Billy King gave his State-of-the-Nets address to the beat writers on Wednesday and we take a deeper look at some of things he said, including who was out-of-shape in training camp, what to believe in the Deron Williams re-signing saga, Jay-Z's role in the team and have some fun recalling what King and Mikhail Prokhorov said earlier this year about making the Knicks pay more for 'Melo, something very relevant right now for the reeling New Yorkers. We also take a look at a kid who's being called "Canada's nightmare" and his Nets' connection.
We also look at our latest Draft Sleeper of the Week and lament that a rumor about Prokhorov turns out to be false.
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.
Out of Shape, Out of Touch
Billy King's comments that Devin Harris, Johan Petro and Travis Outlaw showed up last September out of shape and that Outlaw in particular "spent a lot of catching up" will make Petro and Outlaw even greater targets of fan abuse. And why not? It's one thing to have a bad season if you're playing at your best. It's another when you show up out of shape after you've been given a contract beyond your dreams (and skillset).
We continue to argue that Outlaw's contract wasn't the worst given out last summer. Both Josh Chidress and Drew Gooden had worse years for virtually the same money and giving Joe Johnson $124 million was the height of insanity or irresponsbility.
But when a veteran player shows up out of shape, it's reprehensible. We're willing to forgive a rookie. He may not know what he's in for...particularly when he's playing for Avery Johnson. But a veteran, particularly one with six or seven years experience, knows what's expected of him.
King on what Outlaw needs to do now: "He’s got to come into camp in shape." He might also apologize.
Deron Williams In his Own Words
In his discussion with beat writers Wednesday, Billy King advised them to listen to what he and Deron Williams say about his future, not what others speculate he's thinking.
"What others might have said doesn't matter," King told the writers. "You should take what he said and what I said as being the real deal."
So we went back and put together what Williams has said most recently, gathering bits and pieces from the beats' articles from last week's locker cleaning press conference...
"I like this organization a lot," Williams said at the Nets’ breakup day. "I like the direction they’re going. They made me and my family feel real comfortable since I’ve gotten here.
"I like Coach (Avery) Johnson — the way he coaches and the way he carries himself. I definitely can see myself staying here.
"We’ve had a lot of open communication in a short period of time that I really like. And just the organization in general, how they handle themselves from top to bottom. I think everybody has just been great here and I like how things are run.
"I would like to not have the distraction (of looming free agency) during the season."
Next up for Williams: the All-NBA teams which will be out at the end of the first week of May. Last two years, he made second team all-NBA. Last season, his vote total put him in seventh place among all NBA players. However, the mid-season trade, the loss of 17 games to injury and family matters, and the bad publicity he endured after Jerry Sloan quit could make this year's selection a bit iffy. Not to mention the Nets' record.
There's a competitive reason as well: last year, Derrick Rose finished out of the running, placing 17th in the final tally. He's likely to move up to the first team. Last year, as well, Chris Paul was hurt. On the other hand, D-Will did average 20 and 10. Only three other players, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Zach Randolph and Kevin Love, did that and no else averaged 20 points and 10 assists.
The MRI Confusion
D-Will admitted to being "really angry" when he heard about the need for surgery on his right wrist, but the context seemed to make clear that his anger was directed not at the Nets but at Utah, whose doctors told him mid-season that all he needed was rest. King explains.
"When we got the trade, we got the information from Utah. They disclosed everything," King said. "We did an MRI and everything was confirmed. Then at the end of the season, Dr. Andrew Weiland suggested we do another one and it's more of a fine-cut MRI. There's a five millimeter standard cut and a three millimeter fine-cut."
It was that finer cut that found the bone fragments and the scar tissue that may have been bothering him for more than a year. Sundiata Gaines was on the floor a year ago for his dramatic three pointer vs. Cleveland because Williams was suffering from a sore right wrist.
One thing the Nets have is solid orthopedic surgeons. Ask Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
Balance of Power
"We may have gotten him if I had made the call sooner...and the Knicks may not have had to give up as much. So I think it worked out best for us".
That was Billy King, balancing not going after D-Will earlier (and bailing on Carmelo Anthony) with the benefits of making the Knicks pay the Nuggets a higher price for 'Melo. He made the comments more than a month ago to Maggie Gray of Sports Illustrated, but with the Knicks' lack of balance vs. the Celtics a big issue nowadays, they're relevant again.
Even before the trade, Mikhail Prokhorov said the same thing to CNBC's Darren Rovell, indicating this was indeed part of his larger strategy of smacking down the Dolans: "I think we made a very good tactical decision in forcing Knicks to pay as much as they can. So I think it's very good."
Funny thing: King made his comment with a smile. Prokhorov was as serious as a heart attack.
The Global Icon
In that same interview, Rovell asked Prokhorov about his relationship with Jay-Z, who King this week said plays a big role with the Nets. It was yet another indicator of how important Jay-Z is to the Nets plans for the future, particularly because of his global popularity.
"I think Jay Z is the excellent testimony of the global icon," said Prokhorov at the all-star break. "He is a self-made man. he is like living legend. a guy who from Brooklyn, a very simple one. and he became a real global star. and it's a great opportuntiy for any player to be the same via basketball. That's why he is an excellent shareholder and I am lucky we have an opportunity just to chat socially."
The Nets use the term "global icon" often in describing him (he was described simply as "cultural Icon" in the Barclays Center ground breaking program last year. One has to wonder if HOVA has a side deal with the Nets beyond his small stake in the team (and arena).
King seems to think he's worth whatever he gets, recalling Jay's passion in recruiting fellow Brooklyn native Carmelo Anthony: ""To see (Jay-Z) give a pitch on Brooklyn, and the passion about going to Brooklyn – you see it on tape, you see it on TV. To see him in a room with Carmelo, and making it, you see the passion there."
Draft Sleeper of the Week
Like Kyle Singler, Kenneth Faried is a senior but he's a young senior. The 6'8" power forward doesn't turn 22 until November. Singler turns 23 in a couple of weeks. But what separates the two mostly is that Singler played in the big spotlight at Duke while Faried played at Morehead State in Kentucky. And of course, Faried is from Newark, not far from where the Nets will play their last games in New Jersey next season. Singler is from the only other state where attendants pump gas: Oregon.
Faried played in the mid-major Ohio Valley Conference for four years, setting the NCAA Division 1 career rebounding record (besting Tim Duncan's mark at Wake Forest). And when put on the big stage, he excelled. Against Florida, Faried went for 20 and 12; against Ohio State and Jared Sullinger, he went for 15 and 12. In the NCAA tournament, a win vs. Louisville, Faried had 12 and 17...and won the game when he dramatically blocked a corner three as time wound down.
He's been all over the draft boards, with some slotting him into the late lottery while others have dropped down where the Nets have their two picks, end of the first, beginning of the second. The latest have him at #23 (Draft Express); #21 (NBADraft.net) and #19 (Chad Ford, ESPN). But workouts haven't begun yet.
Are the Nets interested? They see him as "very interesting", as one scout said at a recent Nets game. That's not always an endorsement, but the scout did motion towards the Nets bench where Avery Johnson was giving last minute instructions. "He would LOVE him," the scout said of Johnson.
Springfield and the Draft
The Nets' next two big dates are May 1, when the team will officially take over basketball operations in Springfield and the May 7-8 Draft Workout at the PNY Center in East Rutherford. They are not unrelated. The Nets along with Armor coach Dee Brown have already scouted the Portsmouth Invitational looking at college seniors who could wind up undrafted and in need of a job. In the Draft Workout at the PNY Center, the Nets will be looking at a wide array of talent who will be measured and go 5 on 5.
Having the Armor gives the Nets some flexibility in dealing with draft night choices. If at #27, the Nets are faced with a choice between a polished but not-so-athletic swingman with four years of college experience and a young, raw but supremely athletic big man, they have a cushion and "Springfield" is stitched across it. Knowing the two coaches at Springfield are their employees, knowing that those coaches will be running a lot of summer league practices and be around the entire training camp, the front office can feel a lot more comfortable balancing the two prospects. In the past, if he was drafted, the raw kid would likely need to buy some nice suits and be ready to sit. Now, he can play some minutes down on the farm, knowing he is learning the Nets' system and knowing his coaches are in daily contact with Avery Johnson and whoever the Nets designate as the Armor general manager.
You can also expect the Nets' second round pick will see some time at Springfield and finally, you can expect the Nets to use Springfield to recruit undrafted players for training camp. Those same factors listed above will play into an agent's thinking on what to recommend to his client. Better to sign a training camp contract with the Nets, knowing there's a back up plan in Springfield. It's also going to help ticket sales in Springfield. The only other team with a "hybrid" relationship is the Rockets whose Rio Grande Vipers are once again battling for the D-League championship.
That's how Canadian newspapers described 16-year-old hockey sensation Seth Jones this week. What does that have to do with the Nets? Seth is Popeye's son, a 6'4" defenseman who is seen as Team USA's big hope in international competition...and is already on NHL scouts' iPads.
His father says Seth never played organized basketball at any level, but has always focused on hockey. Seth was only a toddler when his father played for Raptors in hockey-mad Toronto, but Popeye admits his two years there changed things, first when Seth's older brother took up the sport.
"We started watching the Maple Leafs games, and we all became hockey fans," Popeye explained to a Canadian hockey writer last week. "Our oldest son started playing hockey in Toronto."
After Popeye moved to the Denver Nuggets, it was Seth's turn. "I lived in Colorado for eight years when I was younger and some of my friends in school were really into hockey," Seth said. "I put on a pair of skates, started skating lessons actually to become a figure skater before I even picked up a stick and a puck."
More on Barclays Center
We took a look at some of the architect's renderings of Barclays Center Saturday morning, focusing on the entrances, but there are other images we found that are also worth a look. In this one, a view behind the basket, you'll see the auxiliary scoreboard where game stats will be flashed. It's a lot bigger than those eye chart versions we've been accustomed to at the IZOD and Prudential Center. Here's another, of one of the six Stoli bars that will be built around the arena. (Pay no attention to the TV screen over the bar showing Devin Harris or the wall-to-ceiling screen at the far end of the bar showing a dejected Yi Jianlian.) If you prefer beer over vodka, there's the Bud Bar. Budweiser is one of the arena's key sponsors.
Also, here's a little viewed video of the entry pavilion of the one piece of the Atlantic Yards complex that's complete, the Long Island Railroad/New York Subway terminal across the street (and around the corner) from the arena. The terminal is a one end of an underground concourse that links nine subway lines (used to be 10 but the "M" line has been discontinued at Atlantic Terminal), the LIRR and the Barclays Center Transit Connection in front of the arena. The Atlantic Terminal is going to become very familiar to Nets fans.
Oh yeah, there's indications the arena will have its own, custom designed font for most of the signage inside the arena called BrooklynSport-book.
If the collective bargaining agreement doesn't get settled by June 30, how long might it last?
We're thinking November and here's why. Most NBA players get checks bi-weekly, on the 1st and 15th of the month, ending with November 1. So the first missed paycheck will be November 15. That's a real deadline. Same goes with the owners. They'll start missing real revenue starting that week, first week of the season.
And if you're wondering why so many college prospects are returning to school, consider this: first round picks traditionally get a 20% bonus over the rookie salary scale, deposited on signing, which usually takes place in July. That's expected to hold them over till their first paycheck, November 15. But there is no rookie salary scale for the 2011-12 season. That's a collective bargaining issue.
So kids looking at that on one hand and three squares in the college cafe on the other might start liking mystery meat a little more. Some agents are letting it be known that they will advance money to the top prospects but if the lockout goes on and on, how long will the agents carry the prospects?
Final Note: What? No Island??
A month after Russian media reported that Mikhail Prokhorov had bought an island in the Seychelles, the Nets owner on Thursday denied it, saying it was never true. Prokhorov was moved to comment after Seychelles government officials started asking him for contributions to maintain a colonial church. No team bonding in the Indian Ocean, we guess.