Here we are again...first in a series of 24. We're going to start slowly this off-season because it could be a long summer and we want to pace ourselves. The threat of a lockout, Deron Williams extension, arena construction, free agency, the draft. Not since, well, last off-season, has there been such activity.
This week, we take a look at Mikhail Prokhorov's budget for the Nets; the native Oregonian who might be the Nets top pick...or second rounder; which wings the Nets like; who deserves special praise for the Deron Williams statement this week; a peak inside Barclays Center and more on the two Brazilian Net fans we bumped into while on vacation.
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, blogs, tweets...plus our own reporting.
Prokhorov Money Watch: The Jersey Fund
How much is Mikhail Prokhorov spending on the Nets...beyond the $200 million he plunked down in 2009 to buy the team and the $76 million in arena infrastructure bonds he bought last year to complete financing on Barclays Center; There is a number...and it's $60 million over the course of the team's two year stay at Prudential Center You can call it The Jersey Fund.
In an email to NetsDaily last month, Dmitry Razumov, Prokhorov's "indispensable man", described the money this way: "$60 million to cover operating losses until the team moves to Brooklyn, including servicing the team’s debt, getting out of the IZOD lease, facilitating trades, as well as additions to the front office."
We don't know how much the Nets are losing although in real terms, we now know the number was closer to $15 million a year in the Ratner years, rather than the pre-tax losses of $35 million carried on the books. Nor do we know what the debt service is on the roughly $175 million in debt Prokhorov assumed on buying the team (80% of the overall debt). The cost of the IZOD lease buyout was reported as $4 million. In terms of facilitating trades, we know the Nets have already spent $6 million, $3 million on the Yi Jianlian salary dump and $3 million in the Deron Williams trade. The front office additions no doubt amount to seven figures as well, with the Nets hiring or retaining seven assistants (Sam Mitchell, Larry Krystkowiak, John Loyer, Tom Barrise, Popeye Jones, Rich D'Altri and Doug Overton) and nine scouts (Gregg Polinsky, Maury Hanks, Jordan Cohn, Brendan O'Connor, Danko Cvjeticanin, Frank Zanin, Khalid Green, Gary St. Jean and Bob Ferry) and filling other assorted positions from Milton Lee who does stats and technology as director of basketball operations to the team chef. There's also the $250,000 budget for basketball operations at the Springfield Armor.
Would Prokhorov go beyond that $60 million if opportunities arose? We can't imagine he won't. As they say, in for a kopek, in for a ruble.
Speaking of Prokhorov and moves, there has been some interesting discussion in Sacramento this week on how the Nets will vote on the proposed move by the Kings from Sacramento to Anaheim. The league's 30 owners will vote May 2 when the move comes before the NBA Board of Governors. One school of thought has Prokhorov likely voting for the move because he will be moving the Nets to Brooklyn; the other suggests he and Knick owner James Dolan will vote "No" because it would establish a precedent for three teams in one market. As part of their agreement to move from IZOD to Prudential, the Nets agreed to give up their territorial rights to New Jersey and promise not to oppose a new team in the Garden State.
Draft Sleeper of the Week: Kyle Singler
Well, he isn't really a sleeper. According to various sources, he is the favorite or at least a favorite for the Nets' late first round pick. The 6'9" Duke forward has been named as the Nets pick by mock drafts more than any other player.
Do the draftniks know what they're talking about? Apparently so.
We're told that Billy King, a former Dukie himself, raves about him internally. King also told the Nets' UStream feed a few weeks back that the team might look to improve at the wings through the draft. Talking specifically about wing players, King said, "When you have a late first round pick, early second round, which we will have, sometimes you can find guys there who are three or four year players who are very experienced and come in and help". Sounds like he is talking about Singler right there. Singler played 148 games at Duke and of course won a championship in 2010. On the other hand, he's nearly 23 (three weeks younger than Brook Lopez) and he did have a big dropoff in his deep shooting last season. But overall, he could be the kind of player that other teams have successfully drafted in the 25-45 range over the past three years, wing players like Nicolas Batum, Landry Fields, Jonas Jerebko, Chase Budinger, Jodie Meeks and Luc Mbah a Moute and non-wing players like DaJuan Blair, Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, DeAndre Jordan and Toney Douglas, any of whom would be welcome additions to the Nets.
Wings Over New Jersey
Whether or not the Nets find a solid wing man in the draft, expect them to pursue small forwards in free agency. Some of the names are unlikely to surprise. Andrei Kirilenko may want to return to Utah, but the new ownership there is not as sentimental as the old one, even if it's the son replacing the late father. The Nets would be an ideal landing spot for AK-47, as long as ex-teammate Deron Williams likes the idea. Kirilenko said this week he finds the Nets and Prokhorov "very interesting". Another possibility is Thaddeus Young of the 76ers. How many times can Avery Johnson say nice things about him, unsolicited, before it becomes open wooing? C.J. Miles this week joked that he and D-Will have joked about him playing in New Jersey...as long as the Jazz don't exercise their $3.7 million team option on him. They probably will.
Another possibility, we are told, is Jeff Green of the Celtics. Like Green, he is a restricted free agent and like the 76ers, the Celtics may not want to match a front-loaded offer from Billy King. A good reason to watch the Knicks-Celtics series is to see how Green and another possible Net target, Glen Davis, perform...and how many minutes each gets. Again, a lot of it will depend on D-Will's desires. The disturbing thing about Big Baby is that the Nets could have had Davis twice, once on Draft Night in 2007, the other in free agency two summers ago. Davis said publicly before the draft that he would like to play for the Nets, that he liked Lawrence Frank. The Nets took Sean Williams instead and Davis fell to #35. Then in 2009, Rod Thorn would have liked to have bid for Davis, but financial restraints kept from doing so and Davis re-signed. Recurring theme among these possibilities, other than AK-47? They are all young: Young is 22; Miles is 23; Green is 24; Davis is 25. Kirilenko is 30, and injury-prone.
Kudoes to King
Lost in all the hoopla (love that word) over Deron Williams' comments Thursday is the need to credit Billy King and Bobby Marks for their work with D-Will following their gutsy move in trading for him. At the Williams initial press conference, most of the media focused on Williams' statements about how he couldn't commit just yet (ignoring the subsequent comment that there's a "strong possibility" he would stay). King always said the chances of Williams sticking around New Jersey were "very high" and he made them higher by showing Williams the team's commitment to him and his family. Marks as usual was the detail guy, making sure everything got done. Didn't hurt that the owner and coach have gone out of their way to engage Williams early and often but King suffered slings and arrows for failing to bring Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey. He deserves a lot of credit now that it appears the Nets got a better player at a more important position for a lesser price and will have him for just as long as the Knicks have Anthony.
And if you're still concerned that D-Will hasn't bought in, go to his official website. Make sure to click through to the home page. It's been revised.
We got a look at some of the arena site plans this week. Some architects' renderings were inadvertently left on the internet by a contractor. (Don't you just hate when that happens?) A lot of it was stuff we've previously written about but there were a few things that caught our eye and we thought we'd share.
--A beer garden? Yes, indeed, the plans show a "beer garden" called, "Beers of Brooklyn". No further details, but it's nice size. Could be the "Loud and Proud" home away from home.
--An extensive area for the press. There will be a print press work room with nearly 50 work stations as well as work rooms for radio, TV and photography; a dining area and pantry; enough interior parking space for five TV trucks. Sounds like Prokhorov is planning for an NBA Finals or Jay-Z concert (or both). There's also interview rooms adjacent to the locker room area which as we've noted before is going to be world class.
--An accessible practice court. The practice court at the end of the "basketball operations" corridor will be visible not just from Atlantic Avenue but from the Courtside Club as well. You know those inspirational signs that coaches like to throw up on the walls at NBA gyms? At the Nets practice court, they will all be digital so they can be changed to suit the moment...or Avery Johnson's current mood.
--Speaking of inspiration, there will be a non-denominational "meditation room" off the main concourse...between the mens' and ladies' rooms and across from Guest Services, Security and First Aid.
--Large video walls scattered around the main concourse detailing among other things the team's history. Barclays will make extensive use of digital signage throughout.
--A large family lounge for players' families, including a child care area. It's not on the site plans, but we're told the lounge will have a "concierge" to work with families.
--Two retail outlets with access to the street. Haier the big Chinese electronics company will have a store in the building as well IZOD who will run the Nets team store. Both are arena sponsors.
--Owner's box. We didn't see any super suites "ten times" the size of other suites, as has been reported, but the box above
We didn't see anything that said "Brooklyn Nets" on the arena drawings, but we can't believe the team will be known by any other name. The acquisition of brooklynnets.com, after eight years, is one big signal. So is Brett Yormark's comments that he "likes the sound of it". Here's another: The trademark the Nets filed for last month, for a bklyn logo, retains the Nets' traditional colors of red, grey and blue. The organization seems intent on retaining some of the old as it prepares for the new.
Final Note: More from Sao Paulo
We wrote recently about how we were in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and ran across Nets fans at a big mall, the Cidade Jardim. We had gone there to buy a shirt for our son...and after learning where we lived, the two guys behind the counter got all excited. "New Jersey Nets," they both said. One said the Lakers are his favorite NBA team, but the Nets are his "second most favorite". How did we know they weren't pulling a fast one? Two reasons:
We had an unused ticket from the Nets-Rockets game and gave it to them. They were thrilled. But the big reason we were sure they were telling us the truth. Unsolicited, one of them looked at us, very earnestly, and said, "I hate Knicks"
So maybe that Prokhorov plan to make the Nets the global team ain't so crazy. And here they are, Armond and Augusto, two wild and crazy Brazilians and Nets fans.