Yeah, waiting is the hardest part...particularly when you're not sure how long you will have to wait. Still, there are worse things to wait for. We take a look at the future, murky as it is, thinking about what a roster might look like with that person from Akron, the Nets best trade chips--10 draft picks over the next three years; the four, count 'em, rookies, from D to Z; and the guy in the back of the Gulfstream, Dmitry Razumov. He wasn't just along for the ride.
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.
A King's Ransom
We still think it's going to be tough for LeBron James to leave Cleveland. Those "HOME" signs being held up by his fellow Clevelanders have to be as impressive as any Brett Yormark PowerPoint presentation.
Let's assume for the moment that the Nets dump Kris Humphries in return for essentially nothing and James and Chris Bosh sign with the Nets. (It's going to take more than that, but we're trying to limit machinations and variables in this discussion.)
At that point, here's the roster: James, Bosh, Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams, Quinton Ross, Derrick Favors, Damion James, Brian Zoubek and Ben Uzoh, assuming the last two make the team. That's 11 players. Of that group, four are veterans (James, Bosh, Harris and Ross); five are on rookie contracts (Lopez, Lee, Williams, Favors and James) and the other two are on partially guaranteed rookie deals (Zoubek and Uzoh). Since the Nets would have no MLE and no LLE and no cap space after signing James and Bosh, they would have to fill out the rest of the roster (three or four spots) with vets minimum deals.
We know the other teams are in similar situations, but that's one reason we think he goes back to Cleveland. Is it possible he leaves? Sure. Likely, we hope so but doubt it. And if things don't work out? We assume the Nets will hold on to a lot of that cap space for the trade deadline and next summer's free agency. Reading through some local papers, there hasn't been a lot of reports of Nets' interest in B-level free agents, although there's been a suggestion in the Post that the Nets might be interested in Josh Childress, the 6'8" SF headed back to the US from Greece, and in the Deseret News there was a report the Nets have some interest in Kyle Korver, the 6'7" SG with the deadly three point stroke.
Draft picks galore
If the Nets do get into a sign-and-trade scenario with the Raptors for Chris Bosh or anyone else for that matter, they will no doubt try to get as much done with as little damage to the core, which after this week is shrinking. Over the next three years, the Nets still have as many picks as any other NBA team: three in 2011, five in 2012 and two in 2013, for a grand total of 10 over three years. That's the most they've ever had in the Thorn era. Of the ten, four are first round picks. Here's the list and for comparison sake, we're showing what the Knicks have.
Nets — First round: their own pick. Second round: their own pick and the Warriors’ unprotected pick, obtained in the restructuring of the Marcus Williams trade.
Knicks — First round: their own pick as long as it’s #1. Otherwise, the Rockets have the right to swap picks. Second round: none. The Knicks sent their pick and cash to the Lakers in the 2009 Toney Douglas trade.
Nets — First round: their own pick and Warriors’ pick, protected 1-7, acquired in the restructuring of the Marcus Williams trade. (Should the Warriors’ pick be in the top seven in the 2012 Draft, the Nets would get the Warriors’ pick in 2013, also protected 1-7. If the Warriors again pick in the top 7 in 2013, the Nets would then get the Warriors’ pick in the 2014 draft, this time protected 1-6. In the unlikely event that the Warriors once again picked that high, the Nets would get the Warriors’ second round picks in 2014 and 2016 instead.) Second round: their own pick; the unprotected Heat pick acquired in the Chris Quinn trade; and the unprotected Bulls pick acquired from the Bucks in the Chris Douglas-Roberts trade.
Knicks — First round: their own pick as long as it’s 1-5. If not, it goes to the Rockets. Second round: their own pick.
Nets -- First round: their own pick, unless the Warrior pick was protected in 2012 (See above). Second round: their own pick.
Knicks -- First round: their own pick. Second round their own pick.
Who's the GM?
Lost in the swirl of news this week was Dave D'Alessandro's story on candidates to replace Rod Thorn. He said a couple of things of interest: 1) that the Onexim managers might be engaging a head hunter to find a suitable candidate and 2) that Avery Johnson was lobbying for Bernie Bickerstaff, the former coach and executive vice-presidant of the Bobcats. Johnson and Bickerstaff go way back.
We find it unlikely that Prokhorov et al are going to want to hire a 66-year-old for the job...and head hunters rarely nominate 66-year-olds either.
Here's a couple of choices that might make sense to head hunters for a number of reasons: Thunder assistant GM RIchard Cho and Nets VP of basketball operations Bobby Marks.
As the Thunder website notes, "Cho is responsible for contract negotiations, salary cap and Collective Bargaining Agreement matters, player contracts and all player personnel issues. Cho has also served as the team's director of basketball affairs (1997-2000) and vice president of legal (2005-07)."
Here's what Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated wrote this week about Cho: the Swiss army knife of the Thunder's front office. Cho is a lawyer and capologist who also knows a player when he sees one. "He's so smart with numbers and negotiations and the cap," said Hawks GM Rick Sund, who worked with Cho with the old Sonics in Seattle, "and he's an attorney and he's brilliant in finance and he's a good people person."
Thomsen, like Chad Ford, says nice things about Marks, Thorn's #2, who may just be the choice when the dust clears. A capologist, he's worked for the Nets for a decade and a half in a variety of jobs, has Thorn's trust, knows the (remaining) front office team and gets along well with the Russians. His big problem is that he gets taken for granted and like a lot of assistants, his contributions are not seen by anyone outside the organization.
And a lot of what Marks does, beyond the capology, is the grunt work of basketball operations. As the Nets website notes, "In addition to his current title, Marks also serves as director of player development. In that role, Marks helps provide a smooth transition for new Nets players joining the team for the first time and assists current players with their everyday needs". He got a lot of kudoes last month for his organizing of the Draft data, collating stats, scouts reports, test results, etc.
Z-Men Join the Nets
Zoubek was, on a minute by minute basis, the best offensive rebounder in the NCAA last season, averaging 7.7 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes. His 16.6 overall rebounds were good for third. It's an axiom among NBA scouts that rebounding is the skill set that transfers most easily from college to the pros. Zoubek has had the added advantage of having played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. He's also a winner. Before winning the NCAA championship at Duke, he won three NJSIAA championships at Haddonfield High School. In fact, his teams went 110-10. In 2006, he was the State Player of the Year...and could become the 13th and quite possibly the last Jersey native on a Jersey team. Here's an interview and some highlights.
Uzoh hasn't gotten any attention this week. After all, he's not from Jersey. He's from Texas, San Antonio to be precise. He is, as Popeye Jones notes, a big point guard: 6'4" in sneakers, with a 6'9" wingspan and is a muscular 200 pounds. He's athletic and explosive if not a great distributor. He plays good defense. His draft prospects always point to his steadiness, his consistency and his defensive ability. He was brought in twice for workouts by the hometown Spurs and Kings. Here's an interview and some highlights.
Another reason we like the signings is because of what they represent: a willingness to spend money, even if minimal amounts, to get things done. Not something we saw a lot of in the Ratner Era. "We had both guys targeted in the late second and we were going to buy a pick to draft either one but got lucky when they went undrafted," says a Nets insider. When other teams approached both of them, the Nets decided to give them an incentive to sign with New Jersey. "Both guys have partial salary protection in their contract." No one is saying how much, but generally teams will provide a five-figure guarantee on the $473,604 rookie minimum.
They still have to make the team of course and historically undrafted players signed to partially guaranteed deals don't make it. The biggest partial guarantee we've seen dropped on an undrafted player was the $200,000 Isiah Thomas gave to Patrick Ewing Jr. In spite of that investment and and his name, Ewing Jr. didn't make the Knicks.
D-Men Get Noticed
We always liked Derrick Favors as the #3 draft pick. Ultimately, so did the Nets and now, from behind the screens at practice there's whispers that they are very, very happy they did.
Here's a compendium of quotes from those who have watched him in three days of practice:
"Favors is doing things that you just can't teach. He's really athletic, he's strong, his shot is a work in progress. But you're talking about a guy who's 6-9 and ¾ or whatever and almost 250 pounds now -- we're going to get him 10 more pounds of muscle. He's a baby, but he's like a manchild." - Avery Johnson
"He competes like hell, and he’s even shooting it well right now. He’s got a chance to be really, really good" -- one giddy practice witness, as quoted by Dave D'Alessandro.
"He is passing virtually every test as he impresses with his pure athleticism, reminiscent of Kevin Garnett or Amar'e Stoudemire in their younger days. Favors is just 18 -- he will be 19 in 12 days -- but his width and emerging bulk are more impressive than those perennial All-Stars had at that age." -- Fred Kerber
Meanwhile, Damion James got some notice this week from stats geeks over that Wages of Wins. Based on their complicated formula, he is the most NBA-ready rookie. Favors is 18th. Although we see James listed at 6'7", he says he's 6'7 1/2" and the official NBA pre-draft measurements had him a quarter inch taller than that. So we're going with 6'8", rounding off. Makes the comparison with James Posey easier.
The Nets site says the Nets vs. 76ers game starts at 1 p.m., but the Magic site has it starting at 7 p.m. and NBA TV listings have it being aired at 7 p.m. as well. If you're an absolute summer-league junkie, you can get all 78 games from the Orlando and Las Vegas leagues live on Internet broadband for $14.95.
For more information, go to nba.com/summerleaguebroadband
Sixth Man on the Gulfstream V
Everyone knows who Mikhail Prokorov, Jay-Z, Rod Thorn, Avery Johnson and Brett Yormark are, but who was the sixth man on the Gulfstream last week when the Nets sent their traveling party to Cleveland and Chicago to woo LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh?
Who is Dmitry Razumov?
For openers, he is one of five members of the Nets Chairman's Council--the team's board of directors, along with Prokhorov; Bruce Ratner; Christophe Charlier, an officer of Onexim, Prokhorov's company; and Arthur Rabin, a long time Nets owner. Razumov, however, is a lot more than that.
Razumov and Charlier, both in their mid-30's, are the billionaire's two top business aides. Razumov is Russian and CEO of Onexim, Charlier French and deputy CEO. They're the Onexim executives who watched the Nets in a preseason game and toured the Prudential Center--along with lawyer Todd D. Schafer--last fall. Razumov also accompanied Prokhorov to the NBA Draft Lottery in May and on his first tour of "The Rock" in June. (He can be seen in some of the photos of Prokhorov and Cory Booker three-point shootout, bespectacled and floppy haired.) Along with Charlier, he met with Thorn and Yormark at the All-Star Break in Dallas, first signing off on the Newark deal, then flying Thorn to Vancouver on the seemingly ubiquitous Gulfstream V to meet with Prokhorov. He is described as enthusiastic about the Nets.
Here's a short resume:
Before shifting his focus to financial ventures and basketball, early into his career Dmitry Razumov practiced business and corporate law at Clifford Chance, London's most prestigious law firm. He gained investment banking experience with Renaissance Capital, then the leading Russian investment bank. In 1998, he left Renaissance Capital to co-found the LV Finance, an independent venture capital firm that still stands behind the success of MegaFon, the third largest mobile phone operator in Russia. He sold his interest in 2003.
Starting in 2001, Razumov served as Deputy CEO for Strategy and M&A of Prokhorov's Norilsk Nickel, Russia's largest mining company, leading its transformation into a world class company through groundbreaking deals with international mining concerns, like Stillwater Mining Company, Gold Fields and Polyus Gold, and by pioneering corporate governance standards for Russian blue-chip companies.
After Onexim's acquisition of a 14 percent stake in UC RUSAL, the world's largest aluminum company, Razumov joined the UC RUSAL Board of Directors. Since December 2008, he has been a Board member of the OPIN Investment and Development Group, a Moscow real estate company with ties to Prokhorov. In June, Razumov joined the board of the Russian nickel giant Norilsk Nickel. He was also elected a Board member of MMC Intergeo and Chairman of the Board of MFK Bank -- Prohkorov attempts to consolidate his mining and banking operations. Razumov also helped engineer Prokhorov's acquisition of a 50% stake in his old company, Renaissance Capital, as well as a 51% stake in RBC, the Russian Business Channel, and of course, the Nets.
He graduated from Moscow State Institute of International Relations (International Law Faculty), a favored talent pool for Prokhorov.
It was his job in Cleveland and Chicago to lay out the specifics of Prokhorov's plans to create wealth for James, Wade and Bosh outside basketball...not a small job. Sounds like he did it well.
The New Jersey Texans? In the last 10 days, the Nets have added three Texas natives: James of Nacogdoches; Uzoh of San Antonio and Quinton Ross of Dallas, acquired in the Yi Jianlian trade. Ross hasn't gotten any attention this week and who knows if he will even be on the team when it gathers in New Jersey at the end of September. His contract is only for $1.14 million, easy to buy out or simply dump. But you could do worse than Ross. How many NBA players have degrees in economics? Ross does from SMU. A good locker room influence and a good defender, he may be called upon to fill the role that Trenton Hassell played last year, a team-oriented, defense-first guy. On a team that even with James and Bosh could easily be the league's youngest, not a bad thing.
He describes himself this way: "A guy who plays hard, gives a great effort, on the defensive side of the ball, and on offense just tries to make the right plays".
We did think the Nets missed a marketing opportunity this week. When they had Favors and James pose with their new uniforms, how cool would it have been if Damion James held up a jersey that read "D. James" to differentiate between him and another James who might join the roster. Shame on you , Brett Yormark.