NetsDaily Off-Season Report #7

It's the NBA Finals! Yeah, baby! Yeah, we know the Nets aren't in them, but neither are the Lakers. We take a look at how the Lakers' leading blogger measures the loss of Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic; review the last really bad draft and try to figure out where to find value in this one; offer up our Draft Sleeper of the Week (we think they're all sleepers this year) who's been a bit misunderstood; provide a handy guide to those writers around the country who think their team's problems could be solved by a deal for Deron Williams, wonder whether Mikhail Prokhorov was forced into a life of politics and examine the vast worldwide conspiracy that's ensnared Kris Humphries... Beware the K's!  We also wish good luck to our favorite K.

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.

Laker Loss, Net Gain

Laker blogger Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times has been grading the performances of each individual Laker and although that wouldn't normally be interest, he has something to say about Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic in his reports on Steve Blake, who replaced Farmar, and Joe Smith, who came to the Lakers in the Terrence Williams trade along with the #27 pick in this year's draft.  Surprisingly, Medina sees the loss of Vujacic as more critical to the Lakers' demise than Farmar.

Here's what he wrote in grading Blake...

As disappointing as Blake's showing in his first season as a Laker turned out to be, fans shouldn't be suddenly wishing the Lakers had kept Jordan Farmar. He may have jolted the bench, shown more aggressiveness in his opportunities and provided a few showcase games. But with a team that already had issues with individual glory, having a bench player mostly concerned about his own performance wouldn't have helped in any way. In that sense, Blake proved the consummate teammate, knowing his standing in the scoring hierarchy, showing up early to pregame shootarounds to improve his stroke and never causing any locker room friction.

And on Smith...

From a practical standpoint, the Lakers whiffed on trading Vujacic and the team's first-round pick. The team could've used Vujacic's intensity in practice and ability to be an irritant at defense since the team didn't have much of an edge all season. The Lakers could surely use that first-round pick to bolster their roster following a disappointing playoff finish in a four-game sweep to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals. At the time, I lauded the move -- I thought the Lakers would make better use of Smith to help handle their dwindling frontline depth, and also I believed Vujacic had become irritating to many in the Lakers  organization.

Deron in Demand

Not a day goes by without another writer or blogger suggesting his team's problems could be best solved by acquiring Deron Williams... often but not always paired with Chris Paul (who's unlikely to be traded anywhere while the Hornets are owned and operated by the NBA). Dwight Howard would stay in Orlando if the Magic could simply get Deron Williams, who the writer (erroneously) reports has refused to sign an extension with the Nets!! The two sides aren't even permitted to discuss a deal till July 1.  A Thunder blogger, upset with what they see as Russell Westbrook's selfishness, thinks OKC should simply call Billy King and ask for Deron Williams. An international website agrees.  In Utah, a writer for the Jazz's own fan site wistfully wondered if Deron Williams would return to Utah!  Now that the Lakers will be abandoning the Triangle, they will need a top-flight point guard... Deron Williams of course!  The Hawks? they were this close to grabbing Deron Williams, reports someone else. Not to mention the Knicks, one of whose beat writers suggested having Deron Williams in the New York metropolitan area will make it easier for him to switch teams in 2012... or earlier.

The baseline assumption in each of those scenarios is that D-Will couldn't possibly want to stay with the Nets.  After all they are the Nets, for God's sakes.  Maybe Williams will leave the Nets at the altar, either this summer or next. Maybe Billy King won't be able to surround him with top-flight players.  Maybe Mikhail Prokhorov will be locked up in one of the Kremlin's towers by Russian knaves and forbidden from showering D-Will with American dollars.  We doubt all those scenarios and keep handy our running list of quotes form the man whose middle name may be "arguably the best point guard in the NBA." 

So here it is for all of the writers and bloggers out there...Deron Williams in his own words.

Draft Sleeper of the Week: Jon Leuer

When Jon Leuer went off to the Pre-Draft Combine, he was seen at a 6'10" power forward with a high BBIQ, a good range on his jumper and a good ball handler, a skill developed when he was running the point in high school before a growth spurt moved him into the front court.  Problem was Leuer's athleticism was suspect, or worse.

Here's what Draft Express wrote about him, which was the conventional wisdom: "Upon first look at Leuer, it would be easy to write him off as a prospect due to his below average athleticism, slender frame, and a lack of a true position todefend."

Coming out of Chicago, things are different.  First of all he measured a half-inch short of seven feet.  But the big difference is that Leuer proved he has ABOVE average athleticism.  His combine numbers are, well, shocking. Leuer's maximum vertical was measured at 36.5".  For comparison sake, that's a half inch less than what Terrence Williams and Damion James posted at the 2009 combine...and Leuer is 6'11.5". His lane agility, another measure of athleticism, was similarly surprising.  He finished tenth in the camp...and first among anyone other than a guard or small forward. The next smallest player in the top 10 was 6'7".  In the 3/4 court sprint, he finished in the middle of the pack, with a 3.36 second mark.  Again, by comparison, Brook Lopez finished dead last in 2008, at 3.57 seconds.  He also bench pressed 185 pounds 14 times, a solid number for someone who's not considered strong.

What's the downside of those numbers.  Here's Chad Ford:

Leuer, on the other hand, is a better athlete than we give him credit for. You can't fake those numbers. But when you watch him play, he doesn't really utilize that athleticism in his game the way other big athletes (JaJuan Johnson, for example) do. So while Leuer may be a good athlete, if it doesn't translate to his game, what's the point?

The Nets have now seen Leuer twice, at the Chicago Pre-Draft Combine and the Minnesota group workout, where one Nets scout said he had the best camp of anyone over the two-day period.  He's also coming in for an individual workout at the PNY Center.

He's projected end of the first/beginning of the second. Others who will be dropping in the next few weeks: Andrew Goudelock of the College of Charleston who's rising up the boards; E'Twaun Moore of Purdue; and Corey Stokes of Villanova; all senior guards.

How does Leuer pronounce his name.  It is Lew-er or Loy-er?  The Nets of course already have a John Loyer, the assistant coach. Turns out it's Lew-er. Good.

The 2000 Draft - A cautionary tale

This year's draft is viewed as the worst since the one in 2000, when after Kenyon Martin was taken by the Nets, the next five players were Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, Mike Miller, DerMarr Johnson and Chris Mihm.  There were some decent players in the draft, late, but if this draft is like the 2000 Draft, hold your enthusiasm.

For example, the #27 and #36 picks in the 2000 draft yielded Primoz Brezec and Soumalla Samake, the latter a Net until Rod Thorn could package him in the Jason Kidd deal a year later.  Both are out of the NBA as are Swift, Miles, Fizer, Johnson and Mihm.   How'd Billy King do in that draft?  He took Speedy Claxton at #20, a good value pick, and an eminently forgettable Mark Karcher of Temple, a Philly product.  No harm, considering who was taken behind him. Later that year, King signed a 6'5" defensive specialist who hadn't been drafted: Raja Bell.

Where was the value?  Jamal Crawford went at #8; Hedo Turkoglu at #16; Quinton Richardson at #18; two former Nets, Eddie House and Eduardo Najera at #37 and #38, and the arguably the best player taken that year, Michael Redd at #43. There were only three (one-time) All-Stars, Redd, Martin and Jamaal Magloire, another former Net., and only two players who won individual awards, Miller as Rookie of the Year (had to be somebody) and Crawford as Sixth Man of he Year. There are, however, 10 former Nets among the 30 players taken. What was the magic in finding value in a weak draft?  With the exception of Crawford, they were all from big programs (or a top European team) and had played three or four years.

Was Prokhorov forced to run?

A couple of weeks before he announced he was ready to take over the "Just Cause" party in Russia, there were rumors that was ready to enter politics.  He dismissed them as a joke, asking was it still April Fool's Day. 

Then, on May 16, he made the formal announcement which he himself called, in televised remarks, "an uneasy and somewhat surprising decision."

One Russia analyst on Foreign Policy Magazine thinks that Prokhorov may have been forced to run.  Julia Ioffe wrote:

Let's be honest: Most likely, this was not Prokhorov's idea. "He wasn't in any party before," said Andrei Belyak, a spokesman for Prokhorov's Onexim Group. "He didn't touch politics before." According to Belyak, it was "a proposal from the party," proposals that, in Moscow, tend to be offers you can't refuse. As Russian sociologist Denis Volkov told the New York Times, "Major businessmen are under the authorities' control. If the government says you have to head a party, you head a party." (Prokhorov has been the subject of one such political offer before: his idea to build the first Russian-made hybrid car, the Ë-mobile. According to one Onexim insider, the idea wasn't his at all; it was a pitch from the Kremlin. The idea for the title -- which, to a Russian ear sounds like "F-mobile" would to an American one -- well, that was intentional, and another story altogether.)

Makes David Stern sound like a pussy cat.

All those Brooklyn Tours

You're nobody if you haven't had a tour of the Barclays Center construction site. Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Kris Humphries (but not the soon-to-be Mrs. Hump), Billy King, Bobby Marks, Milton Lee, Leo Ehrline, Christophe Charlier, reporters and photographers from local and international media, even us (twice)!  We assume that following the Draft, whoever the Nets take will get a quick New York area geography lesson as well.

All that is prep work for the sale pitches that will begin in earnest soon. The Nets have sold about 44 of the 104 suites at Barclays Center.  That means over the 15 months between now and Opening Night on September 28, 2012, they will have to sell 60, or nearly one every week. The remaining inventory is mostly the smaller suites, the $200,000 a year numbers that seat 10. That won't be easy. They also need to find sponsors for three big remaining naming rights categories: airlines, auto and consumer electronics. Those will be big ticket sponsorships and the Nets are reportedly offering the naming rights to their VIP entrance, where paparazzi will gather on game nights, as an enticement.

Speaking of marketing, we've seen a lot of Dr. J, Julius Erving, in Nets promotions lately, on the Nets "Past Present Future" materials in particular.  We've seen him say some nice things about the Nets lately, too. Good to see and hear. The Nets won both their Dr. J-era ABA titles in New York, at the Nassau Coliseum. Wouldn't be hard to imagine the marketing operation push him out front on Long Island, in particular. After all, the LIRR pulls right into a station a block away Barclays Center and will be connected via an underground passageway to the "Transit Connection" at the arena's doorstep. Too bad Newsday, Long Island's newspaper, doesn't cover the Nets.  Oh, we forgot: it's owned by the Dolans.

And speaking of Brooklyn, remember the property owner who advertised his space as an ideal location for a "Dave and Busters" club now says he was misunderstood and said the ad was not his idea, but a consultant's.  Now he's thinking of a "Soho-style" club. "It’s certainly not going to be something rowdy. Whatever it is will cater to all the people who come to the neighborhood, not just the arena-goers," he says.

Kris and Kim

According to one rag, Kris Humphries has fallen victim to a giant conspiracy, that the Kardashian clan is trying to gain control of all families who name their children with the letter "K".  Kris (not Chris) shares the same name as Kim's mother and has two sisters who both have names beginning with the letter "K" - Krystal and Kaela, the latter having helped him spell out "Will you marry me?" in rose petals.  See where we're going?

In any event, the big news out of the engagement was the size of the ring, bigger than the one Lamar Odom gave Khloe Kardashian, bigger than the one Prince William gave Kate Middleton!   Can he afford it on his NBA player's salary, even with a raise?  Maybe not, but when a player shows up on the cover of "People" and in a photo spread in "GQ" the same day and trends worldwide on Google and Yahoo, expect a lot of endorsement deals, ones that will probably feature the happy couple and permit Mrs. Humphries to cross over into male-oriented products. 

And to think this all began when a reality TV star went to a basketball game in Newark and thought to herself, "No. 43 is cute".

Final Note: Best Wishes to a Great Kidd

His departure was ugly, a headache actually. But no one should forget what he gave for six years: his all.  He's still doing it at 38 years old and he will need to do it for another week and a half against the Miami Hoard, er Heat.  We hope this ends well for him and that he gets fitted for a sparkly ring (not as bid as Kim's).

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