NetsDaily Off-Season Report #11

This could be the last off-season report for a while. If the NBA goes on lockout, no need for weekly summaries of players and owners screaming at each other or the latest skinny on Springfield Armor roster moves. If the billionaires and millionaires on either side of the bargaining table can't reach a deal, why should the fans care (that much)?

In recognition of that, we've prepared a bit of a feast, starting with all manner of Draft stories, particularly on MarShon Brooks and Bojan Bogdanovic. We explain what trainer to the stars Tim Grover meant when told Chad Ford that Brooks was a little bit like Kobe; detail what we know about Bogdanovic's Euro contract; pat ourselves on the back about our story on Brooks' sleeper prospects; pit Bill Simmons vs Bill Simmons; offer up a name or two on the Nets' undrafted free agent list; worry about a strike that could slow down construction at Barclays; take a look at the future of traveling to Brooklyn; and revise some pages here and there.

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

A good start, maybe even a great start

As we've said many times since Thursday night (actually Friday morning), anytime you go into a draft with the #27 and #36 pick and emerge with the second leading scorer in the NCAA, the second leading scorer in the Euroleague and a double-double machine from the ACC, you've had a good night (particularly when all you had to give up were two second round picks in 2013 and 2014 and a "few" of Mikhail Prokhorov's milliions...he has a few more.)

The big deal, of course, was getting MarShon Brooks at #25, ten spots lower than where he and the Nets had projected him. We're always concerned when a player drops 10 spots or more, with little explanation. We remember the excitement and ultimate disappointment with Marcus Williams who had a similar, but more dramatic fall. Some in the Nets organization are saying that the drop was mainly due to other GM's love of big Europeans. Seven were taken ahead of him (eight if you include Canadian Tristan Thompson). Of course, there were red flags: his reported selfishness, immaturity and arrogance, but at #27, those are not big risks and with the right coaching can be turned into advantages.

Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Williams also had some issues that kept them from being drafted higher.

Bogdanovic had just signed a three-year deal (but not undergone a physical) with Turkish and Euroleague powerhouse Fenerbahce Ulker. The Nets don't seem to be bothered by it and one has to think that having European ownership is an advantage when dealing with issues like buyouts. The Nets' newest director, Sergei Kushchenko, is a long time Euroleague official, even Executive of the Year in 2006.

Williams has had weight and conditioning issues, although his preparation for the draft has been exemplary, at least compared to his time at Maryland.

We were reminded of a draft a decade back. On June 27, 2001, the Net had their best off-season day ever. In the afternoon, Rod Thorn and Jerry Colangelo agreed in principle to trade Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury, then that night traded the rights to Eddie Griffin for the rights to Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins and Brandon Armstrong and then grabbed Brian Scalabrine in the second. Thorn knew he needed depth and that was what the 3 for 1 deal offered.

The Nets of course already have their point guard in Deron Williams (two years younger today than Kidd was in 2001) and went for depth in the draft as well. Bogdanovic won't be coming over for a year, but Brooks and J-Will (!) fill gaps nicely, the same ones ironically that Jefferson and Collins filled in 2001 (minus the defense of course). The Nets may also sign a couple of free agents once the CBA talks clear up. Ben Hansbrough, Tyler's brother and Notre Dame point guard, is one we hear they like.

D-Will hasn't spoken yet about the draft but considering that most pundits put the Nets in the upper third of teams drafting Thursday, he has to be pleased...at least we hope he is.

International Man of Mystery

Bogdanovic of course was the big surprise to most fans on Draft Night. The Nets didn't talk much about him even when he was in on June 14, but many in the organization liked him, with one telling us a month ago that he had first round talent. They like him so much in fact that Billy King said Thursday night that if they couldn't have pried Brooks from Boston, they would have taken the 22-year-old Croatian at #27.

They had multiple looks at him. His biggest advocate has been Danko Cvjeticanin, the team's international scout (and fellow Croatian). Based on Cvjeticanin's recommendation, the Nets brought him for a workout with others on June 14 and took a final look Thursday morning in a private workout.

So other than the numbers (second leading scorer in Euroleague at 18 ppg), what's his story. In Croatia, they like him a lot. He is a remarkable athlete, already top scorer in the first phase of the Euroleague last year, said one journalist who's followed him, adding he has the potential to become an "amazing scorer...and he started playing basketball when he was 14!"

He's great once he hits the floor, has desire to win, plays tough and is passionate. He enjoys being the go-to guy, and has hit some big shots already in his career.

"I just liked that he can handle the ball, has size, just how fluid he was on the court," King said. "He moved like a basketball player, and I think he has maturity, too."

He certainly would have gone higher if he hadn't signed with Fenerbahce, but the year in Turkey may not be such a bad thing either. Neven Spahija, the Turkish champs' coach, is regarded as one of the best, if not the best in the Euroleague right now.

Bottom line, says the journalist: Bogdanovic and Wizards pick Jan Vesely played in the same Adriatic league the last two years, and while Vesely is the most athletic European player EVER, Bogdanovic is by far more complete and better overall.

We can't find a Twitter page for Bogdanovic, but we did find a blog, called BLOGdanovic. No, really. It's in Croatian. One other thing about Bogdanovic. He comes from the same small city in Bosnia that produced Zoran Planinic, Mostar. Mostar saw a great deal of war's horrors when Bogdanovic was a toddler. Although it's in Bosnia, it is inhabited by a large number of people who are ethnically Croatian and suffered at the hands of Bosnian Serbs. In fact, the last three European picks of the Nets: Planinic, Mile Ilic and Bogdanovic were all born in Bosnia and left.

"He's a little bit like Kobe"

It would be unfair, to Brooks, to the Nets, to the fans, and certainly to Kobe Bryant to compare the Nets' draft pick, at #25, to Kobe, but that is indeed what Tim Grover, Kobe's agent, did in talking to Chad Ford.

Ford explained the circumstances of the comment in a discussion with Ryen Russillo on Friday. Russillo is very skeptical of Brooks and said he had heard he was a "bad kid" (without explanation) and that he was doing nothing more than "impersonating" Kobe.

What dont you like about this 6'6", 7'1" wingspan athletic ...led the Big East in scoring on a team where he was double teamed every night on a bad team, shot an efficient 49% from the floor

That's not a bad guy to impersonate. If you're going model your game after anyone and you're a two guard...

Tim Grover, who was training MarShon Brooks, who was Kobe Bryant's trainer and Michael Jordan's trainer and Dywane Wade's trainer... Watching him work out, I come up because I'm intrigued by some of the stuff he's doing in a workout. I come up to Tim. He's smiling at me. He says, "who's he remind you of?' I'm sort of thinking, I'll be honest, I'm sort of thinking he reminds me just a little bit of Kobe and before I can say anything, he says to me, 'He's a little bit like Kobe'. He didn't say he's a 'lot like Kobe' or 'he is Kobe'. He didn't say he was Kobe. If he was a lot like Kobe, he would have been a top 10 pick and if we thought he was going to be Kobe, he'd be No. 1, so far ahead of Kyrie Irving, it wouldn't matter.

But I'll say this, I'm going to break my own rule about whether workouts matter, and things like that. I saw him go two on two with Chris Singleton. I saw him going with JaJuan Johnson, I saw him going with Enes Kanter in that Hoops Gym. I've seen a lot of guys over the year go into that gym, a lot of pro's, a lot of Hall of Famers playing in that gym. That kid was killing everybody, including Chris Singleton. He can play. Whether his head's on straight, I don't know. I didn't go do the background check. I heard some of the same stuff. Whether he's going ot be able to adjust to a team or whatever. All those things are legitimate question marks, but at 27, what's the risk in a bad draft?

Ford isn't the only ESPN guy to fall in love with Brooks. Skip Bayless thinks the Nets got the steal of the draft. He tweeting, "Marshon Brooks at 25 easily steal of draft. Has some Kobe in him. 43@GTown! 52 vs. ND! Made for NBA! Will set Nets on fire in NJ (not NY)." We assume that means the the Nets won't have to wait till Brooklyn to see what they got.

And we'd like to congratulate ourselves on getting on the Brooks bandwagon early. We offer our selection of Brooks among our Draft Sleepers. He's what we wrote three weeks back.

Draft Sleeper of the Week - MarShon Brooks

No player in the draft has captured more Nets' fan enthusiasm than MarShon Brooks, the 6'5" shooting guard from Providence...at least among those players who might be there at #27.

There are a number of reasons not to like Brooks as a prospect. At 22 ...23 not long after the start of the season... he's one of the older players in the draft. He has a reputation as being selfish: a black hole on offense, and worse on defense. His teams have never won. At a thin 6'5", he might be too small for the pro game where he's likely to get pushed around a bit more than in the Big East. Besides, the Nets have Anthony Morrow.

Then again...

At 22 and with four years experience, he's just the kind of guy who Billy King has talked about taking, a wing with three or four years experience who can step into the rotation. He is a scorer, period,with a scorer's mentality. He was second in the nation, putting up almost 25 points a game (and in the toughest conference). Not to mention that his 52 points vs. Notre Dame are the most ever in a Big East game. Yes, he's 6'5" but has a 7'1" wingspan and teams pay strength and conditioning coaches a lot of money to bulk up their young players.

That's why a lot of draftniks think he has the most upside of any players in the 2011 Draft, mainly because of that scorers' mentality...and as was shown in the Pre-Draft combine, Brooks is one of the best athletes in the draft. With a 38½-inch vertical, a 10.74-second time in lane agility and a 3.09-second three-quarter court sprint, he surprised people. That vertical, in fact, is an inch and a half higher than Terrence Williams and Damion James scored in their respective combine measurements.

The most optimistic evaluation of Brooks comes from Tim Grover of ATTACK Athletics in Chicago, where the combine was held. As he told Chad Ford, "There's a little bit of Kobe in him, isn't there?" But players with even "a little bit of Kobe in them" don't last til #27. Ford has already moved him from the second round to #19 and he keeps rising.

Jersey connection? He's been working out at Real Gymm in Keyport, on the Raritan Bayshore. That's the best we can do...for the moment. He's scheduled to be in this week for a workout.

Our favorite stat about Brooks is his hand size, the latest measurement out of the Draft Combine. Along with his incredible wing span, Brooks has huge hands, among the biggest at the combine. How big? About 20 per cent bigger than Derrick Favors. And our favorite irony: Brooks refused to work out for two teams: the Celtics who picked him and the Nets, who he'll play for.

Undrafted free agents

Not a lot of action on undrafted free agents...at least not publicly. Last year, at this time, the Nets had deals with Brian Zoubek and Ben Uzoh, giving them partial guarantees of $50,000 and $35,000, respectively. This year, however, the threat of a lockout looms large over everything including free agent signings. Even training camp and summer league deals are held hostage.

One thing several teams have been doing the last few weeks --and which will know accelerate-- is hold free agent mini-camps. Prior to Thursday, players like Joe Alexander and Quincy Douby have been making the rounds of training facilities in hopes og hooking on with an NBA team. Some teams postponed those mini-camps till after the Draft so that undrafted free agents can compete with former pros.

For example, Jemine "Greedy" Peterson, the Brooklyn-born former Providence player who impressed at the Nets group workout, is headed to Miami for a Heat mini-camp. Ravern Johnson of Mississippi State and DeAngelo Casto of Washington State, both undrafted, will attend the Spurs' free agent mini camp next week and Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell is headed to Atlanta for camp.

Are the Nets having such a mini-camp. They haven't said but reportedly they like Ben Hansbrough of Notre Dame, a 6'3" point guard and Tyler's brother.

Simmons vs. Simmons

We know this is being discussed in a fan post, but we think it deserves more attention. In short, we found the post-Draft Bill Simmons comments on the Deron Williams trade a bit ridiculous and a bit disingenuous. After the draft, Simmons wrote this convoluted analysis of the trade, which if you need reminding was Devin Harris, Favors, the Nets' 2011 first rounder (who turned into Enes Kanter) and the Warriors' 2012 first rounder, protected 1-7...meaning the Jazz may or may not get it next year.

The Williams/Jersey trade: Williams ($1 dollar bill) for Favors (50 cents), a 2011 lottery pick (50 cents), Devin Harris (quarter), and Golden State's partially protected 2012 first-rounder (a quarter right now, but a possible 50-cent piece). So the Nets turned $1.50 of coins into a $1 bill; they felt like they hadto overpay because it was their one chance to acquire paper. If Williams doesn't re-sign there next summer, it immediately becomes the single worst NBA trade since Milwaukee passed on Paul Pierce in the 1998 draft so they could flip the rights to Dirk Nowitzki with another no. 1 pick for Robert Traylor. Meanwhile, the Jazz made out like bandits: They have more money than when they started, and either Favors or their no. 3 pick could easily turn into paper someday. Phenomenal trade by them.

Other than the fact that no one else feels that way, even after the Enes Kanter pick, it's sorta 180 degrees from what Simmons wrote right after the trade, in a far more lyrical moment.. He imagined what Billy King might have said when his Jazz counterpart, Kevin O'Connor, agreed to the deal:

"Really, you're giving us a top-three point guard for a lottery pick that hasn't done anything, a point guard who peaked two years ago and a couple of other picks? Done! Can we call it in right now? Let's call it in. No, we'll call it in! We got this! We're dialing right now…"

Maybe he changed his mind, although didn't say why. It couldn't have been because Favors suddenly became a world-beater (he didn't) in Utah or Harris got healthier (nope) there or Kanter, last seen playing organized ball a year ago, is suddenly Bill Russell or something beyond Kosta Koufos (not really). Or maybe Bill is just writing too much lately and forgets what he wrote.

Strike Two

While everyone was following the NBA talks on a new collective bargaining agreement, there's another labor stoppage on the horizon that could also affect the Nets and their fans. Operating Engineers, one of the city's most powerful construction unions, is threatening to go on strike on Friday, the same day the NBA may go into lockout mode.

A strike by the operating engineers, who run the big cranes, would halt all work at Barclays Center. Danny Massey of Crain's New York, writes "projects that could be halted include Forest City Ratner's Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which employs 1,000 construction workers." How long would they go out and how would it affect the September 28, 2012 opening? The last Operating Engineers' strike shut down construction for a week. If that's all it is, a strike is not likely to affect the arena timetable. Massey reports the Bloomberg administration is trying to get the union and management to avoid a walkout.

The Brooklyn Commute

Truth be told, one thing that's troubling about being a New Jersey fan in Brooklyn is that the commute to games could take some time (less than Yankee Stadium or CitiField) and may be both unpleasant and even confusing with a maze of subway lines with less than spiffy stations.

But just as Barclays Center is rising in Brooklyn, a new transportation complex is rising in Lower Manhattan that will make moving from Jersey to Brooklyn a lot more efficient and pleasant. As part of the post-911 reconstruction, the MTA is building a vast underground concourse linking PATH and the New York Waterways ferry terminals with all nine subway lines that stop at the Barclays Center station beneath the arena. Some aspects of the Lower Manhattan Transportation Concourse will be open in 2013, as the Nets first season ends and most will be done a year later.

Anchoring the new concourse will be the $3.2 billion WTC Transportation center at the northeast corner of the WTC site at Church and Vesey Streets, near where the towers stood. It is going to be spectacular architecturally and will form one end of the concourse between the World Financial Center and the MTA's new Fulton Street Transit Center, a few blocks inland. Through it, pedestrians will have access to the ferry terminals, PATH and 13 subway lines, nine of which continue on to Barclays Center a few stops away. At Fulton Street, where more than 300,000 riders pass through daily, the MTA is reconfiguring the maze of ramps and passageways in another architecturally spectacular setting. The concourse is now structurally complete with only finishing work inside remaining. It will be partially open next year.

Once, it's done here's an animation of what it will look like for a fan connecting from one of the nine lines under the arena to the PATH or ferry terminals. (Of course, you can also just take a bus or train into midtown and get on subways there for a quick four or five station ride to Barclays.)

Final Note: Housekeeping

With the addition of three players, we've done some housekeeping around the site. We've added addresses for Brooks and Williams' twitter pages. Bogdanovic from what we can tell doesn't have one...although he does have that BLOGdanovic blog. None of them have personal websites. That'll change.

We've also updated the Nets Agent page to reflect changes among both veteran players as well as the rookies. Of interest is that Marc Cornstein now represents both Kris Humphries and Bojan Bogdanovic. And no, there's been no announcement about whether Deron Williams has publicly identified his new agent if in fact he has even chosen one.

Finally, we've updated the Nets Trade Assets page to reflect what passes for reality her in Netsland.

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