NetsDaily Off-Season Report #30

Since the present is so depressing, we're looking at the future. And since the future is so uncertain from a player personnel perspective, we're looking more at Brooklyn and Springfield. First, Springfield. We were intrigued by the Armor's selection of Chris Taft, who's overcome not just injuries, but also a muscular condition that usually affects people considerably older. Once a top prospect, he disappeared. Now he's back.

In Brooklyn, it's all about infrastructure and the reality of what opening night will look like in September, with construction of one apartment tower underway and a likely war for parking spaces on the nearby streets...if you drive (and you shouldn't). We also decided to add our own voice to those who are talking about the end of the fairytale showmance, excuse us, romance between Kris and Kim and do other things far more fan-friendly.

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.

Chris Taft and the Triumph of Hope

As we've noted, Chris Taft is the most intriguing pick the Armor made Thursday night in the D-League Draft.  At 6'10" and 265, he's got NBA power forward size...and he was once thought to have NBA power forward skills. Of course, he's been troubled by a series of injuries and that muscular condition known as polymyositis in recent years. No one knows what he's capable of. He says he's in best shape of his life and the D-League is the best route for him back to the NBA.  But it's three years since his last professional balling with the Rio Grande Vipers, an experience that ended with a bone infection caused by a badly set cast on a broken ankle. He's had that kind of luck.

Beyond basketball, Taft's story is interesting from another perspective, what he's done in response to his bad luck.. In his two years since that D-League gig, he's raised a family, gone back to Pitt to get his degree and teamed up with an unlikely partner to motivate youth in Pittsburgh and elsewhere.

The day before the Draft,  Pittsburgh's KDKA reported on how Taft and Deo Mwano, a 21-year-old professional dancer, had visited an inner city school to talk about perseverance. Dwano escaped war-torn streets of the Congo and Taft had escaped the projects of Pittsburgh.

"He talks about perseverance through injuries, perseverance through getting out of his neighborhood, and I talk about perseverance through getting out of the atrocity that has been happening in Africa," said Mwano.

A deeply religious man, Taft also spoke about how his injuries will not prevent a comeback. "Inflammatory muscle condition; nobody knows where it came from," he said, describing the problem that led the Warriors to waive him four years ago. "I’ve heard so many different things, but I have also heard that I wouldn’t be able to play and do things again and I’m proving that wrong."

Similarly, he told HoopsWorld last month that he's in great shape. "I haven’t had any health issues in two years and I’m excited," Taft told Alex Kennedy. "I haven’t felt this good since my freshman year in college. That was the last time that I was really feeling good like this and I’m happy to be healthy again. I haven’t had back problems in years. I haven’t had any muscle problems. My trainer has been working me, and I’m ready for November."

Hopefully, he's right. He deserves a second (or third) chance.  And did we mention he's from Brooklyn? You want a perfect ending?

So let's say the NBA lockout ends and Taft or Johnny Thomas, the 6'6" shooting guard from Marshall who Springfield took with the 17th pick, is showing something in Armor camp. Let's say the Nets like what they see and Billy King says, let's bring one or both of them to the PNY Center for training camp. Could the Nets call them up, give them a partial guarantee, and see how they do against the parent club before returning them to Springfield?

Yup. Any player on any D-league team can be called up by any NBA team for training camp. No need to wait for the season to begin.  Assuming there are no restrictions in the new CBA, they could be signed and given a partial guarantee like the Nets gave Brian Zoubek and Ben Uzoh last year. if either player is cut in camp, the Nets could re-allocate him to the Armor. It's one of the advantages of the hybrid affiliation and a rich owner.

Xanadu II? No Thank You

Any Nets fan who traversed the Meadowlands parking lots during the construction of Xanadu remembers all the trouble a billion dollar construction job can bring if you're trying to get to a game on time...if you drive. Traffic patterns change, congestion follows confusion and it's not a pleasant way to start off an evening, particularly if the little ones in the back seat want to know, "are we there yet?"

There is likely to be somewhat of a re-run of that at The Barclays Center...if you drive. As we've noted before, Bruce Ratner intends to break ground soon on a 33-story residential building at the southeast corner of the arena, called B2 for now. Once that's done or even before, construction will begin on a 52-story and a 22-story apartment building.  By some estimates, the three towers could take a decade to complete.

Just this week, a Forest City Ratner executive, laid out how it may work.

"We said that we would love to get these buildings into the ground as quickly as possible," Jane Marshall told a group of Brooklyn residents, "We have put ourselves a goal of six to nine months after construction of B2, so if we started B2 in the first quarter, we would love to start B3 in the third or fourth quarter of next year, and then six to nine months after that, B4. And so, that’s still our goal."

It promises to be a madhouse  for years...if you drive.

But Ratner is working feverishly to see if he can shorten the time frame and costs of the towers by as much as 50%. Building them in a modular fashion --construct units off-site, ship them to the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic and assemble them there-- could lead to substantial reductions in cost and time...and shorten the time construction cranes and crews will dominate the site.  Problem is that no one has ever built a tower that tall. Wind shear is a big issue.

In a little noticed discussion among New York architects on September 12, arena design architect Gregg Pasquarelli raised doubts that it's going to work.

It's horrifying for me to say this but we are working on 2.7 million square feet of affordable housing in the city in five towers....I mean we've got two parallel teams working on this modular project to see if there's a way to build a 40- or 50-story modular building because by keeping it in the factory we can control the cost in a lot better way that we can out in the field. And it's really hard.  We've been working on it ...three separate teams of 25 people working day and night on this for a year with developers who say I want a good building supportive developers who say build me the best building you can but here's the budget. It's almost impossible. 

Pasquarelli doesn't mention Atlantic Yards, but it does seem that's what he's talking about and what Ratner wants him do. Pasquarelli's SHoP firm has a commission to design at least the first tower and has also been asked to revise the Frank Gehry master plan for Atlantic Yards. (His firm, SHoP, also has a commission for Hunter's Point South, another affordable housing complex in Queens.)

Parking as a Blood Sport

That's how the Times described the underlying issue around a proposal to sell parking permits to local residents living near the Barclays Center.They'd be good on game and event nights. That of course would reduce the number of spaces fans could use on game nights...if you drive.  Since the beginning, Ratner has pushed the idea that large numbers of fans will come to games and other events by rail, either the nine subway lines or the LIRR that link up to the $70 million Barclays Center Transit Connection in front of the arena.  But locals fear massive congestion as cars (and limos from the Financial District) fill their streets. The City's Economic Development Corporation estimates that more than 5,000 vehicles will descend on Prospect Heights and even nearby Park Slope on game nights. Everyone's hoping that 8,000 fans will arrive by rail. The Nets have had a lot of luck getting fans to take NJ Transit to Newark.

Ratner has set aside one temporary lot, a few blocks away, with a capacity of 1,100 cars (600 reserved for cars with a drive and at least one passenger). The rest of the plan below envisions an amalgam of private parking garages, shuttle buses, bike racks, etc. Here's the basics...

The Transportation Demand Management Plan under development per this FEIS commitment will include a comprehensive strategy to encourage the use of mass transit (and remote parking) by Arena patrons and a parking management plan for those who do drive.

The plan will detail the specific locations of off-site parking garage, pricing of off-site and on-site parking spaces and the mechanisms for encouraging the use of off-site parking garages and remote parking. Remote parking will be encouraged with free shuttle service to the Arena and parking spaces priced at half the price of the market rate at garages closer to the Arena. The plan will also specify the routes by which shuttle buses will travel from remote parking locations to the Arena and the pickup locations for the return shuttle trip to the remote parking location.

The Transportation Demand Management Plan will include a cross-marketing program with local businesses that would serve to stagger arrival and departure times, a 400 bike parking area adjacent to the Arena, and a requirement that at least 600 of the on-site parking spaces be HOV parking (requiring the purchase of three or more tickets). The Transportation Demand Management Plan is under development by FCRC, the Nets, and the Arena operations team and FCRC’s traffic and parking consultant Sam Schwartz Engineering (which has prepared these kinds of plans for Citi Field, among others).

For Jersey loyalists, the trek across two rivers is not likely to easy...if you drive. To avoid all that, Jersey fans will have to become familiar and comfortable with the New York City subways. The Jerseyan who works in the city isn't likely to have much of a problem finding the new "Barclays Center" station on a map.  Others may find it difficult.

As John Brennan of The Record wrote this week in his "Meadowlands Matters" blog, "Some Nets officials sensibly have theorized that the Nets could draw a respectable Jersey crowd for Saturday and Sunday afternoon games, when the least amount of traffic would be expected. But automobile-riding suburbanites may find it difficult to find parking, so the best hope for a Jersey audience is from those willing to take a subway or two. Of course, those lines run less frequently on weekends. That means the Nets may find it challenging to come up with a way to attract Garden Staters.

There's another flaw with that theory: the Nets normally have only one or two weekend matinee games a season. They'd have to get the league to move more games to the afternoon.

On the other hand, if you choose not to drive, things will get better by the Nets' second season. Just as the Barclays Center is rising in Brooklyn, a new transportation complex is rising in Lower Manhattan that will make moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn a lot more efficient and pleasant.  As part of the post-9/11 reconstruction, the MTA is building a vast underground concourse linking PATH and the New York Waterways ferry terminals with all nine subway lines that stop at the Barclays Center station at the arena's front door.  Some aspects of the Lower Manhattan Transportation Concourse will be open in 2013, as the Nets first season ends and most will be done a year later.

Here's an animation of what it will look like for a fan connecting from one of the nine lines under the arena to the PATH or ferry terminals.  (Of course, you can also just take a bus or train into midtown and get on subways there for a quick four or five station ride to Barclays. As this movie on the Barclays Center site suggests, "you're never far from the Barclays Center.")

Bottom line: learned behavior is going to have a lot to do with how fans, particularly from New Jersey, Queens and Long Island, get to Brooklyn.  There's great subway transportation to Yankee Stadium and CitiField, but people still drive, willing to risk the traffic jams (and missed game action) at bottlenecks like the George Washington Bridge. Better to invest now in a free MTA subway map. Helps while away the hours waiting for the lockout to end.

Meanwhile, Back at the Arena

All of that is not say the arena itself isn't progressing. The construction report we highlight every month is usually four or five weeks behind the actual progress.  For example, the report issued this week by the bondholders' consultant is based on September 28 inspection.  Bob Sanna gave a more up-to-date assessment this week, noting among other things that 86% of the structural steel is up and the roof should be enclosed by January. Around that time, the arena will be permanently linked to the ConEd power grid, facilitating interior construction.

"About 95% of the mechanical equipment that’s required to operate in the building is now in the building and being installed, so the arena is fully on schedule," he said. "It will be complete in the early part of September."  That means things like scoreboards, LED signage, condensers for ice-making (already installed), lighting, etc.

K is for Kreepy

Some time in the future, when the Cultural War Crimes Commission convenes, we expect it will take up the case of Kim Kardashian, how she willfully engaged in a conspiracy to dumb down America, parlaying a fuzzy sex tape and anatomic anomalies into a career of selling krappy goods, including television programming, covered in K's.

Unfortunately she and her surgically enhanced family lured an unsuspecting power forward into their cabal, then having exhausted his usefulness, dumped him unceremoniously, not quite leaving him at the altar, but close enough. Today, Kris Humphries looks like an innocent victim of a drive-by shooting, wondering "Why me?" as he tends his wounds. 

It's not personal, Kris, it's business.  No marketing opportunity escapes the Kardashian Klan. First, just as the divorce story breaks, Kim flies off to Australia to market handbags, sans ring, but not to hide. Oh no. Kardashians don't hide.  Suddenly, the Aussie media has a much better story than if Kim arrived happily married and carrying mere bags instead of baggage. She and her sister, Mrs. Lamar Odom, appear on Australian television to explain (not really) why she decided to file for divorce (without telling her husband apparently). Bag sales skyrocket.

Then, there's Mom, Kris Jenner, whose book on managing a family (gag)  just happened to hit bookstores on Tuesday, the day after divorce papers are filed. She goes on TODAY and other programs to plug the book. She offers that Hump should not ask her daughter to return his engagement ring, That, she says, would make him an "Indian giver".  It should be noted that Kris Humprhies' mother is Native American.  Very classy, Mrs. Jenner. It's what we have come to expect.

Oh, we know that the Hump probably got paid for his time on "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and for his supporting role in the "Kim's Fairy tale Wedding...a Kardashian Event." (note no mention of him in said title).  And we also know that he is among the luckiest people on the planet, blessed with a solid family, great athletic skills, wealth,  the adulation of fans, movie star looks, and is still only 26 years old. But to be ridiculed and insulted and publicly humiliated is a fate no man, no matter how lucky or how rich, wants for himself or his family. We only hope he gets his time on camera (and a realllly good lawyer) to restore his good name and confidence. In the meantime, we offer our services to the Cultural War Crimes Commission whenever it's formed.

We Are All Russian Biathlon Fans!

We found ourselves interested in Russian Biathlon again this week. Nets principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov, whose other sports interest is chairing the Russian Biathlon Union, and Nets director Sergey Kushchenko, whose other sports interest is running the union, opened a new training facility for Russia's biathletes in Siberia on Thursday (Better to have a Siberian venue for a sport that involves skiing and shooting).

The center, which Prokhorov toured, is state-of-the-art and cost him a few million rubles. It took four years to build and includes a 50-meter rifle range ("with the latest Swiss equipment"), classrooms, gun and ski shops, and extensive medical and physical training facilities. Prokhorov praised the finished product and said it would help Russia return to the top of the world biathlon rankings.  All that gives us hope that the Nets' plans for a similar training facility are moving ahead.

Final Note (again)

Still waiting for sanity to show itself in the CBA talks. As we go to press or whatever it's called now, the talks have begun again, but there is no hope, apparently, for this round and the yawing abyss awaits. If the season is lost, it will be a damn shame. With all the poverty and pain in this land, having two sides fighting over two percent of $4 billion is at best unseemly, at worst, never mind. 

As we read all the press on this, we think, don't care who wins because if they play everyone wins and if they lose, they're all losers.

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