NetsDaily Off-Season Report #18

We have a bit of an eclectic mix this weekend, as we look around the vast fan wasteland that is the NBA lockout.  But rather than focus on hockey or the Russian parliamentary election, we're looking at a bit of history, a bit of geography.

We also take a look at how the Nets' Milton Lee might stock the Armor--even offering a name; examine the possibilities for an All-Star Game in Brooklyn in 2014 or beyond; check out Darryl Dawkins' new career with the Nets; examine how the Nets' moves overseas fit with the team's pioneering role in international basketball; and wonder why the Nets missed a golden opportunity on Brooklyn this weekend.

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

All-Star Game in Brooklyn? Don't Get Your Hopes Up

There's been a lot of speculation in the press this week about the All-Star Game coming to New York in 2014. The Barclays Center will be completed and have more a year of experience. Madison Square Garden's "transformation" will finally be complete and two "skybridges" will cross the arena, obliterating the view of the arena's signature architectural feature: its ceiling.  Way to go, Dolans. A decision will be made a year from now.

Sounds good, but again the lockout could interfere.  If the season is lost (expect a decision in early January), then Orlando which currently has the league's newest arena would have a claim on the next available all-Star date.  Also, having a new arena or a "transformed" one is no guarantee you'll get the game.  San Antonio opened the AT&T Center in 2002 and is still waiting. Also, 2014 is the first New York Super Bowl...a month earlier. Two big events back to back probably hurts things as well.

Chocolate Thunder in the House

No ex-Net is as visible promoting Brooklyn and the Nets in general as Darry Dawkins.  Chocolate Thunder has planted trees, opened playgrounds, run clinics, mentored kids, headlined pro-Nets rallies, hooped it up with Newark's mayor, even traveled to Beijing and Shanghai with Bruce Ratner to recruit Chinese investors for Barclays Center. On more than one occasion, he has angered arena critics. His popularity is so great internally that team marketing department even raised the issue on whether the Nets should retire his number!

As a "Nets community ambassador", he gets paid for some --but not all-- of this and not just by the Nets, but by the NBA and his other team, the 76ers.

"I do a lot of stuff with the Nets and the Sixers when they call," he told the Sixers website last month. "A lot of it is for charity. You don’t do a lot of stuff to get paid and when you coach at the community college level, you certainly don’t do it to get paid; you do it for experience. I enjoy giving back, so that’s been the fun part of my life."

Now 54, Dawkins has recently been the subject of a lot of publicity with interviews and profiles...including one where he reveals that Stevie Wonder of all people nicknamed him "Chocolate Thunder".

If you want to say hi, Dawkins, Nets Dancers and Sly will be signing autographs on Sunday at Electronics Expo in Wayne, NJ on Route 46 West from 2-3pm.

European Theatre

We've done a lot on Europe and international basketball in general this week. There's Deron Williams' future with Besiktas and Bojan Bogdanovic's present with Team Croatia. The tempo is likely to increase over the next six weeks.  Eurobasket starts at the end of August and goes on for almost three weeks.  Bogdanovic will play at least five games in Eurobasket and three or four this week in the London Invitational.  Williams has to be in Turkey for training camp on September 1. 

It really shouldn't be any surprise that more Nets have signed overseas than any other team, with Williams, Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar and Mario West all affixing their signatures to contracts drawn up in multiple languages. The Nets have an international past and globalized future. Just ask the next prime minister of Russia. Oops, we're getting ahead of ourselves again.

In fact, there is no NBA team with more of a pioneering past in international basketball.  Not only is the Big Russian the first international owner of an NBA team, and Drazen Petrovic the first international player to make the All-NBA team.  Lesser known is this: the Nets were the first team to draft an international player, Oscar Schmidt of Brazil, a 6'8" small forward who shot so well his nickname in Brazil was "Holy Hand." Schmidt was drafted in the sixth round in the 1984 draft—the same draft that produced Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley.

Why didn’t he play for the Nets? Because back then, a contract with the NBA would mean an end to your amateur status, while a contract with a club team would not. He also said he knew his limitations (like defense). Schmidt loved playing for the Brazilian National Team, representing his country in five Olympics (’80, ’84, ’88, ’92, and ’96). He averaged a record 28.8 points a game, including an astounding 42.3 in Barcelona. He is, in fact, the leading scorer in Olympic history.  If he had signed, he would have been shut out of the Olympics until 1992.  No matter, he like Petrovic is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The two, in fact, faced off in a classic Euroleague championship game in 1989. In that contest, Schmidt scored 44 and Petrovic 62.

Just imagine what that 1984-85 Net team would have been like with Schmidt, Michael Ray Richardson, Buck Williams, Darryl Dawkins, Mike Gminski, etc.  Never mind.

Stocking Springfield...Revised

Milton Lee's job as GM of the Armor is going to be lot more difficult if he was taking over during a normal off-season.  The lockout complicates everything.  Even though the D-League will have a full season, playoffs and championship, it won't have its best source of talent: NBA teams "allocating" players. Also, some potential D-Leaguers have already packed up and headed overseas.  Ben Hansbrough, the Notre Dame PG who almost certainly would have gotten a Nets summer league invite, has signed in Germany.  So where will Lee find players?

D-League teams are essentially stocked three ways, with "returning" players, "allocated" players from their NBA parent team and "drafted" players from the D-league Draft. There are also local tryouts as well.  It's very different from the NBA.

Springfield, the D-League's newest team, has lost 80 of its first 100 games. So, the pool of returning Armor players is thin. Under D-League rules, a team retains the rights to players on the roster at season's end, minus those on assignment from an NBA parent team. For the Armor, that's eight players. Of those, Scottie Reynolds and JamesOn Curry are the best, assuming they stay. D-League players make no more than $25,000 a year, a lot less than a good player can make overseas. Reynolds is currently tearing up the Philippines Basketball Association and there's no word if he's coming back.

The Armor can be expected to hold local tryouts as summer turns to fall.  More than 60 players have showed up the  at the Springfield College Field House last two years. They can bring as many as five players to camp. Springfield can also sign local players to promote the team’s identity.

Then, at the beginning of November, the Nets can use their fat scouting files --and extensive video archive-- to help the Armor in the D-League Draft. (Co-located at the PNY Center is Hoops1 Video, a company with one of the most extensive video libraries, foreign as well as domestic, in the world.  Its head, Mitch Kaufman, also serves at the Nets' video coordinator.)

The D-League Draft has none of the pomp and ceremony of the NBA Draft. It is done by conference call and goes for EIGHT rounds. The Armor even let the local paper, the Springfield Republican shoot their "war room".  Although no trades are permitted during the draft, deals can be made that night and then finalized later.  The Armor in fact don't have their own first rounder in this year's draft. They traded it for Reynolds, the Villanova all-American, last November. And no, players taken in the NBA Draft cannot be redrafted by D-League teams even if they haven't signed a contract.

Where do the prospects come from? Flash back to June, right after the draft.  The fifth annual D-League National Tryout was held in Louisville on June 24-26, with Lee and Nets scout Jordan Cohn, who tracks the D-League in attendance. The tryout offers players the opportunity to showcase their talent in front of D-League front office personnel, as well as coaches and representatives from each of the league’s 16 teams. Participants will be competing for the chance to sign an NBA D-League standard player contract and to be placed in the D-League Draft.

Expect the Nets to be heavily involved in the Draft, Billy King said before the lockout.

"We'll have staff that will do it, I don't know if I will be...ultimately I will have final say but I can't see myself guiding it," said King. The Nets' GM explained that in some cases, the Nets used their pre-Draft workouts to look at potential Armor picks. "Some of these guys we brought in to be (training) camp invitees, possibly for a D-League roster," he said after a June workout, calling the Armor option an "added plus" in the search for talent.. "Maybe they're not for our draft, but maybe for the D-League draft...in late October, November."

Could they stock Springfield with Russian ringers?  No, Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside, the SB Nation D-League blog, told us sometime ago.  It's impractible and unlikely.

"Russian players aren't really an option as the D-League is (currently) set up," said Schroeder in an email to NetsDaily.  "I guess they could put the Russian players all in the draft, but it'd probably be difficult to secure their rights. ".  The other alternative he suggested back at the time of the email exchange, bringing them into Nets training camp and then allocating them to Springfield doesn't work now.

Anyone we'd like to see on the Armor roster? How about Brooklyn-born Jamine Peterson, the 6'6", 230 pound forward who was MarShon Brooks' teammate (and housemate) at Providence.  He was thrown off the Friars for helping give Providence recruits a bit too good of a time, but he was probably the best player at the Nets-hosted group workout last spring.

Final Note: Brooklyn NOT in the House...Why Not?

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, we were a bit disappointed at the marketing department this week.  They seemed to have missed a golden opportunity to connect with Brooklyn basketball.  Chris Mullin was inducted Friday evening, the end of a long journey that started in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn and spanned the continent and beyond, as he won an Olympic gold medal with the 1992 Dream Team. He never played with the Nets and he was a Knick fan growing up, but as he said on accepting basketball's greatest honor: "Looking out, I realize I'm a long way from Flatbush Avenue, but Brooklyn's definitely in the house tonight." Why not a congratulatory note on NJNets.com and an ad on a Brooklyn website?  Can't hurt connecting Brooklyn's favorite basketball son with an arena that's being built on the street where he grew up.

As Jay-Z says, "Hello Brooklyn".  To which we add, "HELLLLO?" Maybe there's a way to make up for the missed opportunity by inviting him for a tour of the property just up Flatbush Avenue from where he grew up. He hasn't exactly been respected by the Knicks lately, having been passed over for their GM slot.

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