NetsDaily Off-Season Report #10

It's all new...and it's exhausting too!  Owner swings in from Moscow on the Gulfstream, meets up with the new coach at the NBA Finals...neither says hello to Dwyane Wade sitting directly behind them out of fear of a fine. Whirlwind tour of "The Rock" by the Big Russian. Little General gets exposure, Brook Lopez gets exposed to mono. Workouts galore. Then, there's the draft!!  We take a look at the draft through various prisms, offer Mikhail Dmitrievich Prokhorov some advice and wonder about "The Rock".

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...not to mention our own reporting.

Do Us a Big Favors

As he has been ever since the Draft Lottery, Derrick Favors sits at #3 in virtually every mock draft. Evan Turner is not dropping and as Dave D'Alessandro reports, DeMarcus Cousins will get picked over Favors only if Favors rolls himself in the fetal position during Monday's much-hyped workout.

For many fans, Favors is seen as sour compensation for a loss in the Draft Lottery.  But it wasn't that long ago--like a year ago--that Favors was seen as the best prospect in the country. Coming out of high school last spring, Scout.com rated him the #1 player in the country, over John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.  ESPNU had him #2 in the ESPNU100, Rivals.com rated him the lowest at #4.

Scout spoke highly of his potential:

"Could be a potential franchise college player and beyond. Few have the ability to finish with strength and efficiency that he brings. Quiet kid who goes about his business and takes numbers. Excellent student and a high character young man. In contention for many player of the year awards as a junior."

ESPNU had him behind Avery Bradley but ahead of Xavier Henry, Cousins and Wall. Rivals had him at #3, behind Wall and Cousins and just ahead of Bradley.

He dominated high school all-star games, even more so than Wall.  After he led South Atlanta to the Georgia Class AAA state championship, scoring 38 points and grabbing 21 rebounds, he led the East to a 113–110 victory in the McDonald's High School All-America game, being named the MVP. He was also selected to play in the 2009 Jordan Brand Classic at Madison Square Garden where he scored a game-high 21 points and was named co-MVP.

Favors, by the way, would be the youngest Net ever, starting next season at 19 years and two months old.  That would be six months younger than Cliff Robinson, who played for the Nets in the early 1980's--not Clifford Robinson of UConn, but Cliff Robinson of USC.  The Nets youngest players ever are Robinson, Brook Lopez, Ryan Anderson, Marcus Williams and Yi Jianlian...at least officially. 

So who do we think the Nets will pick Thursday night?

Here's our predictions: (David Stern voice) with the third pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the New Jersey Nets select Derrick Favors of Georgia Tech.  With the 27th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the New Jersey Nets select Armon Johnson of the University of Nevada. (Switching now to our Adam Silver voice) With the 31st pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the New Jersey, the New Jersey Nets select Keith "Tiny" Gallon of the University of Oklahoma.  Now, if as hinted, the Nets are looking to buy a second round pick, we have to think they already have someone ind and/or the pick they want.  Our bet and we are totally speculating here is that the other pick in the second round will be a European who the Nets might keep overseas. 

The possibilities: Alexey Shved, the 6'7" combo guard from CSKA Moscow;  Thomas Heurtel, the 6'3" point guard from Strasbourg in the French league; Ryan Richards, the 7'0" British center/forward from Gran Canaria in the Spanish League; or Nemanja Bjeilica, the 6'10" point forward from Red Star in the Balkan League. 

Draft Sleeper of the Week

For our final Draft Sleeper, we're going with Heurtel, who is fast moving up the mock draft boards, an indication that the draftniks are hearing from scouts and GM's that the quick, pass-first point has garnered some attention of late.

Heurtel was the MVP of the Adidas EuroCamp in Treviso, a surprise selection.  Although NBADraft.net isn't sure of his potential as an NBA player, it noted: "The adidas Eurocamp MVP and the most complete playmaker at the camp, Huertel has nice quickness, nifty skill off the dribble and most importantly is a terrific passer. He gets into the paint consistently (in transition and in the halfcourt) and is able to draw help and make the correct reads."  Sounds like someone who would fit the Nets' offense.  He is also surprisingly athletic, registering a 36.2" vertical at the Adidas EuroCamp.

Draft Night Trade?

Two years ago, we were surprised to hear that Richard Jefferson had been sent packing for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons.  Then, last year, it was Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson for Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie. Some had speculated that Devin Harris might be the third Nets star to be traded in as many years.  But that was before the Nets lost the lottery and hired Avery Johnson, Harris' biggest fan, mentor, surrogate father, surrogate big brother, etc.,etc. as head coach and dean of discipline.  So who could be traded this June?  Right now, the Nets have six players whou could be dealt: the five core members: Harris, Lee, Brook Lopez, Yi Jianlian and Terrence Williams, and Keyon Dooling.  None of the players on expiring contracts can be traded and the two players with contract options--Kris Humphries and Chris Douglas-Roberts--cannot be dealt either. 

So why can Dooling be traded and not Humphries or CDR?  Doesn't he have a team option with a $500,000 option?  He does but it's not considered a team option. Rather, he is a player with limited salary protection. Players with team options, player options and early termination options cannot be traded before July 1, meaning after they or their team decides on the option. Players with limited salary protection can be dealt.  Will Dooling be dealt?  It's possible but it's unlikely the Nets will want to take on more than the $500,000 he is owed.  That's why the rumored Dooling for Michael Beasley trade made sense for the Heat but not for the Nets at least from from a salary cap perspective.  The Nets might have gotten Beasley but it would have severely cut into their salary cap...and there is plenty of evidence the Nets want to have enough cap space for two max players.  The only way that can happen is if Kris Humphries opts out and The Hump is everywhere for the Nets, doing two community affairs in New Jersey last week and another in Brooklyn this week.

You're On the Clock, Mikhail Dmitrievich

Mikhail Prokhorov has said he thinks the Nets can move foward "with a little bit of luck, a little bit of money".  We liked what we read and heard this week about some small investments Prokhorov has made ahead of free agency (i.e. BIG money): he spoke openly about the value of improving player amenities while visiting the Nets' locker room construction site at "The Rock" and Friday, Al Iannazzone reported that the Nets "could" buy a second round pick, citing two sources. 

Both cost money and Prokhorov is right about the value of player perks.  Too bad the Nets are stuck in the PNY Center for the next two years until the new practice facility is finished at the Barclays Center...if you want to see what the competition has in Cleveland, take a look here.  But what would be more significant, more visible is the purchase of another pick.  We're not saying spend just to spend, but laying out $1.5 million to $2 million for a second round pick (or adding some cash to move up in the first round) is going to send a clear signal to fans and free agents that you're serious about resources.  Another thing we're watching is the recruitment of assistant coaches. The Nets had the fewest and the lowest paid last year.

By the way, if you were hoping that Prokhorov's "missing" $45 million yacht might play a role in free agent recruiting, not likely.  As of Saturday, the Solemar remains docked in Antibes, in France, not far from Nice...and very far from Akron. 

Jeanie Watching Irina

Phil Jackson said he would like to hoist a glass of vodka with Mikhail Prokhorov (but really wasn't that interested in coaching for him). Turns out his girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, wants to meet with Prokhorov's choice to run his sports
holding company in the US.  In a USA Today interview about women in sports--and other things, the daughter of Laker owner Jerry Buss noted, "When you talk about the future of women executives, I'm very excited to meet the woman (Irina Pavlova) the new owner in New Jersey (Mikhail Prokhorov) has hired to be the day-to-day business person for the Nets."

Vatutin Otherwise Occupied

It's starting to seem less and less likely that Europe's most accomplished basketball executive, Andrei Vatutin, will be joining the Nets.  This week, he led ten teams out of the scandal-scarred Russian Basketball Federation, declaring the need for a new league. "In this situation, we consider it impossible to participate in the competition, organized and managed by the managers who have lost our trust," a communique published by Vatutin stated. "The leading clubs of the country are going to establish a new, professional and independent, basketball league for the best Russian teams."

When Prokhorov was asked about his role in this new league, he said Vatutin is perfectly capable of setting up the league, but that he won't be involved. "My interests are now more American," said Prokhorov.

Vatutin also announced that while two of his players have jumped ship (one of them Zoran Planinic) and another is no longer under contract, He could report three others are staying.  Doesn't sound like a guy who's leaving for a new job.
 
Newark Love Affair...Not

We were a little mystified this week with the disparity between the news and sports pages of the Star-Ledger on the subject of the Prudential Center. 

Here's Steve Politi, the Ledger's sports columnist, on Tuesday writing about the wonders of "The Rock" and his hopes that the Nets extend their stay in Brick City.  It would be great for Newark.

"[Prokhorov] was standing near center court of one of the nicest arenas in the country as he spoke," wrote Politi. "No matter what happens, at least we know this: The man who bought a hole in the ground in Brooklyn sure seemed impressed."

Politi didn't mention that the day's other two protagonists--Mayor Cory Booker and Devils' owner Jeff Vanderbeek--are about to go to court over the Devils' failure to pay a dime in rent to the distressed city. 

Joan Whitlow, who like Politi is a columnist for the Ledger, wasn't so impressed when she published on Friday.  The arena, she writes, a bad deal made worse by the Devils unwillingness to pay the millions the hockey team owes the city.

"The previous administration, under Mayor Sharpe James, sank more than $200 million in city money into a lopsided partnership with the New Jersey Devils hockey team. The team put up $100 million to build the arena, known as the Rock. In return, the Devils got a lease so tilted, the team claimed the rent wasn’t due because the city owed the Devils money. The lease even precluded the city from taking its recalcitrant tenant to court." 

She also pointed out that the only redevelopment in the arena district, other than some parking lots, is a coffee shop.

Maybe Booker and Devils owner Vanderbeek see Prokhorov's Nets as a way to make some money for both of them.  Doubtful.  While the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is certainly the beneficiary of city and state funding, even Brooklyn critic Norman Oder admits there are worst examples of sports facility financing: "Note that Atlantic Yards, as with the new baseball stadiums, is not directly publicly financed in the blatant way some other sports facilities are, but relies on significant infrastructure subsidies, tax breaks, and a tax-exempt financing scheme that the Treasury Department no longer allows." 

Yi the Documentary

A Chinese film crew followed Yi around northern New Jersey recently for a documentary on the Nets' power forward.  The third most popular celebrity in China, Yi gave the documentary makers unprecedented access.  As Sina.com, which is one of his and the Nets' big sponsors noted, the crew filmed his warm-up before training, individual physical training, upper leg strength training, flexibility training and massage therapy.  They also  shot him grocery shopping, dining in local restaurants, and, "for the first time", in his home in New Jersey to watch him "cooking and playing video games." The documentary will be shown ion July before FIBA World Championships as part of the run-up to the games in Turkey.

Perhaps the crew will unlock the mystery of Yi's age.  Some Chinese fans think they have found some new "evidence" that the Nets' forward is actually two or three years older than his listed 22 years.  It seems Yi talked about his love of the original Hyperdunk show by Nike.  Here's the critical Q and A.

Media: When you were growing up in China, did you have any favorite shoes?
Yi: I really liked the [original] Hyperdunk, and I’ve worn those for three years now. It’s the one shoe that I feel is really comfortable with my foot. Every different person is different, and some are lighter or better for more jumping. My first basketball shoe was Nike. Then, my favorite shoe was when I was twelve or thirteen years old, and I had my first pair of Jordan shoes. The XII.

That’s my favorite.

Well, points out a Chinese fan, "The Nike Air Jordan XII was released in 1996...if he had a pair when he was 'twelve or thirteen years old', this would make him about 26 years old today. This, of course, assumes that he got them the first year they were released..."

There is an alternate explanation of course: Yi wanted to please one of his sponsors, Nike China.  The mystery continues.

Final Note

CNBC's Darren Rovell reported this week on how Nike will play a big role in any decision LeBron James makes about relocating, noting that Nike's growth is in China: "All you have to do is visit the big cities in China -- Beijing, Shanghai -- and Kobe is clearly bigger than LeBron. I would say he's at least two times bigger. And the reason for that is that the Chinese really do respect a champion."

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