We delve directly into the Draft, which is now five days away...and is likely to fill these pages all week long. We'll have some in-depth pieces on what to expect later in the week but for now, we'll give you some inside info (not much) on what to look for Thursday night, offer our last Sleeper of the Week, who seems to be dawning on people; do a little revisionist history on Deron Williams' departure from the Jazz; try to balance Brooklyn news, never an easy task; update you on Kris and Kim nuptials which some wags think could happen Sunday (we don't); and finally give Avery Johnson an opportunity to talk about tragedy and athletes.
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.
Draft Night expectations
Putting aside Billy King's history of trades on Draft Night, it should be noted that the Nets have made a trade in each of the last three drafts, all with Rod Thorn at the helm. In 2008 and 2009, there were the notorious, financially inspired salary dumps, with Richard Jefferson sent to Milwaukee for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons on Draft Night 2008 and Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson sent to Orlando for Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie the next year. Last year, it was the rights to Jordan Crawford and Tibor Pleiss to Atlanta for the rights to Damion James.
Pundits don't expect the Nets to deal before the draft but once the names start getting called at 7 p.m., expect a lot of reshuffling all the way down to #60. The betting among those in the know is that at the least, the Nets will acquire a pick late in the second. At best, a team near the end of the lottery, unhappy that its top choice went elsewhere, will put out a call for bids. Teams will then have five minutes to make a deal. As Billy King says, you have to be prepared for any eventuality.
As for who they'll pick at #27, no one is saying, at least publicly. Information is more closely guarded than in the previous regime and there are intimations that the Nets are throwing up smoke screens. Not that Rod Thorn wasn't a poker player in his tenure with the Nets, but it appears there's more strategic deception going on now. Still, we're hearing that what Chad Ford wrote in his last mock draft about possible picks at #27 is half right. Ford wrote: "Justin Harper, Tyler Honeycutt, JaJuan Johnson and Jeremy Tyler are all options here". Honeycutt is unlikely to be available and Tyler is NOT on the Nets' radar, at least not at #27. You figure it out...but we do offer some help below. As for the second round, think Duke Blue...and think Nolan Smith over Kyle Singler. Also in the mix: Chandler Parsons of Florida.
Is there an international prospect in the mix? The Nets are going global, you know. There's at least one in the #27-#36 range who interests them: Bojan Bogdanovic, a 6'7" shooting guard with a lot of offensive skills. ESPN posted a highlight package on Saturday. He's a Bosnia Croat from Mostar in Bosnia. If drafted, he would be the second Net from that medieval city. It's Zoran Planinic's hometown too. He's projected mid second round.
Draft Sleeper of the Week - JaJuan Johnson
Why is JaJuan Johnson (aka "Triple J") so low in the mock drafts? He is projected at #38 in Draft Express, #31 by ESPN's Chad Ford, and #31 in NBADraft.net. Ford himself asks, "I'm not sure why teams aren't higher on him." Us either.
What's not to like?
This is a guy who averaged 20.5 and 8.6 last season, was consensus first team All-American, Big Ten Player of the Year, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and winner of the Pete Newell Big Man Award given to the nation's top big man. He can shoot from the perimeter and is a world class athlete. His max vertical is 38.0". That's better than Terrence Williams or Damion James did in their Pre-Draft Combines and he's a legit 6'10" with a 7'2" wingspan! He ran the three-quarter court sprint in the same time as supposed speedster Isaiah Thomas and faster than Kemba Walker, Josh Selby and Nolan Smith. His lane agility numbers were similarly good. Only two big men, Derrick Williams and Jon Leuer did better. He's a little on the thin side, but was able to bench press 185 pounds 15 times at the combine, 10th overall. Yeah, his three point shooting last year was only 29.4% but it was 00.0% in the three previous years! He also improved his free throw percentage to 80.9%. He was a member of USA Basketball's Select Team which scrimmaged against the team that won the World Championship. Plus in his interviews, he acts like a mature individual and received his degree in Organizational Leadership and Supervision, a Business major, from Purdue, not some basketball factory!
Maybe he's not dynamic. Maybe we should keep quiet in case others are reading....FYI, he is our last Draft Sleeper.
Armor coaching hires?
Nets wanted to have the new head coach and assistant coach for the Armor announced by the Draft (and D-League National Tryout next weekend) but there's been no word on how close those decisions are or whether they like a lot of things are being pushed back by the prospect of a lockout.
We know there's a lot out there about who the Nets might be interested in, this Young or that Young, etc. But it is almost foolhardy at this point. The new collective bargaining agreement will govern so much of how free agency will work. We don't know and won't know until it's settled (whenever that is) what a maximum contract will entail in terms of salary or years; whether there will be mid-level or low-level exceptions; a hard cap; franchise tags, where the salary cap will be set, etc., etc. We'd sure like to get into the game of speculating, but right now, other than reporting on who might be a target, it doesn't seem worth the effort.
D-Will and Sloan and Jazz and Johnson and Nets
We did some reading this week on the resignation of Jerry Sloan two weeks before the Deron Williams trade to the Nets. Sloan said his decision was not result of his reported argument with D-Will a few days before and D-Will has said it was not his intention, nor was he happy with the outcome. Blaming D-Will was of course the easiest explanation...and it hurt his reputation badly and may have cost him a spot on the All-NBA team, but there are a number of other things that transpired that appear to have been proximate if not mediate causes, as the saying does.
The death of Larry H. Miller, the Jazz's long-time owner, in February 2009 appears to be one big part of all this. Miller and Sloan had a personal relationship that transcended basketball as a business. Miller loved the Jazz and Sloan and when the coach felt he needed something, Miller got it for him. He cried for the Jazz...literally and figuratively.
When Miller died, his son, Greg, took over the team. It was a difficult time not just because of the family patriarch's death but because the economy had turned south. The Millers' main business has long been car dealerships. Greg Miller has said that three of their dealerships bring in more revenue than the Jazz, but in early 2009, not a lot of cars were moving off lots.
As Brad Rock, the Deseret News columnist wrote the day after trade, "While the late Larry H. Miller was emotional and sentimental, his son is stolid and businesslike." Soon, he went about maximizing the team's value, not caring much about sentiment. "His management team traded Eric Maynor, Matt Harpring and Ronnie Brewer, worked the sign-and-trade on Carlos Boozer and declined to match Portland's offer for Wesley Matthews," Rock wrote. "Most or all of those moves were based significantly on finances. Cost notwithstanding, Larry usually went with his heart. With Greg, you wonder if he has one." Rock could have also mentioned the Jazz failure to compete with the Bulls on Kyle Korver, one of D-Will's best friends. Players know when trades are being made about money. Ask any of the Nets.
Williams did have issues with Sloan. That can't be denied. As SLC Dunk cataloged back then, there were a number of occasions when the star criticized the coach...in public and behind the scenes apparently as well. One issue reportedly was Sloan's stubbornness, particularly in not giving time to younger players, like C.J. Miles. But another issue that caught our attention was Sloan's unwillingness to invest his time in coaching technology, even things as simple as game film, as discussed by SLC Dunk.
Williams suggested a group film session would be a start, allowing a team filled with new faces and in-progress change to spend time together while dissecting what has gone wrong.
"That would be nice," Williams said.
Williams said the Jazz do not watch game film as a unit, even though he has put in requests for the team to do so in the past.
The Jazz "do not watch game film as a unit"! Think about that! As clarkpojo of SLC Dunk wrote, "I know that I, for one, can't comprehend why the Jazz don't watch more game film. You have to watch game film and you have to use technology and statistics to understand your team these days. I think that may be one aspect where the game has passed Jerry up."
Now compare the penny-pinching of an unemotional owner and the staid, technology-adverse ways of an old-school coach with what he's got in New Jersey/Brooklyn, whose video operation and statistical analysis are top priorities and world-class (remember the iPads). It helps you understand why D-Will feels good about where he's at.
Kris and Kim Update
If we wanted to, and had the time (and the stomach), we could set up KrisAndKimDaily. There is just sooo much out there, particularly with the wedding preps, the reality show, etc. If there's big news, like the date of the wedding, we'll post it on the news side, but all the other stuff, we think we can hold till the weekend.
That said, the big news (?) this week was that Kim Kardashian is sprucing up her rough-hewn Minnesotan for the wedding. She took him shopping for a wedding suit last week in Los Angeles, where he's been working out, sometimes with her. They also took ballroom dancing lessons from Mark Ballas of Dancing with the Stars...why not? And of course, there's the over-the-top bridal registry. All this prep work has led some to suggest the wedding will take place Sunday...like this Sunday, June 19. We doubt it. The buildup is the thing.
Remember, Keeping Up with the Kardashians airs on E! Sundays at 10 pm. On the other hand, if you're looking for the most delicious and vicious dish on all this, you'll find in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Hump's hometown paper. C.J., the Star-Tribune's incompletely named gossip columnist has had several tidbits, including word that Dad Hump isn't that thrilled with the nuptials.
Battle for Brooklyn continues...or so they say
Battle for Brooklyn, the documentary about arena critics' largely unsuccessful battle to stop Atlantic Yards and Barclays Center from being built, opened Friday night in Manhattan, its theatrical release. Expect a lot of Brooklynites to cross the bridge for the mostly hagiographic depiction of Daniel Goldstein, crusader and lover. Reviews have been mostly good, with the Daily News giving it four stars; the Wall Street Journal calling it "remarkable"; two neighborhood writers (not surprisingly) posting glowing reviews in New York and Salon; the Times being even-handed to a fault and Variety not so positive. In fact, they panned it, mainly for cinematic reasons. The Brooklyn Paper calls it a "docu-ganda". They didn't like it. The Brooklyn Eagle called it "a little too black and white".
This supposedly has energized the critics who have lost all their major court battles. They like Bruce Ratner are awaiting the final and long overdue ruling from Manhattan judge Marcy Friedman on whether a new environmental impact study is needed on the project beyond the arena. In the meantime, they are pushing ideas, big and small: a new plan for the rest of the project beyond the arena, should Friedman give them a "Hail Mary" victory and ask for a rethinking of the Atlantic Yards master plan, and some additional oversight, which will require new legislation. Neither are very likely.
Their biggest enemy right now (beyond the construction workers banging away at the site) seems to be Barry Baum, the Barclays Center's indefatigable senior vice president for public relations. While the critics laud the "Battle for Brooklyn", Baum spends his days donning a construction helmet and taking reporters to the construction site, wowing them with the prospects of a new entertainment and culture center for Brooklyn.
The critics should also be aware that Mikhail Prokhorov is about to make a decision on whether to exercise his little known option to buy into the larger Atlantic Yards project. Under his deal with Bruce Ratner and Forest City, Prokhorov has an option to buy a 20 per cent stake in the $5 billion project. He's going to make that decision in the next few months, Ratner said recently. The option price has never been publicized, but a few months back, a respected Russian business journal reported it was a mere $120 million. If true, that's about one-fifth of the final value of the project. The critics have always focused their considerable venom on Ratner. Apparently, Prokhorov's role confuses them. Here's all they have to know: Prokhorov buys distressed properties and pushes them to a return to profitability, spending lots of money in the process. Should he exercise that option, expect it to have a big effect on Ratner's ability to get financing. Moreover, Prokhorov is behind a big new multi-use project in Moscow, announcing last week he is building a giant night club and concert hall at the location. So he is not without experience in real estate. And one of his partners in Moscow development projects is a big Nets fan.
There was a lot of sadness in San Antonio this week when it was announced that Robert Horry's 17-year-old daughter, Ashlyn, died of a rare genetic condition that had affected her since birth. The Horry's and the Johnson's were close friends and neighbors while on the Spurs and Avery Johnson offered this to the San Antonio Express-News:
"People forget this sometimes," Johnson said Wednesday, "but we aren’t exempt. We go to weddings; we go to funerals. Maybe because we play a game, fans don’t think our lives are just like theirs."