NetsDaily Off-Season Report #31

We try to make a little of our own news this week, combining some stuff we've picked up on the owners' proposal with some analysis to give fans a sense of how the owners' proposal, if approved by the players, would affect the Nets.

We deal in lesser detail on several Brooklyn issues, including team colors, Brooklynized water and a battle between the Nets and Knicks for big bucks from small businesses; follow Mikhail Prokhorov's latest (non-political, low key) moves in Moscow; try to get a read on Brandan Wright; chart when ex-teammates will next meet overseas; and offer a final note on the treatment of hard-core fans. We find it lacking.

This is the last Off-Season Report this off-season, no matter what happens between the players and owners. If the players accept the owner's offer, off-season is over. It will be pre-season! If the players reject the offer and head off in the decertification route, well, then, we're staring into the abyss and the likelihood of a lost season.  What's the use?

Every Sunday, we update the Nets off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help take the edge off missing the playoffs, and of course, enduring  the lockout. We rely on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who slip interesting stuff into larger stories, blogs, tweets...as well as our own reporting and analysis.

Waiting for the (Board of ) Governor's Pardon

In all the great prison movies, the condemned get a last meal...and hopes for a last minute pardon. We feel we're somewhere between that last meal (the pizzas Bobby Marks and Gary Sussman sent the media a week or so ago) and those hopes for a reprieve. It does seem like we're on Death Row, Basketball Division and the clock is ticking towards midnight. For two weeks, we've thought we've heard the phone ring in the warden's office more than once, only to realize it was just our imagination. It was merely the klinking of the jailman's keys.

We knew going in that things would get tight around now, as players realized they will soon miss their first paycheck (on Tuesday). Doesn't help that we knew it. Still sucks.

But if things work out, the basic parameters of the deal favor the Nets as much as any team (although the Heat will come out winners at least in the first two years of the deal, as described).

Here are some thoughts on how proposed new rules would affect the Nets, which we've updated from last week.

--With a proposed $58 million cap over the first two years, the Nets would currently have $16 million in space.  Subtract Travis Outlaw 's $7 million with the new amnesty provision and you've got $22.5 - 23 million. There are some other factors at play as well.  There are complicated cap rules for a team that has fewer than 12 players under contract. Because the Nets only have 10 players there would be two cap holds at $490,180 each. Then, there's the issue of Kris Humphries' cap hold at $6.4 million.  So you would need to sign or renounce him before you get all that money to use.

Still, The Nets would be in the top four or five in cap space.  Trade Johan Petro and a pick in a salary dump and you're at around $25 million and very close to having as much as anyone. And none of the other teams at the bottom of the payroll pile have the advantages the Nets do: a superstar already on the roster, two picks in the 2012 draft and a major market (with billion dollar arena). The other four teams are the Wizards, Pacers, Kings and Nuggets. Denver has other issues of course, like what to do with Nene Hilario (a Nets target), Arron Afflalo and Wilson  Chandler before they can use their cap space. Collectively, this unique situation is the biggest Nets advantage...and the owners' proposal helps them retain it.

--Projected tax level ranges will rise from $70 million to $85 million over next six years. Although the Nets are no where near the luxury tax threshold, their great advantage is Mikhail Prokhorov's wallet.  By keeping the threshold this high, it should help the Nets take advantage of Prokhorov's willingness to spend. The tax rule is $1 for $1 for 2011-12 and 2012-13. The heavy stuff comes into play for 2013-14, when those way over the threshold will have to pay $2.25 for every $1. That of course helps super teams in the short term. So Tyson Chandler could wind up with the Mavericks again.

--The retention of the MLE,  Bird Rights and other exceptions would give the Nets greater flexibility once they've made their big signings.

--The "stretch exception", permitting teams to stretch out what's owed waived players.  However, the "stretch" provision only applies to players signed under the new CBA just as the amnesty provision only applies to those players signed prior to the expiration of the old CBA. It's of no immediate help

--A prohibition on extend-and-trade deals, which would seem to limit Deron Williams and Dwight Howard's options. However, again, there is an out. A team can acquire a player and than sign him six months after the trade to an extension. By permitting teams over the threshold to continue making sign-and-trades, the owners' proposal would add more competition for such big name free agents. 

--Looser trade rules. The 125 per cent + $100,000 exchange limit would rise to 150  per cent.  That would permit a broader range of trades (and do recall who is the Nets' GM and why they call him "Trader Billy")

--Teams would only have three days to match offer sheets to restricted free agents. Previously teams had seven days. Assuming teams can still front load deals with signing bonuses, upfront payouts, etc., that would give an advantage to teams like the Nets, with a lot of cash and a willingness to spend it. There's no indication front-loading is going away.

Howard Beck reports there are still 30 or 40 unresolved issues not specified in the owners' proposals, things like a higher age limit and new rules for the D-League which might include higher salaries.

We assume the Nets wouldn't be in favor of the former since it would dilute the 2012 draft and degrade the value of having two picks in the 2012 draft.  As for the latter, the Nets have invested in Springfield and better the deal for D-Leaguers, the better for the Nets' goal of using the Armor for development.

We'd also like to see the NBA increase the amount of money a team can pay to help international players get out of their overseas deals. It's now $500,000. If it goes to a million, it could help free Bojan Bogdanovic from his contract earlier.

That's not say every provision of the owners' proposal helps the Nets. Marc Stein reports that under the owners' proposal teams can only add total of $3 million per season in trades. Previously, a team could add $3 million per deal. Last season, the Nets paid out $7.5 million in three deals from June to June: $3 million to facilitate the Yi Jianlian salary dump; $3 million to facilitate the D-Will deal with Utah and $1.5 million to purchase the draft rights of Bogdanovic from the Timberwolves. That of course would weaken Prokhorov's options. (We don't like that.)

But those are "B" issues. The "A" issues on the system side are those dealing with the cap, the luxury tax, trade rules etc. And this could all be academic if things fall apart Monday and Tuesday.

When Ex-teammates Meet

This Tuesday, Deron Williams and Sundiata Gaines, teammates with the Jazz and Nets, will meet up in Istanbul for a EuroChallenge match.  It will be the first meeting between these two but the second time in a week that two-time teammates will face off.  Last week it was Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic.  Farmar won the Euroleague contest.

Here's what Farmar, who will return to the Nets if there is an NBA season, said before the game about Vujacic, who will not:

We’ve spent a lot of time together, on and off the court, in the past five seasons. Sasha is a terrific player, a pure shooter; he was the shooting guard while I was the point guard. I remember during the 2007 – 2008 season, when we lost to the Celtics in the final, he broke the Lakers’ all-time record for three point shooting percentage in a season (with 43.7%).

"He played a big part in the Lakers’ success during those great years – 3 straight finals and 2 championship rings. I was really happy that he joined us last season at the Nets,

Jordan Williams Will Apparently Be Cloned!

That's our best guess after reading that J-Will will play next Friday in both the the "I-95 Pro Jam: Battle in Bridgeport." starting at 7:30 p.m. and the "Sports Athletic Enterprise Kidz into Action" benefit game at Nassau Coliseum, starting at 7:30 p.m.

It seems the organizers for the Bridgeport event are better organized based on their roster, but then again, we really hope Williams is at neither game but instead at the PNY Center working out with his future teammates or at least packing up.

Next Battle for Nets, Knicks: Loge Seats

The Nets' Barclays Center is a billion dollar construction project. The Knicks are spending $977 million on the renovation of the Garden. So the competition for dollars is real...and the next battle between the two will be over loge seats, two- and four- seat packages that appeal to small businesses. There are an estimated 40,000 small business in Brooklyn alone...law firms, accountants, financial firms, etc.

Sports Business Journal reports that Barclays will be offering the packages starting in February, with pricing yet to be determined. MSG is already pitching theirs. They will be sold at a cost of about $45,000 per seat per year, tied to three-year and five-year terms. The price includes tickets to all Knicks and Rangers games and about 30 college basketball games, food and drink but no alcohol.

The configuration of those packages, with NBA and NHL games, offers the Garden an advantage and is a good indicator of why the Nets would like the Islanders to join them in Brooklyn. Also expect heated competition between the two venues for the biggest college basketball games.

Also, Barclays is offering 10-seat "loft suites", priced between $215,000 and $267,000 annually, much smaller than the traditional "skyboxes". Of the 67 "lofts", Nets officials say only "15 to 20" remain. 

Brooklyn Team Colors

The colors on the only Brooklyn logo trademarked by the Nets shows no change in colors...red, blue and grey.  The official colors of Brooklyn are blue and gold. Jay-Z apparently has a role in the design and his favorite color, it's been reported, is black.

But a Canadian sports design expert (who works out of a Brooklyn studio) tells the Toronto Star that she thinks he knows what the dominant color will be in the Nets new logo: Dodger Blue.

"One reason this works is that the classical colors in sports are older colors," adds Susanna Heller. "The Chicago Blackhawks uniform is very cool this way. The Red Wings logo and red color are very bold, although there are too many red and white combinations in sports. When the new Brooklyn Nets unveil their new uniforms, I bet they’ll use the same blue as the old Brooklyn Dodgers."

Brooklynized Water

And yes, indeed, there will be an official water at the Barclays Center, and it will be "Brooklynized!"  It was announced this week that the Original Brooklyn Water will be offered as the exclusive bottled water at the Barclays Center. The Brooklynization process turns ordinary water into the equivalent of New York City tap water, which is, hold the jokes, viewed as the finest tap water in the world. This follows on the "Beers of Brooklyn" beer garden and the "Brooklyn Taste" theme for the arena's restaurants.  Do you see a trend here?

Brandan Wright - No Regrets

We're still assuming Brandan Wright will be back with the Nets, or at the very least will be pursued by them.  After all, he was the key player in the last minute Troy Murphy trade last February. The Nets gave up a second round pick as well as Murphy for him and Dan Gadzuric.  No other reason to make that deal other than to bring in Wright for his potential. He's a free agent now,of course, since there was no way the Nets were going to give him a $5 qualifying offer.

He was heard from this week, when ESPN interviewed NBA players who decided to enter the draft after  one-and-done college careers. Wright said he was happy to have the NBA change the rule prohibiting high school players from entering the draft and indicated he was happy he played one year at North Carolina...despite the subsequent disappointments he's had, including a missed season in 2009-10.

"The age rule was relief because it definitely took a lot of pressure off me being 18 years old and deciding whether to go to the NBA straight out of high school or to college. If a top prospect came to me and asked what he should do as far as the college situation, going to Europe or playing professionally, I think you should just follow your heart. It depends on what type of person you are. If you're not as mature as you need to be, I think you should go to school, learn that maturity, learn how to be on time, go to class and be held accountable. Because if you just jump straight in you'll probably get yourself in a lot of trouble by having a lot of money in your pocket and getting into the wrong situations."

As to whether the 24-year-old with the 6'10" frame and the 7'4" wingspan will be back, it's anyone's guess. Back in July he seemed to suggest that he wanted to be back.  "Right now it’s looking like I’ll be back there," he said. "But you never know. It’s a business. You don’t know what’s going to happen."  Then in September, he seemed less enthusiastic. "It’s hard to say right now," Wright said. "Obviously, we’re in a bad situation with the lockout. But we’ll see how it goes."

The big rap on Wright (and on Armor draftee Chris Taft as well) is that his passion for the game is lacking.  Not that they're bad guys.  They're the reverse, maybe too much the reverse.

Back to Normal for Prokhorov

If you "google" news for Mikhail Prokhorov in the Russian press, you won't find him pushing a political agenda lately, at least not one with a capital "P".  He's seen talking up the Russian biathlon team, offering to sell part of his e-mobile car business to get financing, negotiating the purchase of media assets...pretty much his agenda before the political bug got to him.

He says he's not that interested in speaking with Vladimir Putin, the once and future President.  That's not to say he won't face some level of mistreatment: a plan to sell Polyus Gold on the London Stock Exchange has been postponed...and the speculation is that it's punishment.  Also, he needs better roads at his automobile factory, also a Kremlin decision. 

As for the Nets, if there is a season, we wouldn't be surprised to see even less of him in 2011-12 than we did in 2010-11.  The likelihood that the Nets-Magic games in London will be cancelled is one reason.  Another is he's laying low, NBA-wise. He attended the NBA Board of Governors meeting but that was mainly to discuss revenue sharing and brief fellow owners on progress on the Barclays Center.  Neither he nor his reps have attended any of the CBA bargaining sessions, we're told. That will no doubt change next September when Barclays finally opens. There's no indication he has less interest and there's no indication he is crimping on the financing of team operations.

Final Final Note

One thing we've noticed, and it's in stark relief during the lockout, is how little attention the Nets' powers-that-be focus on the hard core fans. The focus instead has been on the season ticket holder, particularly the guys who will buy a row of suites or a corporate box. The invites to big team events go almost exclusively to them, as do some of the privileges.  And we know, it's all about Brooklyn. Problem is that we get a sense that the hard core fans, who are for the most part Jersey guys, don't fit into those categories and don't get what they deserve.

The hard core fan, whether they buy season tickets or just watch at home, are the missionaries (yes, even martyrs) who preach the gospel and take their hits while wearing faded Vince Carter or Kenyon Martin jerseys to school or  work. They spend far too much time here commenting, arguing, posting.  They generate the interest on which marketing strategies can be based. Some in the front office get the importance of such fans (and we've been told that some of those who get it the most have Russian accents.)

Creating a fan base in Brooklyn won't be easy. Turning Knick fans into Nets fans is only part of it. Turning casual fans into rabid fans may be just as hard. It takes a while and needs a strategy.  And for those inside and outside the organization who may make fun of those hard core fans, note this: among SB Nation's NBA fan sites, the one devoted to the Nets is among the most popular.  And if you check the fan confidence numbers of the nine pro teams within SB Nation New York, you'll find that Nets fans are among the most confident.  That's loyalty...(or perhaps something clinical, but we'll leave that to the shrinks).

It hasn't been easy being a Nets fan the last five years. Those who've shown loyalty --and they are all around us--  deserve some recognition.

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