve designed most of the NBA’s new arenas, including Boston’s TDNorth Center, San Antonio’s ATT Center, Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena, Memphis’ FedEx Forum, San Antonio's AT&T Center, Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, Washington’s Verizon Center as well as the home of USA Basketball, the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. Most importantly for Nets’ fans, they also designed Indianapolis’ Conseco Field House.

Why is Conseco so important? Because it appears that it is the model for the Barclays Center. While Conseco may not meet the New York Times standards for architecture, it surely is a great place to watch a basketball game. I mean this is about watching basketball?

Here’s some accolades drawn from Conseco’s Wikipedia page:

In 2005, 2006, and 2007, Conseco Fieldhouse was ranked the No. 1 venue in the NBA according to the Sports Business Journal/Sports Business Daily Reader Survey. In 2006 The Ultimate Sports Road Trip reaffirmed Conseco Fieldhouse as the best venue in all 4 of the major sports leagues. "The Ultimate Sports Road Trip has recently concluded a re-scoring and re-evaluation of all 122 franchises in the four major sports, based on our personal visits to each of the teams in a journey that began in 1998. Based on our criteria, Conseco Fieldhouse has once again withstood scrutiny to be named the "best of the best" in the four major sports. Everything about Conseco Fieldhouse is top notch, a sparkling venue in a sparkling city," said Farrell and Kulyk.

Need we tell you which arena was ranked last? For the record, the Prudential Center was ranked 10th best venue in the NHL.

Brett Yormark said this week he thought the Barclays Center would take 24-29 months to build from ground breaking to opening night…and Jay-Z told RapRadar that ground breaking would take place in September.

How are realistic is Yormark’s projections? The Sprint Center, the Kansas City arena that is Ellerbe Becket’s most recent design, took 28 months, from June 2005 to October 2007. Newark’s Prudential Center, the most recent arena built in the New York area, took only 24 months, from October 2005 to October 2007.

Beyond that? Ratner is already trying to make a virtue out of Gehry’s departure and even resurrect an old Gehry idea: parcel out the various pieces of Atlantic Yards to world class architects, spinning it as some sort of a world’s fair of architecture!!

Ellerbe Becket gets Barclays Center, and other Ratner favorites, Cesar Pelli (MetroTech and the World Financial Center), Renzo Piano (New York Times building) and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (MetroTech) could get work on other major elements. And Ratner says, look for some young architects too. All of this while retaining, after a fashion, Gehry’s master plan. We also wouldn't be surprised to see a name change. Just speculating and we’re architecture buffs so forgive us.

Trade VC for a Railyard?

Meanwhile, Atlantic Yards Report, one the critics’ most active blogs, suggested this week that the MTA should ask Ratner about Vince Carter’s paycheck when the Nets owner cries poverty and asks for a reduction in the price of the railyard that sits beneath the site of Barclays Center. Ratner is still trying to get a reduction in the price from $100 million down to some other unknown but lesser figure.

"What if the Nets moved Vince Carter?" asked the site’s creator, Norman Oder. Forest City Enterprises and Bruce Ratner are the majority owners of the team, and they're scheduled to pay star guard Vince Carter $16.1 million next year and $17.5 million in two years."

Doesn't he know the Nets have tried to get rid of his contract?

Harris’ Summer Plans…and Lopez’s?

Here’s another set of dates to add to your Nets calendar: July 22-25. Devin Harris confirmed this week on ESPN that he has been invited to and will attend the Team USA mini-camp in Las Vegas that weekend. USA Basketball hasn’t released the names of the 24 players who’ve been invited, but there are reports that Brook Lopez is also on the list. The mini-camp is essentially an early tryout for the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey and the 2012 Olympics in London.

The mini-camp will include a team meeting July 22, practice sessions on July 23 and July 24, capped by a Blue-White intra-squad game on Saturday, July 25, at the Thomas & Mack Center. Game time and broadcast information will be announced at a later date.

For Harris, it’s his second stint with Team USA. Two summers ago, he played for the USA Select Team, assembled from some of the NBA’s younger players as a practice squad for the Redeem Team.

The Anatomy of a Trade Rumor…Great White North Edition

Back in April, Tim Chisholm of TSN, Canadian sister network of ESPN, did a season ending appraisal of the Raptor roster. Of little-used power forward Kris Humphries he wrote:

As for Humphries, look for the Raptors to explore unloading his deal for backcourt help or perhaps for a second-round draft pick. His $3.2-million salary is burdensome, though he could still be a useful player to a team in greater need of his services; Atlanta or New Jersey, perhaps.

"Perhaps"—an indication this was a writer’s speculation.

Somehow in the past week that morphed into a rumor up North and then down here that the Nets and Raptors had a handshake deal on a Draft Day trade that would send Humphries to New Jersey for Keyon Dooling and a swap of picks, the Raptors’ #9 for the Nets’ #11.

Doug Smith of the Toronto Star got asked about the rumor in his basketball blog Thursday. He wrote in response:

I discovered the "hearing" and "read somewhere" came from the "very reliable" source and it’s all crap, like about 95 per cent of the junk floating around these days.
Because I had some time, and because I figured it’s a good way to make a point, I bounced this off a couple of people in the organization.

Their reaction:

"Utter nonsense."

"Got a good kick out of it."

So, reliable is bullpoop (the guy or gal either lied or was lied to) and the energy anyone spent talking about this would have been better spent cutting the grass or something.

Here’s the deal: Unless you dig and have multiple sources and (they) are trusted and legitimate, you’re not going to find out facts. You’re going to find out fiction and waste the time of a lot of people.

The internet and chat rooms and discussion forums, I guess, are wonderful things in some aspects. But, and I will say this for about the thousandth time, they are not places where legitimate news breaks.

Now that I’ve wasted some of my time, and yours, we’ll return you to the usual drivel.

Cash is King

What are the chances the Nets buy another pick in the draft? We think the chances are slim to none....not a lot of cash overflowing the vaults in East Rutherford. As we've noted before, the Nets have tried and failed to buy picks in the past and have twice sold picks.

Straight cash deals do happen on Draft Night...and a lot of time they're a Euro-stash deal, that is cash for the draft rights to an international player who can be stashed overseas til the NBA team is ready for them. It's a money-saving deal. (We had read reports last June that if the Chris Douglas-Roberts hadn't been available at #40, the Nets might have picked Damjan Rudez, a 6'10" swingman from Croatia, and stashed him.)

Over the last few years, cash deals gotten more prevalent with things likely to get even crazier this season. So many cash-starved teams are looking to pick up spare cash. As the list below shows, many of these deals turned out to be quite short-sighted. It also shows how much it must suck to be a Suns' fans on Draft Night. Since 2005, they have traded the rights to Marcin Gortat, Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez and gotten nothing more than cash.

--On Draft Night 2005, the Magic sent cash to the Suns and got a Suns’ second round draft pick (#57 – Marcin Gortat)

--On Draft Night 2006, the Blazers sent cash to the Suns and got a Suns' first round pick (#27 - Sergio Rodriguez of Spain)

--On Draft Night 2006, the Rockets sent cash to the Magic and got a Magic second round pick (#44 - Lior Eliyahu of Israel).

--On Draft Night 2006, the Sixers sent cash to the Raptors and got a Raptors' second round pick (#56 - Edin Bavcic of Bosnia).

--On Draft Night, 2007, the Rockets sent cash to the Magic and got a the Magic second round pick. (#54 - Brad Newley of Australia).

--On Draft Night, 2007, the Blazers sent cash to the Suns and got a Suns' first round pick. (#24 - Rudy Fernandez of Spain).

--On Draft Night, 2008, the Cavs sent cash to the Sonics and got a Sonics' second round pick. (#56 - Sasha Kaun of Russia -- and Kansas)

--On Draft Night, 2008, the Celtics sent cash to the Wizards and got a Wizards' second round pick (#47 - Bill Walker of Kansas State)

--On Draft Night, 2008, the Blazers sent $3 million in cash to the Hornets and got a Hornets' first round pick (#27 - Darrell Arthur of Kansas)

There are a lot of other deals where picks are swapped with a cash incentive or where a player is dumped as part of a cash for pick deal.

Seeing Eye-to-Eye with Yi

Yi Jianlian will have no problem seeing eye-to-eye with his teammates at the FIBA Asia Games in August. Former Clipper Wang Zhi Zhi, who's an inch taller, will join him at the Games and the Chinese Basketball Association will be looking to add young seven footers from its training pool. Yao Ming is out of the Games with a foot problem suffered in the NBA playoffs and so they have opportunity to bring someone along.

Currently, they have five young seven-footers in their training pool, any of whom might be tapped join the national team – 7’0 Su Wei, 7’2 Wang Zheng, 7’3 Sun Zhe, 7’2 Zhang Dayu and 7’2 Li Muhao. Zhang, who’s only 18, is viewed as the top NBA candidate in the group. He played in this year’s Nike Hoop Summit in Portland and contributed six points in the winning effort, looking a lot like Yi on pick-and-pop jumpers.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

If there’s one lottery player we think will be available at #11, it’s Brandon Jennings, the Los Angelino point guard transplanted to Lottomatica Roma of the Italian League. There’s little left to say about him after Chad Ford’s opus on ESPN.com. To summarize, Jennings was having problems qualifying for the University of Arizona and with the help of Marcus Williams and his father, made contact with Lottomatica Roma. He signed a one year deal with options and off he went to Italy. His stats were underwhelming (7.6 ppg and 1.6 apg in less than 20 minutes, about half Jaycee Carroll’s who played in the same league). No one doubts his talent…and he is still only 19. That is also part of the calculus…how mature is Jennings? He left Italy in a huff after a coaching change sent him to the bench and he didn’t return for the Reebok Eurocamp last weekend, as many GM’s had hoped. He will be doing select workouts for individual teams next week, reporedly including the Nets.

One thing that may hold him in good stead come June 25 is an act of good will none of his fellow prospects can match. Back in March, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Abuzzo, a medieval town in central Italy. Jennings donated $50,000 to the National Italian-American Foundation’s Abruzzo Relief Effort, for which he was roundly praised. That kind of maturity and thoughtfulness had to impress NIAF Jerry Colangelo of USA Basketball, chair of the Phoenix Suns and father of Raptor GM.

Final Note

Jeff McInnis and Hassan Adams, both of whom played for the Nets a few years ago, apparently still have fond memories of playing with Jason Kidd. Both were in Dallas Mavericks camp this week, with raft of former NBA players looking for a second or, in some cases, third chance. Kidd is a free agent of course, but Chris Sheridan reports, as did Peter Vecsey last year, that the 36-year-old had made a "wink wink" or "handshake" deal with Mark Cuban before last February’s trade. Supposedly, Cuban agreed that Kidd would be extended two years beyond his contract.

We wish them all the best of luck.

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