It's a potpurri, as it usually is, of Nets news this weekend. We take a look at free agency, the draft, the search for a coach, the front office workload and a number of things Russian, including two Russian-speaking draft prospects--one of whom is in Tuesday for a workout. In particular, we look at who's moving up in the draft and who's moving down and the effect a LeBron Tour could have on the Knicks' very complicated master plan. Finally, we note that construction crews are working at night now in Brooklyn to meet that tight schedule.
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.
LeTour LeBron and the "Chris Sheridan Option"
It's hard to tell how much of the FanHouse story on Lebron James free agent tour is accurate. It was based on one source and Nike has already denied flatly that it's making signature shoes for each stop along the way. But let's assume for a minute that the main point is true: that LeBron will take his time before signing, heading first for New York on July 1, then crossing the river(s) to visit the Nets before heading out to Miami and LA. That's a week, and while Knick fans are overjoyed that The King is starting off in the Big Apple, we're not sure Donnie Walsh is. Call it the Chris Sheridan Option, after the writer who suggested it last month.
Here's why: Imagine if you will it's July 1 and LeBron is touring the Garden when suddenly comes word that David Lee has agreed to sign with the Nets...or the Thunder. Walsh's plan, as best we can tell, is based on 1) getting LeBron and another free agent--Chris Bosh is most often mentioned--to come to New York or 2) getting LeBron to agree and then having Lee be patient and loyal enough to wait til the dust settles before signing anywhere else.
Lee has hinted he's not waiting, that he is tired of being taken for granted. And if he is suddenly off the Knicks' roster, that leaves New York with the robotic Danilo Gallinari; the wounded weed-using Wilson Chandler; back-up point guard Toney Douglas: the carcass of Eddy Curry's contract and whoever they get in (the second round of) the draft. Quite appealing...not.
The scenario is fraught with uncertainties. Would the Nets go for Lee that early in free agency if Amare Stoudemire is a real possibility? Would Lee want to join the Nets if they had just drafted Derrick Favors? But the bottom line is this for the Knicks: EVERYTHING has to go right for their master plan to succeed. If not, there will be hell to pay on the back pages of certain tabloids. As one Nets insider put it, "NYK better hope they at least get one of those guys and I am not talking about Carlos Boozer and Rudy Gay. For us it would be ok but for them I don’t think their fan base would be too happy."
Speaking of the Draft, this is around that time when suddenly players start climbing or falling in the mock drafts, as draftniks begin to get word that a player is wowing them at workouts, a team has fallen deeply in love with someone or, on the other side of the ledger, some red flag has popped up in a player's file. Taking a cursory look around, it appears Greg Monroe, Luke Babbitt, Gordon Hayward, Paul George and Patrick Patterson fall into the former category while Hassan Whiteside and Eric Bledsoe drop into the latter. It's unlikely that the top five picks in the draft are going to be affected (although some think Monroe could break through). The two picks the Nets have at the bottom of the first may very well be affected. Whiteside and Bledsoe have attitude issues, according to some reports and now Bledsoe has the distraction of an NCAA investigation. Do you take a chance if that happens...with the picks of Marcus and Sean Williams fresh in your memory? It could get interesting.
Thorn hiring one coach...making three picks, spending $26 million, etc.
We don't pretend to know who the Nets will ultimately sign as their new coach, nor when, nor whether the signing will be affected by free agency. One thing does appear to be clear: the Nets front office has got a lot to do with a small staff. We've touched on this before but with the draft now only 17 days away, three picks and no coach in sight, it looks like the team will be relying on the collective wisdom of people who may or may not be working a week later.
Unless there are agreements we don't know about--and that's always possible--the only front office resident guaranteed to be back is Bobby Marks, the resident capologist and keeper of all the draft files. He doesn't even have an executive assistant, we're told. Rod Thorn looks like he will be back. Kiki Vandeweghe definitely won't be. Tom Barrise, John Loyer and Roy Rogers are running drills at workouts but none have deals beyond July 1, from what we understand. It's also been reported (by Dave D'Alessandro) that Doug Overton is likely gone. We don't know Gregg Polinsky's status or Maury Hanks, the chief scout.
That doesn't sound like good management to us, but a Russian friend of ours says of it all, "Welcome to Russian management", that managers in both the Russian private and public sectors like seeing what people can do under pressure, like watching employees fend for themselves in uncertain hierarchies. Problem is that the next two months are critical to the big boss' plan for world domination by 2015. Time's a wasting.
Prokhorov hiring two coaches...sort of
As for Mikhail Prokhorov, he's not just involved in the Nets coaching search. He's also talking to a top flight candidate for his Russian biathlon team. Prokhorov is chairman of the Russian Biathlon Union. In this case, he is trying to outbid the competition for the best coach in the sport. The RBU said Wednesday it was continuing talks with Norway's five-time Olympic champion Thomas Alsgaard on coaching, or at least consulting, Russia's biathletes. Alsgaard earlier stated that he would work with Russia. However some media sources reported that the Norwegian specialist had turned down Russia's proposal. Not so, says Prokhorov's office: "The RBU press service reports that the talks with the Norwegian specialist are continuing. Thomas Alsgaard and the RBU are currently coordinating the provisions of the contract," the union said in a statement.
Who's the basketball equivalent of Thomas Alsgaard? Can we get him?
Russian Psyche Job
It is possible that Prokhorov will hire Andrei Vatutin to be his assistant general manager in New Jersey later this month, but he will take some time to get acclimated to the NBA. We don't know what he will be like, but based on what's he's been up to Moscow lately, expect some lively copy...once he gets settled. He is not your typical NBA manager.
Vatutin, CSKA Moscow's 36-year-old president, took umbrage last month at comments by the coach of rival Khimki in the wake of the Russian basketball scandal. The Khimki coach, Sergio Scariolo, had suggested that those investigating the scandal should take a look at the role of "the most powerful club" in Russian basketball, an obvious reference to CSKA. A disgraced official overheard demanding refs tilt a championship game was too close to CSKA, Scariolo claimed, citing the official's habit of wearing a CSKA warmup jacket when overseas. Vatutin defended his club and dryly suggested Scariolo be named "Commissioner for Humiliated and Frustrated Professionals in Russian Basketball", implying Scariolo was trying to cover up his own failings as a coach. Ettore Messina, CSKA's former coach, chimed in on his blog, noting how CSKA has reached the Final Four of the Euroleague eight straight times. "I don't think we would've needed any special 'help' from corrupted referees to dominate in the Superleague."
Finally, cooler heads prevailed and the two principals agreed to exchange gifts before Game 1 of the Superleague Finals, officiated at Vatutin's insistence by European, not tainted Russian refs. In a center court ceremony, Vatutin gave Scariolo a brand new CSKA warm-up jacket. Vatutin had asked Scariolo for "3D glasses (that) will allow me to see our basketball world differently" but all he got was sunglasses. The two were photographed smiling and laughing...and then CSKA went out and crushed Khimki by 31 points. Afterwards, Vatutin said, the sunglasses were fine because they had helped him shield his eyes from the "glitter" of his team's performance.
Then, the next day, Vatutin looked even smarter. It turns out the original tape that caused the original angst was spliced together from 13 different pieces of conversation, according to an audio forensics lab hired by the league.
Gotta love that. Not sure Rod Thorn or David Stern will, but we do.
Draft Sleepers of the Week
There are two Russian speakers likely to be chosen in the Draft: Alexey Shved, a CSKA Moscow product from Belgorod, Russia, and Artisom Parakhouski, a 7-footer from nearby Belarus who hopes to be the first Belarussian in the NBA. Shved played for both CSKA and Dinamo in Moscow, while Parakhouski played for Radford University in Virginia, a mid-major. Parakhouski will be in East Rutherford on Tuesday for a workout.
Both are projected as mid- to late-second rounders although Parakhouski has potential to move up. If the Nets were to draft either, it'd likely be with a pick purchased on Draft Night. Mid second rounders usually go for $2 million. The question will be whether the money could be better used elsewhere.
Shved is a 6'7" point guard who CSKA lent to Moscow Dinamo this season to give him playing time. (Imagine the possibilities of an NBA lending program!) He's described as "charismatic", a "real competitor", "very smart" and a "gifted passer" by NBADraft.net, and nicknamed "the Russian Rubio" by hometown fans. Shved is seen as a combo guard which can also be translated in any language into "tweener". His other issue is his small frame...will he ever be able to withstand the physical nature of the NBA. He isn't at this weekend's combine in Treviso, Italy, and his contract at CSKA runs through the summer of 2013, in addition to buying a pick to take him, the Nets would also have to find a way around his long term deal...which was signed when Prokhorov still ran CSKA.
In addition to leading the country in rebounding (13.4) and double-doubles (26), Parakhouski ranked among national leaders in scoring (15th/21.4) and field-goal percentage (7th/.581). Among those double-doubles were games against Kansas (21 and 13) and Duke (23 and 14). A moose at 7'0" and 270 pounds, its mostly muscle, with only 6% body fat. A late arrival to basketball, Parakhouski started as a swimmer in Minsk, Belarus, then as he grew migrated to basketball. According to reports out of the Draft Combine, he looked good shooting and rebounding. His issue is a lack of NBA athleticism, but his combine numbers comparably to those of Brook Lopez two years ago. One big difference: Lopez has a five inch advantage in wingspan.
Beyond those two, there's also Artem Zabelin, a 7'1" center from CSKA who the Nets worked out in 2007 when he was only 19. Zabelin was seen as a rising star until he blew out his right knee in the 2008 Eurobasket U-20 championships. Still, he has some potential and there's no one better at judging that potential than Vatutin. Playing mostly for the CSKA junior team, he averaged 13.7 ppg and 7.2 rpg in 25 games. At 22, this is his last year of draft eligibility.
New Jersey on the floor
Although an earlier architectural rendering had the words, "Nets Basketball" replacing "New Jersey Nets" on the floor and on the scoreboard at the Prudential Center , the 3-D seating simulator on the Nets website clearly shows "New Jersey Nets" at either end of the court. All the architectural renderings of Barclays Center show "Brooklyn Nets" at end of that court. Question is whether the Nets' very Manhattan-centric owner will change the team's name or its location. One former member of the team's ownership group says he cannot believe Prokhorov will go with "Brooklyn" anything. "It's gotta be New York Nets". As we've noted, the team holds the trademark for "New Jersey Nets", "New York Nets" and "Brooklyn Nets" and any name change will have to be submitted to the NBA for approval by October 1.
The Nets have a tight schedule to get into Barclays Center by the 2012-13 season. The construction must be finished four months before the start of the season so the NBA can supervise a "shakedown" of the various elements of the arena. That means about 26 months from the time the premises were vacated in May. So, it was interesting to note that Forest City Ratner will have crews working nights at the site, starting this week and for two months. This work entails the installation of a new larger water main that will replace existing mains. This work will be conducted at night, during the hours of 10:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M. We expect more night work in the future.