NetsDaily Off-Season Report #5

It's a Brooklyn thing for the most part this week...with some Dwight Howard news and analysis as well. All right, a lot of "Fight for Dwight" analysis.  In Brooklyn, we look at how Mikhail Prokhorov and his aides see the borough as a platform for globalization; how businesses, long wary of angering critics, are now starting to embrace the Nets and Barclays Center; how the Nets' move 13.2 miles to the east compares with some other high-profile arena switches; how big is Prokhorov's Barclays Center suite...is it twice as big, ten times as big!; and how it's easier to get to Barclays Center than Yankee Stadium or CitiField. Even our Draft Sleeper of the Week is from Brooklyn.

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 and analysis.

The Fight for Dwight

We've sworn we're not going to get in the weeds on the Dwight Howard rumors.  We also admit that oath is worthless.

So here's some ideas on what's been written, what we've heard and what we think.

There is no doubt that no matter who the Magic want, it's worth it to get D12...well except for Deron Williams, of course. He is, like D-Will, 26 years old, a perennial all-star and all-NBA player, one of the top talents in the league and still young and healthy. Unlike the 'Melo Drama, there are no assets off the table, no untouchables, no nothing.  Yes, there are concerns about the CBA and salary cap and all that other stuff.  That can be solved.  The Knicks can have their two forwards.  We'll take the point guard and center. 

The competition is supposedly, reportedly the Lakers.  Dwight wants Hollywood!  Dwight wants a starring role!  Dwight wants to win!  And of course, the Lakers have two ready-for-trade assets: Andew Bynum and Pau Gasol.  Not to mention Kobe Bryant. But the Lakers like the Magic are hamstrung by big contracts given to players who can't possibly produce at the levels needed to make their contracts worth it in a post-CBA world.

Let's assume for a minute that some version of a "hard cap" is installed by 2013-14, as the owners want.  The Magic have, without Howard, $42 million committed to four players: Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson.  Yes, Quentin Richardson. The Lakers' situation is by some measures worse.  No doubt, the talent is greater, at least for now, but the commitments are staggering: $60 million for four players: Bryant, Gasol, Ron Artest and Steve Blake.  Bryant will make $30+ million, Gasol $19 million. Kobe will be 35, Gasol 33.  Howard or his agent should have some qualms about dropping into that salary cap hell.  (The Nets? They currently have $7 million committed in 2013-14 to Travis Outlaw.)

We also think that this is going to go down a lot faster than people (well people other than Chris Sheridan).  Howard can deny all he wants that he has an extension on the table. He's wrong...and we suspect he knows it.  He is in the same situation as 'Melo was. He signs or he risks losing tens of millions of dollars. Would the Magic sign him without a commitment?  Doubt that.  And there's something else out there: one owners' proposal would do away with sign-and-trades after July 1?  That's an additional reason to get this done sooner rather than later. Does Howard want to risk that on top of everything else?  Doubt that too. Even the Orlando beat writers are getting nervous, realizing that the Magic have few options to get out of the mess.

The threat of a lockout looms over everyone, but we happen to think the Nets are going to be very active this summer, starting with the draft.

Free Agents Galore

Howard's situation may liven up the summer.  There are few free agents out there of course, but not like last summer with Joe Johnson, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki, Rudy Gay, David Lee and Carlos Boozer all getting $75 million or more. What this year does present is a menu of rotation players who may not make the All-Star team but will give you the depth you need. Nets are Scorching has a nice set of features on all the key free agents, restricted and unrestricted, out there under the "Tampering Week" rubric.  Highly recommended.

Speaking of Brooklyn...were we speaking of Brooklyn? Yeah, sorta. It's going to dominate everything over the next 16  months.  So in light of our visit to the arena construction site, here are some random thoughts about the borough and the role it's going to play and how it will affect those fans loyal enough to visit this site.

Brooklyn as Globalization Platform

Lost in a lot of the statistical measures of last season's progress were these "firsts" that didn't get a lot of attention.

--First NBA team to play regular season games (2) in Europe;

--First NBA team to fly around the world, traveling from Newark to Moscow to Beijing to Guangzhou to Los Angeles to Newark in a week;

--First NBA team to have more than 50 games broadcast in both China (2009-10) and Russia (2010-11) over a two year period;

--and of course, First NBA team with a foreign (European, Russian) owner in Mikhail Prokhorov.

But even beyond that, the Nets are playing the game of globalization in subtle ways...through Brooklyn.

In virtually every discussion of Brooklyn, Mikhail Prokhorov and his two top aides at Onexim, Christophe Charlier and Dmitry Razumov, mention the role of Brooklyn in globalizing the team.  Prokhorov is fond of noting that one in eight Americans has some roots in Brooklyn, that the borough was often the first landing spot, after Ellis Island, for immigrants arriving in the US.  As he's said, "Brooklyn was the heart of United States immigration. A lot of people from other countries passed through Brooklyn. They have a lot of relatives in China, in Africa, in Russia, in Europe."

The Nets are taking advantage of Brooklyn's current ethnic mix as well as its history. Some fans might have seen Hispanic Night as simply a carryover from the Nets' attempt to celebrate Eduardo Najera's Mexican heritage (and to a lesser degree, Brook Lopez, whose father is Cuban); or Chinese Culture Night as a carryover from the days when one of China's biggest celebrities, Yi Jianlian, played in New Jersey.  Of course, Russian Culture Night, the trademarking of Brooklyn Nets in Cyrillic and the NetsRussia website are  all about Mikhail Prokhorov, right? Not so fast. After English, the three most widely spoken first languages of Brooklyn households are, in order, Spanish, Russian and Chinese. Around 500,000 Brooklynites count themselves as Hispanic, 300,000 as Russian and 160,000 as Chinese.

When we mentioned that "coincidence" to a member of Team Prokhorov, we were told with a sly smile, "that is not a coincidence." The strategy is simple and not so sly.  By making fans of the locals in Brooklyn, the Nets hope to get some buzz back home...and vice versa. 

As the home addresses of a growing number of fans on this site show, the strategy is working, if slowly.  It's not for nothing that Prokhorov told Darren Rovell (before the trade deadline) that his first superstar will be a "global star". We'd be surprised if we didn't see D-Will as a Russian icon (pardon the pun) next season.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

Jamine "Greedy" Peterson is a tweener and has some baggage.  Yet, by most accounts, he (and Cory Joseph of Texas) were the most impressive players in last weekend's workouts at PNY Center.  At 6'6" and 235, Peterson is somewhere between a small forward and a power forward.  In fact, there are shooting guards in the NBA with his body. On the other hand, he is from Brooklyn.

As for his baggage...after a remarkable 38-point, 16-rebound game vs. Seton Hall in 2009--part of a double-double season, he was suspended by Providence for violating team rules.  Apparently, Peterson showed a Friar recruit too good of a time.  He says he was told to do so.  After that, he played in Greece and then the D-League.  He's automatically eligible for the Draft.

Despite all that, no one helped his draft stock better than Peterson. He showed he can score from the outside and underneath, throwing down a couple of monster dunks in a 5-on-5 scrimmage.  With a poor draft, the "Best Player Available" dictate is even more relevant, particularly in the second round where he's likely to wind up.  Unless he screws things up, Peterson is likely to get a look.

Moving as a Burden?

A lot has been made in some circles about the Nets' move to Brooklyn being a dramatic shift, geographically, for the franchise, but the reality is different.  The team will cross two rivers, the Hudson and the East, the former a state boundary, but the move is similar to, and often a lot less dramatic than, a number of others made during the 28 years the Nets spent in the Meadowlands.

—The Lakers moved from the Forum in Inglewood to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles in 1999, 11 miles.

—The Cavaliers moved from Cleveland Arena to the Coliseum of Richfield in 1974, then to the Gund (now Quicken Loans) Arena in 1994, a 40 mile round trip.

—The Pistons moved from Cobo Arena to the Pontiac SIlverdome in 1978, 32 miles, then to the Palace at Auburn Hills in 1988, 4 miles, for a total of 36 miles.

—The Bullets moved from the Baltimore Civic Center to the Capital Centre in Landover, MD, in 1973, 28 miles, then to the Verizon Center, Washington, DC, in 1997, 7 miles for a total of 35 miles.

Also, it should be noted that Barclays Center is shorter distance, if you're crazy enough to drive, from Newark (13 miles) than it is from either Yankee Stadium (22 miles) or CitiField (23 miles).  It's also a shorter distance by subway from Penn Station.  New Jersey baseball fans travel to see the Yankees and Mets, right?

As for the subway, it's only four stops from midtown Manhattan on the B, D, and Q lines, the three express trains that service the arena station at Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, soon to be renamed "Barclays Center".

Businesses Embracing Barclays

It wasn't too long ago, 2007 to be exact, that a Brooklyn business embracing the Nets' move to Prospect Heights would be ostracized, even threatened with a boycott.  Take the case of Arena Bagels.  It opened back then and faced an immediate onslaught of criticism.  It had to change its name to A.R.E.A Bagels, named for the proprietors family members. 

Not anymore.  There's "Bark", a new hot dog place near Barclays Center where Billy King, Bobby Marks, Bruce Ratner and Brook Lopez dined before checking out the arena. No one's saying there's a connection and "Bark" is a perfectly reasonable name for a neat little restaurant featuring hot dogs, but that arena right around the corner  could wind up being known as "The Barc" or even "The Bark" ... as in "Who Let the Dogs Out?"  There's also the Best Western Arena Hotel, down Atlantic Avenue.  It advertises itself as close to "the NBA Barclay Arena." And we haven't even mentioned the (at least) three sports bars planned for the streets around the arena.

Of course, if you're really into the move, there's this.

A Super Suite, but not a Super Duper Suite

The Nets have sold 44 of the 104 suites at Barclays Center and there's only 16 months left before Opening Night. They've actually sold out one set of high-end suites, the Brownstone suites, each with 16 seats, but the Loft suites aimed at medium and smaller business,which go for $200,000 to $300,000, are not going as fast.

One party has bought two suites at mid-court and is combining them to give him a "super suite".  That of course would be Mikhail Prokhorov. It is indeed big, but fails to match the hype that was out there a couple of months ago on the Sports Illustrated website. SI had him with a suite ten times normal.  No, Nets insiders note, just twice.

Prokhorov hasn't visited the site, we're told, in nearly six months. Back in late October, he watched Daniel Goldstein's condominium get torn down from the roof of Bruce Ratner's shopping mall. He then went out and had lunch at Peter Luger's where he dined on porterhouse, creamed spinach and cheesecake for dessert. There must have been some champagne too.  It was his best "Darth Vader" moment, we thought.

Final Note: Northern Exposure

Remember the island Prokhorov was supposed to have bought (but didn't) in the Seychelles?  Well, North Island is in the news again this week.  The owner swears it's where Prince William and Princess Katherine are honeymooning.  Sounds like someone has a very good public relations operation.

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