NetsDaily Off-Season Report #23

While there's never a lack of news with Mikhail Prokhorov, Jay-Z, Kris Humphries Kardashian and the Williams family of Istanbul, this week's report is a bit short because of much of the news has been out already. So we add what he can in terms of analysis.

So here's this week's agenda: Is it better for the Nets that the entire season is cancelled? Why Bob MacKinnon? What did we learn in a Barclays Center tour? Will the Nets take a deep look at Team Russia? And speaking of Russia, what's going to happen with Prokhorov? What's the latest?  So come on up for the rising.

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 of course, 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.

Deron Williams and the Lost Season...Likely a Horror Movie

A number of fans hope the NBA season is canceled, all of it.  It's all so simple. Deron Williams returns from Turkey and the Nets are on Brooklyn's doorstep. He instantly signs. Dwight Howard is a free agent and just itching to join him on a super team. Oh yeah, the Nets get a high draft pick in the draft if, as the NHL did, the NBA bases draft order on team records over the last four years. There may even be an amnesty clause that would permit the Nets to dump Travis Outlaw.  Yippee!  Instant championship!

That's not how the front office sees it.  They want D-Will to get to know the franchise. They want to show him what they can do for him in free agency and trades now, not have to wait a year. They aren't banking on D12...or a high pick or amnesty. They want to build a team, not have one drop in their laps. Why? Because that rarely if ever happens. Teams rebuild methodically. As NBADraft.net's Seth Sommerfeld wrote Friday, "That means he might not have much time to really feel connected to the franchise and the team won’t have a full season to sell Williams on their changing team culture".

Also, a year abroad could be life-changing for D-Will and his family, almost certainly will be. No one can predict what how it will affect him.  Maybe he'll want to be closer to home, aka Dallas, after being so far away. Maybe he will become more cosmopolitan and embrace the idea of New York more. Maybe it will be all about sun.  No one can predict it and it's just one more reason the Nets would like the lockout to end yesterday.

Springfield Rising

The choice of Bob MacKinnon as Armor coach was indeed interesting.  All along, we figured it would a young assistant coach from a NBA club, someone with developmental responsibilities like Shaun Respert of the Bucks.  Instead, the Nets (Milton Lee) chose 50-year-old MacKinnon who not only has a D-League championship ring from the 2009 Colorado 14ers but has a solid record of call-ups while there and with the Stampede.  He also worked for four years before the D-League with the Lakers as a scout and associate director of summer camps...and has 29 years of coaching at all levels, other than the NBA. 

The Nets wanted him in place before the D-League National Tryouts this week.  It's part of the D-League roster stocking process that ends with the D-League Draft the first week of November. 

MacKinnon, like his father before him, becomes a Nets employee, as will the Armor assistant(s) he will hire and the team trainer.  Maybe that person will be younger.  We'll also be interested to see if the Nets fill both their coaching vacancies on the Big Team.  Larry Krystkowiak and John Loyer have left.  It looks pretty much like a lock that P.J. Carlesimo will be hired to replace one of them, but will the Nets replace both...and a third if Sam Mitchell decides to pursue other opportunities. Avery Johnson has said his ideal bench is three assistants on the front row and three on back but didn't commit to that number. As for that breakdown, it looks like the three on the front row will be Carlesimo will be the lead assistant with Mitchell moving into Krystkowiak's slot.

Barclays Rising

Every three months or so, Barry Baum, Barclays Center's senior v.p. for communications, invites us out to the arena to see what progress has been made.  As we noted in our story on this week's visit, it was like a train station (inside joke) with all the comings and goings. Got to meet all sorts of people.

So, we picked up a few bits and pieces about the arena and the team that we thought we'd share. We ain't saying who told us what. The suspects are usual.

--With Mikhail Prokhorov heavily invested in his political career, Christophe Charlier, chairman of the Nets' board, has been filling in for him at the NBA Board of Governors' meetings.  Charlier, a French-born, US-educated banker, has been chairman since Prokhorov bought the team and by all reports loves the job.  Where does he fit along the owners' spectrum, from hardliners Bob Sarver (Suns) and Dan Gilbert (Cavaliers) to Jerry Buss (Lakers) and James Dolan (Knicks)?  We don't know, but analysts think the Nets lean toward the Busses and Dolans' position.

--The locker room, whose design Milton Lee oversaw, "looks terrific" we re told, and has met the front office's expectations, which per Prokhorov's priorities, are quite high.

--The SHoP design for Atlantic Yards first apartment tower, 33 stories at the southeast corner of the arena, will be unveiled in two months with groundbreaking likely at year's end or early next year. The other planned apartment towers, 52 and 22 stories, will follow. What that means for fans is that the area around the arena will likely be a construction zone for years to come. Shades of IZOD and Xanadu!  The arena will be focus of the other architecture, said one of the SHoP architects: "In the Gehry plan, the arena was the void. In our plan, it is the object".

--Nets players will have underground parking with an entrance capable of handling any Escalade.  In both the Meadowlands and IZOD, parking was outside. The arena will also have TV truck parking with a giant turntable to move them quickly.

--The street view into the practice court will be very limited, offering just a sliver of action from Atlantic Avenue.  Inside the arena, however, there will be access from a variety of venues, including the main entrance and lounges. 

--The arena will have retail spaces along the periphery of the arena, but apparently only one of them, the Nets' team store, will be accessible from both street and arena. 

--The Nets are in serious talks with a big corporate sponsor whose name everyone will recognize.

--Mikhail Prokhorov's suite will be twice the size of other suites and will be at half court.  The view is GREAT.

--Even with the arena a month ahead of schedule, the work at Barclays goes on round the clock on some weekdays.

--Machavelle, the first of the new bars near the arena, offers $4 Jamesons for happy hour, and $1 sliders.

All that said, the Nets still have some challenges at the arena.  Only 56 percent of "forecasted contractually obligated revenues" for the arena are currently under contract. That includes naming rights, sponsorships, suite licenses, Nets minimum rent, and food concession agreements. Only about half the 104 suites are sold. Earlier last week, Mike Ozanian of Forbes and FOX Business Channel tweeted, "Nets say they will not have contracts for all contractually obligated revenue when Brooklyn arena opens 9-12. Say will have 'most sold'." The lockout can't be helping. 

CSKA Rising

Back when Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Nets, we did a lengthy (aka too long) analysis of the players that Prokhorov's people had assembled while he owned CSKA Moscow...and who among them might help the oligarch's new team.  Sergey Kushchenko had put those teams together, discovered a lot of those players, and now is on the Nets' board of directors. So, will any of them show up in New Jersey or Brooklyn? Will the Nets be dealing with the "CSKA temptation", as we called it?

Fans and the team's scouts have seen a lot of them recently. Many CSKA players are part of Team Russia. Although they lost Friday to France (their first in Eurobasket play), Russia has some decent prospects, starting of course with Andrei Kirilenko who coach David Blatt let roam free. AK-47 dominated most of the games with his multiple skills. Because of his friendship with Prokhorov has to be included in the free agent mix this summer.  Also, Alexei Shved, CSKA's youthful point guard, looks like he is finally fulfilling his promise. At 6'6", 6'7", he has better NBA point guard height if not weight.  He's also brought his game under control.

Gregg Polinsky, the Nets chief scout, and his international chief, Danko Cvjeticanin, spent a lot of time at Eurobasket and even Avery Johnson took in a few games, as we suspect did as well.

In a NetsDaily email interview with Kushchenko after he was named a Nets director, Prokhorov's sports adviser wrote that indeed he knows European players while simultaneously saying it's all about talent, not ethnicity.

As far as  having European ownership is concerned, I think it does give our team a bit of a broader view.  We know these players well, as well as the team management.  But the NBA rules are strict, and designed to create a level playing field for all the teams. Also, Mikhail has said many times, and I fully agree with him, that we are not looking to bring Europeans, including Russians, into the Nets as a goal in itself.  To build a winning franchise, you have to have only one goal in mind:  to get the best possible people, no matter where they are.

Do we know the Nets are interested in any of Team Russia's roster? Other than AK-47, we plead ignorance...but Avery Johnson did say after his side trip to FIBA Eurobasket, he's going to be doing more Euroleague scouting in the future. That's where CSKA plays.

Final Note

Just before we posted the Off-Season Report, we received the official translation of Mikhail Prokhorov's blog item, the latest word on how he's feeling, what he's thinking.  Here it is.

Hi, all!
 
I think everyone is aware of what happened.  I left the Right Cause project.  All of those who joined the project with me have also left.  More than enough has been said already about it all.  I don't want to add anything.  What's been said has been said, what has been done, done.
 
I have learned a lot in the last few days.  Despite my 20 years in business, I still had some illusions, strangely enough.  Yesterday, I lost them.  And that's actually a good thing.
 
I've come to understand that, to be a successful politician, one needs to learn to do many things, including how to reject one's principles and one's responsibilities with ease.  But I'm not certain I want to learn to do these things.
 
I have no personal conflict with anyone in terms of what has happened. despite some personal references.  Usually, people say "nothing personal, just business" in such instances.  At its heart, this was a conflict of ideologies, of paradigms of development.  At this historic stage, conservatism has won.  I am for change.  The system isn't ready.
 
For now, I am unclear as to what will happen next.  I already know there will be an attempt to create problems for me and those who support me, at least in the media.  They will try to sling mud, harshly and without compromise.  I am ready for this.  In all likelihood, I won't be commenting on it.  All of you are smart enough to know what is what.
 
To all those who have supported us and who continue to support us - thank you!  I have read your comments and am very touched.
 
P.S.   While we're on the subject, a note to journalists and editors who have become my friends over these many years throughout my business career:  Believe me, today I, as never before, understand the situation you are in, and I won't take offense :+).

So wither Mikhail Prokhorov?  While he blogged "Game Over" early Saturday, he was taking questions from several THOUSAND students at a concert hall outside Moscow Saturday night!  He wasn't backing down and his audience expressed their appreciation to him, with one telling him, "If there's any chance for you not to leave politics, please stay. No one else is representing our interests." That got big applause. As anyone who's ever been around politicians, American or otherwise, can tell you, that's pretty intoxicating stuff...but it's also not realistic. Moscow college students are not the Russian electorate, which is mostly rural and undereducated. And oligarchs are among the most despised men in Russia. Prokhorov may be the best liked, but he is still an imperiously rich man amid poverty in a country a single generation removed from Marxism.

Prokhorov has been advised to leave the political stage by friends.  Others have encouraged him to go all in. He admits in his blog post, "I already know there will be an attempt to create problems for me and those who support me, at least in the media.  They will try to sling mud, harshly and without compromise.  I am ready for this."  Indeed, there is no doubt he is risking it all...including the Nets which is after all his most visible asset.  He lost CSKA when politicians forced him to sell his interest in Norilsk Nickel, of which CSKA was a subsidiary.  It could happen again.

Bottom line, while we applaud what he is doing on a macro scale, we wonder what will have on a micro scale, that is, the Nets.

FYI, Prokhorov has set up a YouTube account. The first video listed (in Russian) shows the madhouse around him the night he was dumped as leader of "Right Cause".  The woman seen with Prokhorov is Alla Pugacheva, the leading songstress of the Soviet era who is still revered (and whose life-saving treatment Prokhorov paid for last year).  She has no equivalent in US pop culture.

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