Is the lockout still on? We had this dream.... Oh, never mind. We don't see much hope for a quick solution or even a not so quick solution. There are, as Ric Bucher has pointed out, as many as 25 issues separating the two sides and on many of them, there is a "gulf", not a "gap".
So we'll carry on, hoping that there will be a season, and argue that hoping there won't be one is foolhardy. We also look at Deron Williams' deal with ESPN New York, analyzing what it means for the Nets; try to clear up confusion about "friendly" games and "cups" overseas; offer an inside look at what gear --and services-- might bear the "Brooklyn Nets" trademark and nominate a candidate for the Nets' bench.
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, and of course, the lockout. We will rely on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who slip interesting stuff into larger stories, blogs, tweets...plus our own reporting and analysis.
Deron's Diary Deal
The Nets front office has never wavered in its optimism that the franchise will be able to keep Deron Williams past next season. Never. Nor should they. D-Will's comments, starting with his introductory press conference, have been uniformly positive about the Nets...as we have noted repeatedly. And fans tend to forget what he did just before the lockout: organize two multi-day workouts for his teammates, one for vets, one for rookies, at the Peak Performance Project in Santa Barbara.
This week's deal between Williams and ESPN New York should be seen in that same optimistic light. D-Will decided to make a financial arrangement with a leading sports outlet in New York to ensure his visibility in New York while playing in Turkey. He didn't make the deal with ESPN or ESPN Dallas or ESPN LA or ESPN Boston or ESPN anywhere else. He made it with ESPN New York. Unfortunately, the next time he's likely to put on a Nets uniform may be next September in Brooklyn, New York. So, it was a smart business deal...as is staying with the Nets in New York.
And this deal follows his first diary entry for ESPN New York, which ended with this line: "For my Nets fans, I want you to know that while I'm comfortable over here, I'm not too comfortable. I'm still always ready to come back to the U.S. and have a good NBA season, and hopefully make some noise in the Eastern Conference".
That doesn't sound like a player who wants out, as a number of (second rate) pundits have suggested.
Nothing will be settled, of course, until Williams signs an extension with the Nets...or doesn't. But until someone presents us with compelling evidence Deron Williams wants out of New Jersey or Brooklyn, we will remain as optimistic as the front office.
A Season-Long Lockout...Good for the Nets?
One thing that bothers us is the analysis that the Nets would be better off if the lockout lasted a year. It's always portrayed as so neat. Nets move into the Barclays Center, led by D-Will and Dwight Howard. They wind up with two high picks to go with their three rookies from this year's class --Marshon Brooks, Jordan Williams AND Bojan Bogdanovic who comes over from Turkey.
It isn't that neat. Nobody gains if the lockout goes a full year. Everything becomes increasingly uncertain.
The Nets will have had 12 games to impress Williams. Is that enough? Will he get hurt? How will nine months living in a foreign country affect D-Will personally and professionally? Does it change priorities for him and his wife, Amy? No one knows how the new CBA will affect his contract situation. Right now, there's ample reason to suggest he'll re-sign, but what about in June? You want to take that risk? The front office doesn't.
How is Brook Lopez's rookie contract affected? Will the Nets have to sign him immediately? It is a possibility. If the owners get to dictate the final terms, which is the most likely outcome if the season is lost, will there be a franchise player designation, a "Melo clause" banning sign-and-trades? Jordan Farmar has a player option, etc. etc. It's nuts, not neat.
Some will tell you that Prokhorov got rich because he's smart and so it's smart for him to lose a year and forgo $35 million in losses (although under his deal with Bruce Ratner, those losses are picked up by Forest City this year.) And even if they were his to eat, it's not a big deal. Prokhorov is worth $25 billion and a $35 million loss is like having $25,000 in the bank and complaining about $35 in annual checking fees. Prokhorov is more concerned about the long term value of the franchise, the arena...and a lost year will reduce their value at a critical time.
The arena is already having a hard time selling Nets season tickets, sponsorships, etc. while the lockout continues. The ownership has promised bondholders that it will meet certain revenue goals by the time the arena opens, revenues like the aforementioned season ticket sales, sponsorships. They're currently a little more than halfway to their goal, about 56% and Mike Ozanian of Forbes has reported they admit they won't get to 100% by September 28. What happens if they don't meet those goals? Does the value of the bonds drop? Do the interest rates go up? Remember, there is a market in municipal bonds like the ones used to finance the arena. You want them devalued if you're arena ownership?
Bottom line: the Nets' top priority is going into Brooklyn with a good team, not the prospect of a good team, not the possibility of a good team, but a good team. Everyone in professional sports knows what happened to the Mets when they brought a bad team into their new ballpark. It hurt them and CitiField. What was the first image people had of CitiField? The good seats were empty. NO ONE, particularly Prokhorov, wants that to happen with the Nets and the Barclays Center. James Dolan might. He'll be sold out, always is.
Clearing Up Some (of Our) Confusion
The Turkish Basketball League starts this weekend. It is not, as we reported, Turkish Champions Cup weekend. Google Translation is our only resource right now in dealing with Turkish language reports of the games D-WIll and Bojan Bogdanovic are playing...and we misread some things.
First of all, last week's games were indeed the elimination round of the Cup competition, as we reported, but the next round, the round of 8, doesn't take place till February, with the finals in mid-February (by which time we hope D-WIll will be back in the NBA).
Second, the game played last week between Bogdanovic's Fenerbahce Ulker and Galatsary was the President's Cup, a traditional game for the two oldest teams in the TBL. It's not part of the Champions Cup or the TBL's regular season schedule. Nor is it really an exhibition game. It is what it is, and the only thing it resembles here in the US is the old Mayor's Trophy Game the Yankees and Mets used to play mid-season before the advent of inter-league play.
So when will D-Will get his first look at Bogdanovic? The TBL schedule has them going up against each other in three weeks, on November 5. Judging by the lack of progress in the CBA talks, that game looks like a go.
Gearing Up for "Brooklyn Nets"
Privately, Nets officials will tell you that they expect that "Brooklyn Nets" gear will be among the top three or four best sellers among NBA teams, starting next year. That's one reason why they're taking their time laying out the team's new colors, logos, uniforms. They don't want to rush it. Reportedly, it will all be released in February, with another Jay-Z extravaganza. It's going to be big, they believe, bigger than Jay-Z unveiling the team name last month...which was no surprise to anyone who followed the team. This should be a surprise and make a statement, and there's nothing stopping the Nets from selling that gear --and brand-- before they move to Brooklyn. Why not? Think of it as reverse retro.
Last Friday, they filed for renewed and extended trademark protection on "Brooklyn Nets". The Nets want to make sure that they get full price, so to speak, on all the brand, casting a wide trademark net over the name. Some of what they want protected is not surprising: all manner of apparel, footwear, head gear, etc.
A NetsDaily review of the Nets' trademark applications, seven of them in all, showed just how extensive they plan to market Brooklyn-as-brand. Here's a partial list of some of the things they want protected, starting with a team store...or two, or more:
Retail store services, computerized on-line retail store services, online ordering services, electronic retail store services via computer, and electronic mail order catalog services, all featuring an array of basketball-themed merchandise; promoting the goods and services of others by arranging for sponsors to affiliate these goods and services with a basketball program; promoting the sale of goods and services of others through the distribution of promotional contests provided over the internet;
Screensavers, wallpaper, browsers, skins, avatars and cursors, all in the field of basketball.
Downloadable interactive video games and downloadable trivia game software provided over the internet; downloadable computer software for use as screensavers and wallpaper...for use in creating avatars for playing games and for use in remotely manipulating computer cursors over the Internet; downloadable electronic publications in the nature of magazines, newsletters, coloring books, game schedules all in the field of basketball provided over the Internet; downloadable catalogs provided over the Internet featuring an array of basketball-themed products; downloadable greeting cards provided over the Internet
Services providing multiple-user access to a global computer information network...wireless communications services, namely, transmission of graphics to mobile telephones; wireless electronic transmission of voice signals, data, facsimiles, images and information; wireless broadband communications services
Anything missing? How about "Brooklyn Nets" bikinis? you might ask. You might think they missed that. You'd be wrong. They've sought protection on "swim wear, bathing suits, swimsuits, bikinis, tankinis, swim trunks, bathing trunks, board shorts, wet suits, beach cover-ups, bathing suit cover-ups, bathing suit wraps, sandals, beach sandals, beach hats, sun visors, swim caps, bathing caps, novelty headwear with attached wigs." Wigs?
Some of those lists are what is known in the legal trade as "boiler plate"...general, uniform lists set out to protect as much as you can. But that doesn't take away from the priority the ownership has assigned to the marketing of the "Brooklyn Nets" brand.
A Women's Place is on the Construction Site
Say what you want about Bruce Ratner, but one thing that gets only limited coverage is how women gravitate to him...well, his construction company anyway. Ratner's top officials are often women. His executive vice president at Forest City Ratner is MaryAnne Gilmartin. The person with a lot of the day-to-day responsibility for Barclays Center construction is Linda Chiarelli, Deputy Director of Construction at FCRC.
And as Cornell's alumni magazine points out, it doesn't end there. It profiles five women alumnae of the university who've found their way to Forest City, including Julie Margolin, '99, who has been recently hired as director of operations for food and beverage at the Barclays Center.
Eileen Weingarten, who's been with Ratner the longest, had this to say about her boss. "I think Bruce Ratner hires the best," Weingarten says. "That's how we ended up together."
(Over the weekend, it was revealed that in 2007, Ratner was forced to fire one of his top aides after a series of incidents in which women at the company accused the aide of sexually harassing them.)
Final Note: Hiring Jay
If the Nets are looking for a young assistant coach, one who would also help them further develop their international cache, we'd like to propose a name: J. Robert Holden, who just retired from CSKA Moscow. No American player has had as successful European career as Holden and he's one of the few basketball players (maybe the ONLY player) who holds both U.S. and Russian citizenship.
His resume is, from the perspective of team success, unmatched. There are the two Euroleague championships in 2006 and 2008; the FIBA Eurobasket championship (which he won with a jumper against Spain) in 2007; the 10 Russian League Championships between 2002 and 2011, the Latvian League championship in 1999; the Belgian League championship in 2000 and the Greek League championship in 2001. Indeed, every team he played for in Europe from 1999 through 2011 won at least the national league crown. If you were "Jay's" teammate at any time in those 14 years, you won at least one championship.
Of course, he was signed by Sergei Kushchenko and paid by Mikhail Prokhorov while at CSKA. Kushchenko was also part of his getting Russian citizenship. As Wikipedia reports, "On October 20, 2003, Holden became a Russian citizen by decree of President Vladimir Putin. This move was brought about by new Russian Basketball Federation regulations restricting the number of foreigners, and specifically Americans, allowable on Russian League teams. In response to the move, CSKA Basketball CEO Sergei Kushchenko hatched the idea of Holden acquiring citizenship. Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov and the Russian State Sports Committee both wrote letters in support of the decree."
The Nets could do a lot worse than Holden, a native of Pittsburgh who went to Bucknell and in 1998 was three days away from hanging up his sneakers and starting to look for a "real job" when he got a cold call from a team in Riga, Latvia.