NetsDaily Off-Season Report #16

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.

Better Basketball…Maybe

This has probably been the Nets best week since the off-season began…not a great week, but considering how bad things have been, we’ll take it. (It's sorta like the US economy without the consequences.)

Last weekend, after we posted, Brook Lopez scored 18 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in the Team USA intra-squad scrimmage in Las Vegas. After a couple of lackluster practices, pundits were wondering about Lopez’s chances for the World Championships next year in Turkey. In the intra-squad game, Lopez dispelled those doubt. Lawrence Frank and Kiki Vandeweghe were both on hand to watch. And although Devin Harris didn’t play because of a slight ankle sprain, he was credited with being the camp’s most vocal leader.

Harris blogged later in the week that he thought he would be wearing the national colors next year…and in London for the Olympics in 2012.

I’m confident about my chances to make the team. It’s a step-by-step process. The next one is to have a great season, and next summer we’ll do it all over again, competing for the World Championships. That’s another step and then the Olympics are next. Just taking it one step at a time. This was the first step and I’m feeling good about it.

London? Just watch out for Stuart Tanner.

Then there was Yi. Oh Yes, Yi.

In the words of one poster on the Netsdaily forum, this wasn’t Yi Jianlian. It was Yee Jianlian, his evil twin. Indeed, the man Chinese fans are calling the "the Muscle Devil" had a breakout series vs. a group of Ausralian National Basketball League all-stars. It was the last warmup before the FIBA Asia Cup.

The competition wasn’t great…a bit below a D-League All-Star team, but the skills Yi exhibited left a number of Nets fans slack-jawed at the difference between the player they saw last season and the one Chinese fans are seeing. There were fluid post moves, lefty hook shots, drives to and dunks at the rim, turnaround jumpers in traffic, ferocious blocks and confidence, confidence, confidence.

Here’s what one of the Aussie all-stars wrote on his blog after that first game:

First play of the game NBA player Yi Jianlian took Jacob Holmes down to the low post, made a awesome spin move with great speed and balance for a 7 footer and went for a left hand hook. He obviously was wary of Jacob's jumping ability and left the hook a little short - airball! He would however redeem himself with four blocks - one on a Mat Campbell drive that he hit so hard it nearly broke the backboard - and a few dunks to finish with 30pts.

It wasn’t all good. Yi’s defense was wanting at times, particularly in Game #2. But if he can play some center for the Nets with his added strength, that will certainly help with their overall versatility. It was certainly not a good test this week, in terms of competition, but in terms of the skills he is showing, it's encouraging. (One of the more interesting angles of watching Chinese coverage of Yi is their continuing fascination with his workout regime. Calling Yi the "Muscle Devil" after his off-season workouts, Chinese media has peppered him with questions about his training and followed him and his personal trainer, a new concept among Chinese basketball plaeyrs. They've demanded and have been given access to his workouts between games. For the record, Yi says he's gained "seven kilograms" or around 15 pounds.)

FIBA Asia, which begins Thursday, is not going to offer much of a test. He'll face off against one NBA center, Hamed Ehadadi of Iran and Memphis. He'll have to dominate Ehdadi, the Olympics leading rebounder, for China to win. Iran is China’s chief rival for the FIBA Asia crown and indeed are the defending champs. We'll have to wait til training camp, preseason and then the season to guage his real progress. As Lawrence Frank says, it's a process.

If you want to watch Game 2, CCTV has links to the game, quarter by quarter. The quality is quite good considering but the play by play is in Chinese.

There was some bad news coming from overseas. Eduardo Najera told Mexican reporters Friday it's not 100 per cent that he's going to play for Team Mexico at the FIBA Americas Cup competition, starting August 16. He is still experiencing pain from his March hernia operation and is physically weak. As a result, when asked if he was certain he'd play, he responded:

No, not at all. I talked with the Nets, I have to go see the doctor. I will not lie, I feel it when I wake up and it still hurts me. The last time I spoke with the doctor, he told me that the best thing is to rest, give it more time for the injury to be remedied, and I hope that in the next two or three weeks I'll feel better.

I feel sore, there is a physical weakness. This is normal.

On the other hand, if Najera's health is threatened by playing in San Juan, a decision not to risk further injury by sitting it out could be good news.

Great Mentioner Update

We’re keeping track possible free agents targets mentioned by those great mentioners, Dave, Fred, Al and Julian (plus a few we think might show up).

The list be shrinkin’. Hakim Warrick, who Rod Thorn said the team might have "some interest", has gone to Milwaukee in a one-year $3 million deal. The Nets weren’t on his short list. Ike Diogu joined the Hornets, also on a one-year deal. Marvin Williams re-signed, in a multi-year deal with his old team, the Hawks. Glen "Big Baby" Davis, remains a long shot and "probably won't happen", as a Net official told Kerber 10 days ago, but that said, no one is dismissing it…yet and Davis' agent says the Nets' interest is "sincere".

Moreover, the Nets have been rumored as a possible third team in a multi-player deal that would bring Davis to New Jersey and Marquis Daniels from Indiana to Boston. The Celts have been trying to work something out so they can give Daniels more than a $2 million LLE contract, but need a third team to make it happen.

On the other end of the scale, no new names were mentioned this week.

Still, here’s the list, with the aforementioned subtractions: Glen "Big Baby" Davis,
Linas Kleiza, Melvin Ely, Mikki Moore, Joe Smith, Ime Udoka, and Rodney Carney

Who do we think might show up…now that our former faves, Sean May and Boki Nachbar, have headed to points west and east? Looking at the list of availables, and we admit we have no inside information, a couple names stand out: Cedric Simmons and Shelden Williams, both still young enough to qualify as "fallen angels", and of course, the long predicted, at least on our forum, reunion of Kiki Vandeweghe and Nikoloz Tskitishvili. We jest…we think.

Jarvis Hayes…Youngster, Starter, Leader

As we pointed out last week, Vandeweghe lumped Jarvis Hayes in with the other young Nets in his breakdown of the team’s youth and veterans. Hayes is 27 and will turn 28 next weekend. It would seem odd that he’s seen as a younger member of the team rather than a vet. He isn’t as young as Lopez and Yi (21); Terrence Williams, Sean Williams--if he stays, or Chris Douglas-Roberts (all 22); Courtney Lee (23); or Josh Boone (24). But he's played 177 fewer minutes than Harris (26) in his career, due to a several serious injuries that seem to be well past him and without much effect.

Here's what Vandeweghe told Ben Couch.

He’s a young player; he’s 27-years-old and he was hurt for basically a year-and-a-half of his tenure, so he’s basically a fourth-year player at the moment. He’s still young and can still improve. Tremendously talented, and I thought he started to really make strides last year and pick up where he left off his rookie season. I thought we were very lucky to get him, especially at the price we got him. He’s been a great addition. Picking up the second-year option, that was a no-brainer with him.

Harris also singled out Hayes in his Friday blog, lending credence to the rumors that he might be the starting small forward, something Vandeweghe has hinted at in the past. Moreover, Harris himself hinted strongly that Hayes is going to be a team leader this season, that the two have talked about "getting the guys" together before training camp, like Vince Carter did last summer.

I saw Kiki said he saw Jarvis as part of our young core. People know Jarvis is a guy who can come off screens, and he can definitely be a knock-down shooter. Defensively, in the right setting, he can be better and I think will be better. Toward the end of the year, he started to take more of a leadership role. We’ve talked a lot this summer about getting the guys in together and making sure everyone is comfortable with one another before the season starts. More than anything, you’ll start to see his leadership a lot more.

CDR's Height Advantage...Growing Every Day

Speaking of youngsters, Carter set up a "friendly competition" between two of them, Lee and CDR, when talking to the New York area media at his summer camp last week.

"Courtney, he's unbelievable. I like him. He's a high-energy athletic guy and I think it's going to be a good friendly competition between he and CDR (Chris Douglas-Roberts)," Carter said.

CDR has a bit of an advantage in height, having announced this week on his Twitter page that he's still growing, getting close to 6’8" this summer. Meanwhile, if you listen to some Nets fans, Lee is shrinking, with a few suggesting his listed height of 6’5" is inflated by two inches.

New York Nets

We were intrigued by Brett Yormark’s admission this week on ESPN 1050 that the Nets are dumping all sorts of New Jersey-tainted links. They started with the uniform shorts, removing that "NJ" shield. They replaced "New Jersey Nets" on their stationery with "Nets Basketball", scrubbed references to New Jersey off the IZOD Center floor and most recently and most significantly erased "New Jersey" from road uniforms, opting for the red "Nets" uniform jersey instead. They’re selling out those red jerseys, Yormark told ESPN. (Of course all those red jerseys with #15 on them are selling at a big discount.)

All of it, he noted, is part of regionalizing the team in anticipation of the move to Brooklyn. The team even hinted at one point that they might change the name of the team from "Nets" to something more Brooklyn in character, although they seemed to have stepped away from that. Yormark is on the record as saying the team will be called the "Brooklyn" somethings. Certainly, they’re prepared, marketing-wise, for the "Brooklyn Nets", long ago picking up the trademark rights for that name. Ratner’s organization, Forest City Ratner, holds the rights to brooklynets.com (note the one "n" and that brooklynnets.com is held by an opponent to Atlantic Yards.)

The Nets are prepared to go all the way with regionalization, if need be. They hold the trademark rights to "New York Nets" and "NY Nets" and have, since Ratner bought the team, updated them along with their rights to "Brooklyn Nets" and "New Jersey Nets" (as well as "Brooklyn Basketball", "Brooklyn Hoops" and "Brooklyn B-Ball".) "Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment", the unit that will run Barclays Center or at least book it has a trademark and a logo, based on the old Dodgers script. Expect to see more of that script as things get closer.

Final Note

What’s with the roster numbers? Ben Couch in his NetsBasketball Twitter feed says Alston is likely to get #1, although Williams originally wanted it. Williams said on his Twitter page that he would defer to the veteran Alston and was happy with #8, which he said he chose in part because he rose from Section 8 housing in Seattle to become an NBA player. And yet, no number is listed next to his name on the team roster...or any of the new additions.

Tony Battie has worn #4, but it's officially retired…although it doesn’t hang in the rafters at the IZOD. It was worn by Wendell Ladner, an ABA Net…and a model for the Will Ferrell character in Semi-Pro. Ladner was killed in a 1975 air crash on Long Island. Could the Nets let Battie wear it?

How about Lee? He wore #11 in Orlando, but that number is taken by Lopez. At Western Kentucky, he wore #32, but that’s retired as well, but one of Ladner’s teammates. Now, if somehow by chance, the Nets acquire Glen "Big Baby" Davis, that would add to the issue. He wears #11 as well. And oh yeah, Yi wears #11 in China.

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