NetsDaily Off-Season Report #12

Now, what do we do? Not much and not for a long, long time.  Oh, we'll be able to update arena construction progress; developments with the Springfield Armor who WILL play starting in November; wedding announcements from Kris and Kim and/or Sasha and Masha. Of course, there will be election news from Russia and FIBA Eurobasket results featuring Bojan Bogdanovic of Croatia. Ben Uzoh may play for Nigeria in FIBA AfroBasket, too.

Pickings will be slim otherwise. Players can work out together or alone but can't have contact with coaches or basketball operations personnel, whether they be trainers, rehab specialists or stats analysts. No summer league, no signings of undrafted players.  With this report, we hope to put a smile on your face while we all figure out what to do with our spare time, our lives. (Yeah, we said we probably wouldn't continue with these reports. We'll play it by ear. When John Tesh's music stops playing over and over in our head, we'll stop, ready to start again.)

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, and now the lockout, relying on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who slip interesting stuff into larger stories, blogs, tweets...plus our own reporting and analysis.

Mysterious Tales of Ridiculous Things

MarShon Brooks didn't get into specifics at his introductory press conference last week, but he let it be known that he was disappointed he lasted till #25, considering what he had done in workouts. "Let's just say in the draft process," Brooks said, "I played really well."

In fact, as the "draft process" rolled through city after city, there were various tales, as SI.com's Sam Amick said on ESPN Radio, "of ridiculous things he was doing in front of these teams to raise his stock up."  Alex Raskin of HoopsWorld heard the same thing, writing "Brooks reportedly looked damn good in the pre-draft workouts."  And Kevin McNamara of Brooks' hometown paper, the Providence Journal, reported the local guy had gotten good reviews for his workouts.

In terms of specifics, Ryan Feldman of The Hoops Report wrote, "multiple sources at the Charlotte Bobcats workout told me Marshon Brooks easily won his matchup and had his way with Alec Burks [who was taken at #12]. The sources said it really wasn't even all that close. Brooks apparently also had an impressive dunk on Burks at one point in the workout."  Of the same workout, which featured six guards, Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld wrote, "Brooks had one of his best workouts of the month in Charlotte. Word is he was electric on both ends of the floor and not only shot the ball well but really defended in a way the Bobcats were not expecting ... In Charlotte word is he was more Kobe than he'll admit".

McNamara wrote, "Brooks reportedly bested [Washington State's Klay] Thompson in a workout in Indiana and he’s run up against Burks several times with favorable reviews". McNamara also said Brooks told him that after a Pacer workout Larry Bird said he "is a big fan of my game."

Brooks himself tweeted about his success in workouts. On June 20, he wrote: "Hell of a workout with the Knicks, I kno I turned some heads on that sideline." Others at the Knicks Greenburgh, NY, training site that day: Josh Selby, Nikola Vucevic, Darius Morris, Ravern Johnson and Jeremy Tyler. The day before, he had something similar to say, "Me and my bro @3goudelock has been killing the competition in these wkouts!"

And even before the individual team workouts began, there were reports out of the Pre-Draft Combine that he had shown up others in the shooting guard pool, that "no one had helped themselves more" than the 6'5" Providence product, that no one had shown, in the words of one Nets insider, "more upside".  But perhaps the highest praise came a wee before the combine. It came from Tim Grover of Attack Athletics outside Chicago who famously told Chad Ford, "There's a little bit of Kobe in him, isn't there?"

The line got a lot of attention as did the accompanying article, in whch Ford said "it's Brooks' ability to put the ball on the floor and get buckets that's notable -- even a little Kobe-esque. His lateral quickness, step-backs and aggressiveness were as impressive as anything I've seen this year."

After the draft, Ford explained the background --and rationale-- for his comments that some have called hype. In talking with a skeptical Ryen Russillo on ESPN Radio, Ford said, "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?"

So why did he fall?  Oh there were the reports he was arrogant or selfish, but there were other reasons, some strategic, some tactical, most less conspiratorial. One GM told Ford, "If he was two years younger or if his team had won more games, he'd be a lottery pick. But as far as NBA scorers go, there aren't any guards in this draft that can get his own shot at the NBA level like him."  There is some truth to all of that. Providence only one four Big East games last season, none on the road, and Brooks turns 23 in January. That's only nine months younger than Brook Lopez, now in his fourth year.

The more tactical reason had to do with teams' love affair with international big men, say Nets insiders. Seven were chosen before him, mainly in the belief that big men are value picks in mediocre draft.  We wish we could have seen in the summer league, which under ordinary circumstances would have started Tuesday in Orlando.  But these are not ordinary circumstances. In addition, draftniks point out that Bird is indeed a fan of his game, but the Spurs made the Pacers couldn't refuse: Indiana native George Hill for the #15 pick.

Finally regarding Brooks, there is another Jersey connection, beyond the six years he lived at the Shore as a child.  Brooks trained with Don Blanks at the Real Gymm in Keyport on the Raritan Bayshore.  Real Gymm has posted a photo of its star student on its site.

Getting Greedy

Speaking of Providence College, we'd like to recommend the talents of the Friars' high scorer before Brooks, one Jamine "Greedy" Peterson.  We don't know a thing about how the Nets feel about the 6'6", 230 pound Brooklyn-born bull, nor whether he might be considered a bad guy.  He was dismissed from Providence for showing a recruit too good of a time.  And of course, no decisions on training camp invites will be made until the lockout is over..

Still, there's a lot of recommend him, starting with his four years at the legendary Brooklyn Boys and Girls High School. We do know from Twitter that Brooks and Peterson got along. Here's what we wrote about him back in May when he starred in the Nets group workout, which did produce one first rounder.

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.

Maybe it's just a futile exercise for us to get through the first of many weeks of a labor stoppage. Greedy if he's smart, will be working overseas. Or maybe, we just love his nickname.

In the Black Box of the Brooklyn night

With each passing day, Barclays Center looks more and more like the finished product.  The equipment needed to build the roof supports is now on-site. We recently viewed a video of Greg Pasquarelli speaking to fellow architects last January. He spoke about the "amazing challenge and incredible deadlines" his SHoP Architects have faced in designing the distinctive exterior of what he ironically called a "super under the radar, uncontroversial project".

While the interior of the arena will look quite a bit like the Conseco Arena in Indianapolis (not a bad thing), Pasquarelli said he felt what would make Barclays Center a "capital 'A' piece of architecture" is the "glass and metal wall that clips on to the building". We've written about that before and indeed the placement of the 921 weathered steel panels is expected to begin later this month.

But Pasquarelli's talk, before the New York Architectural League, also revealed some other aspects of the design that haven't gotten a lot of attention, starting with the special opportunity the arena presents because with the flat straight  site lines of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, the arena "will be seen from several miles away."

Moreover, Pasquarelli spoke about how SHoP was trying to replicate the "noir" of "the Brooklyn night, the wet street", inside the arena. "That shiny floor, that dark ceiling with the stars, that pop of color...that was sort of our inspiration for the way this might look."

He described the bowl as "pretty dark...I think that we really feel about sports is that it's a 'black box theater'", he said comparing it to the intimate experimental theaters that round throughout the city. "It is theater where there is no scripted ending. It's this place that you go where you don't know what's going to happen at the end.  So it's about this atmospheric element not looking garish with a lot of bright colors but a very sophisticated palate that runs around it". 

To that point, he said concession stands would be "minimalist" in design, "boxes that pop out through the weathering steel" that will be featured inside and outside the arena. There will also be "special bars or restaurants [that] sort of burst through the dark black box" of the bowl.

He also spoke of the fans' experience as they enter the arena from the Transit Connection in front of the arena. "The scoreboard is visible from the outside of the building...can't see the game because it's down below, but there is immediate interaction when one comes to the arena...from the plaza at all times you will be able to see the entrance and look at the scoreboard." He promised as well that "the Nets will be winning by the time this building is done".

Discussing the "prow" of the arena, with its "oculus", or circular window, Pasquarelli said it was designed to keep external signage at a minimum. The interior wall of oculus will feature "digital boards"  so that  there will be "less of that on the outside affecting the neighborhood". He also suggested it could become "this landmark where you meet before a game."

His discussion of Barclays Center starts about midway through this video.

Gregg Pasquarelli from Architectural League of New York on Vimeo.

Prokhorov and Politics: Another view

Mikhail Prokhorov was busy resigning from business interests this week, leaving the presidency of both Onexim Group, his personal $25 billion investment vehicle, and Polyus Gold, Russia's largest gold producer and the current source of much of his wealth. He wants to focus on politics, he says.

The conventional wisdom is that he was forced into the presidency of Pravoe Delo, the liberal pro-business party, and that he is nothing more than a very loyal opposition to President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The Economist, Britain's highly respected news magazine, has a different take on Prokhorov this week, that a man with his personality and resources is not likely to be anyone's poodle for very long

Analysts concluded the Kremlin was revitalising an old project to fake a sense of political process. Mr Prokhorov, they said, must have been made an offer he could not refuse.

That’s unlikely. One of Russia’s richest men, Mr Prokhorov ran and part-owned Norilsk Nickel, an immensely complex mining firm operating north of the Arctic circle, and is nobody’s fool.

His first goal is to get the party into parliament, which means winning over 7% of the vote in December. But his ultimate ambition may be to claw back influence from corrupt bureaucrats and security-service agents who turn their official positions to their own advantage. The prime minister’s job, Mr Prokhorov says, would be nice.

Those who know him say that he is both pragmatic and risk-driven. His speech at the convention was cautious in attacking the regime but ambitious in strategy: he wants to decentralise the country, bring back mayoral elections in Moscow and St Petersburg, and turn the local heads of the police, the tax inspectorate and the courts into electable posts. This would remove the levers of repression and violence from the current bureaucracy. 

Those are in the words of Medvedev, "radical" positions. It sounds like he is in it to win it...if not now then soon enough.

Meanwhile, word from Moscow is that while he may have resigned from Onexim, Prokhorov still maintains serious interest in the Nets. As one of his key people told us this week, "Mikhail owns the Nets through Onexim Sports and Entertainment, which is separate from Onexim Group and is directly owned by Mikhail. So the management of the Nets is in no way affected by Mikhail's resignation as President of Onexim Group."

In fact, the elevation of Sergey Kushchenko, to the Nets board of directors indicates he is getting more hands-on, not less.  Kushchenko is a serious basketball mind who also knows how to market a team. When Prokhorov came to the US last October, Kushchenko sat next to him in the owner's box. leading a very animated conversation about what was happening on the floor. He doesn't miss much.

Final Note: a Net Income Screed

Right now, a lot of us fans are bitter and pessimistic, because the NBA and its players have seemed to accept the lockout as a fait accompli for more than a year, because there doesn't seem to be any urgency to settling this.  They couldn't come up with a creative solution to divide an increasingly large pie.  The league is at the height of its popularity, with its highest attendance, its highest television ratings...higher than when, Michael, Magic and Larry played. It's not about personalities as much as it is about the game itself. The NBA Draft had its highest television ratings in 15 years, higher than when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade were taken in 2003, even though the first pick had played only 11 college games and overall, the talent pool was seen as inferior. 

The owners believe the model is broken and yet the five men who bought NBA teams in the past year have a combined net worth of more than $23 billion: Mikhail Prokhrov, Nets, $18.5 billion; Tom Gores, Pistons, $2.5 billion; Ted Leonsis, Wizards, $1 billion;  Peter Guber and Joe Lacob, Warriors, $1 billion combined; and Michael Jordan, Bobcats, $500 million. The 76ers are expected to be sold to Joshua Harris, worth $1.2 billion, in the coming weeks.  According to Darren Rovell of CNBC, Magic Johnson sold his 4.5% share of the Lakers last October to a season ticket holder for $60 million. That values the Lakers at $1.3 billion! And one of the world's five richest men, Larry Ellison, worth $37.5 billion, is now reportedly interested in the Hornets after failing in his bid to buy the Warriors.  These are men who do not enter into businesses lightly and yet the model is supposed to be broken?  As Prokhorov says of his choices, "I am not the kind of man who tends to plunge into illusion."

Sure there are teams in bad shape: the Bucks, it was revealed this week, had borrowed $55 million from the league, and the Nets have already run through the $60 million fund Prokhorov set aside to deal with losses in New Jersey.  It was supposed to last two years.  It lasted one. (By the way, If indeed there is revenue sharing between rich and poor teams, we are all in favor of having the sharing based on a franchise's financial history rather than its financial future.)

As for the players' side, isn't Kevin Garnett's reported vow to give up all of his $18.8 million salary to protect the union just a bit amusing. After all, he has made $271 million in salary alone over the course of his career.  Next season's $18.8 million is not a drop in the bucket, but assuming he and Bernie Madoff weren't fast friends, he should be able to survive quite nicely this season. Not so much his lower paid teammates.

The players also seem to be one step behind the owners in the P.R. war, not reacting well enough or fast enough. It took a day for the union to respond to the "flex cap" offer by the owners, which was viewed in a lot of quarters as a concession.

What about the fans? Various reporters have written that the league will be monitoring fan reaction as they plan their negotiating strategy. Well, here's a helpful hint for the NBA mavens: this isn't 1998. Sites like this didn't exist. SB Nation didn't exist. Twitter and Facebook? Nope. As things get tighter, expect the fans, the avid ones who build the buzz that is at the core of the NBA's popularity, to side with the players and expect them to use the newfound power of social media to let their feelings be known. No one cheers for the owners on game night.

Bottom line: the question is whether the NBA is going down the road that cost baseball fans a more than 900 games in 1994 and hockey fans a full season ten years later.  If that happens, fans will return, no doubt, but not for several years and there is no guarantee that the level of interest will approach this year. After the 1998 lockout, which lasted 32 games, TV ratings didn't return to their pre-lockout numbers for three seasons.  And the gains that have been made internationally may be more fragile than the league believes. They are in uncharted territory there. 

So as fans, we wish them all well, but have little hope the two sides are creative enough to get to a reasonable settlement quickly.  In disputes like these, sides harden and positions become theological, beyond logic.  Hoping for the best, fearing the worst.

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