NetsDaily Off-Season Report #24

Last three years, the 24th edition of the Off-Season Report was the final one. Off-Season was over, Pre-Season had begun! Well, this year, we fear the editions could get into the triple digits...if we can find news to fill them.

This week, there's enough, but next week, who knows?  We guess at the Jay-Z announcements; defend Kris Humphries against Keith Langford (who?) and his charges that Hump acted like an "absolute jerk" when he visited Lawrence, KS, at age 17. No, really, that counts as news.

We also take a look at how the Nets accumulation of assets plus an amnesty clause could help them once the lockout ends; sort out Brandan Wright's most recent statements; revise some numbers on the YES deal; investigate why the No. 2 scorer in the NCAA last year is getting no respect from the No. 1 scorer, look at Mikhail Prokhorov's week after; and decide who to cover.

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.

Jay-Z's Surprise

All we know is that Jay-Z will be making "significant announcements" (plural) about The Barclays Center of Brooklyn and the Nets.  Here's some guesses, ranging from likely to crazy.

--The easiest one: ladies and gentleman, your Brooklyn Nets!  Come on, could this have been telegraphed any more blatantly?  BrooklynNets.com is now owned by the NBA and used by the Nets.  "Brooklyn Nets: has been trademarked for years and every rendering of the arena floor shows "Brooklyn Nets" emblazoned on both ends. Brett Yormark has called it the team's "working title", says Bruce Ratner uses it all the time, has for years.

--Also almost a gurantee: Jay-Z will open the Barclays Center on September 28, 2012...Yormark's 45th birthday.  As Jay-Z told YES Network's Chris Shearn back at groundbreaking, "If that don't happen, something's wrong. I'm not doing my job."  Expect the Nets to also announce that LiveNation, who promotes Jay-Z's concerts, has committed to 20 concert dates.

--A little out there: the Nets will show off new uniforms and colors, designed by Jay-Z and Beyonce'.  Only reason we doubt this is that you can get more out of that in a separate marketing event. (If Beyonce' isn;t there, we'll be stunned. She was there at groundbreaking.)

--A little more out there, but not so crazy: the Nets will announce new global sponsors. Yormark said this week that he expects to announce big new sponsors in the next 30 to 40 days, so this is too early.  Still, think PEAK and Chrysler.  We can say no more.

--Too corporate for this kind of event, but possible: the Nets will announce that Jay-Z, in addition to being a "Cultural Icon", has also joined the board of directors. We're told reliably that the Nets have recently installed two new directors, a Russian and an American, to the board. NO ONE will identify who they are, leading us to believe they are going to roll it out. (By the way, "Cultural Icon" seems to be Jay-Z's official title with the Nets. That's how he was referred to at the 2010 groundbreaking as well. This is not by accident. It may be contractual.)

--Crazy talk: a new 40-40 club at the arena! 

--Beyond crazy: the lockout is over!!! Jay-Z solved it!

Defending Hump

We found the excerpt of "Beyond Phog: Untold Stories from Kansas Basketball's Most Dominant Decade," quite amusing.  This is a basketball book for a narrow sliver of the reading public: those college basketball fans literate, sober and patient enough to read an entire book. But by citing Kris Humphries, recently married to Kim Kardashian, publishers wanted to capitalize on his new fame, hoping to expand the readership (to an even smaller sliver: those reality TV fans who can read, period.)

The allegation in the book is this:

Kris Humphries came on a visit and tried to commit. He really wanted to come here. But no one on the team liked Kris Humphries. He was arrogant. He told everyone he was going to come in and be the leading scorer as a freshman and that we'd all have to take a backseat to him. We were trying to be respectful and not say anything. But he was an absolute jerk.

Now here's the reality from Hump's Wikipedia entry:

Coming out of high school, Humphries accepted a scholarship offer to Duke University, but later reconsidered and attended the University of Minnesota instead. At Minnesota, Humphries was named 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and was also named to the All-Big Ten First Team by the media and coaches. He was named Honorable Mention All-America by the Associated Press and by Rivals.com. He was the first freshman to lead the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding in the same season. He scored in double figures in all 29 games, with 16 point/rebound double-doubles on the season for Minnesota. He averaged 21.7 points and 10.1 rebounds (both tops in the Big Ten), while shooting .444 percent from the field and .742 from the line. On February 18, 2004 he set a school record with 36 points at Indiana. He also set a school record for most points by a freshman for a season with 629. He became the first Big Ten freshman to be named conference Player of the Week in two of the first three weeks of the season

So, two things. 1) Although Kansas players thought he was a "jerk", an equally successful coach, Mike Kryzewski of Duke, wanted him badly. However, Humphries decided to stay at home.  2) All he "promised" at Kansas was that he would lead the team in scoring as a freshman.  What he actually did in the Big Ten was lead the conference in scoring and rebounding, the first freshman to do so.  So he backed up his bragging, his supposed arrogance. Moreover, his college coach couldn't have thought he was too much of a jerk. He was at the Kardashian-Humphries nuptials.

The source of the allegation: Keith Langford. Who?

We know that you can grow just about anything in Kansas, but we are not familiar with its viticulture. We do think, however, any grapes grown there must be quite sour.

Asset Accumulation

We've written before about how the Nets are one of three teams with payrolls under $40 million next season (and they're the only one of those teams that also have a bona fide superstar).  They are also one of three teams with two first round picks next June, when the draft should be among the best in NBA history.

They also have other advantages. The Nets have all their first round picks over the next six years. Team can only trade picks that far into the future. Already, 14 teams have traded or agreed to swap first round picks between now and 2016. They also have the Rockets' 2012 pick (lottery protected).

Beyond what talent they can pick up, the Nets can use one of those picks to lower their payroll.  It's easy to imagine that the Rockets' pick (or ever a future Nets first rounder) could be sent, along with Johan Petro and cash to a team looking for a back up center.  In return, all the Nets would want is a lesser pick and/or an expiring contract.

Then, there's the rumored amnesty provision. If it makes its way into the next CBA, and Travis Outlaw is, as expected, waived, the combination of moving Petro and waiving Outlaw would drop the Nets payroll under $30 million, perhaps the lowest in the NBA. Assuming no other deals, the Nets would have eight players --six veterans and two rookies-- under contract next season with only one contract, Deron Williams, paying out more than $4 million. Lots of options there...and some risk. The Nets would have to hope the promise of D-Will (and Brook Lopez) and the allure of the world's most expensive arena would make their job wooing free agents a lot easier.

One reason for all this flexibility with first rounds is that so far, the Nets have been able to get what they wanted by using second round picks, refusing to part with first rounders except to acquire Williams from Utah.

--They traded the Warriors' second rounder in 2011 and the Bulls' second rounder in 2012 to the Lakers to facilitate the deal that brought them Sasha Vujacic, the Lakers' first round pick in 2011 and the Rockets' first round pick in 2012.

--They traded their 2012 second rounder to the Warriors for Brandan Wright in the Troy Murphy deal.

--They traded their 2013 second rounder --and $1.5 million in cash-- to the Timberwolves for the rights to Bojan Bogdanovic

--They traded their 2014 second rounder to the Celtics, along with the 25th pick in the 2011 draft (that Laker pick), for the rights to MarShon Brooks.

They still have a second rounder next year, the Heat pick, that Rod Thorn acquired in the convoluted deal that sent Rafer Alston to Miami and Chris Quinn to New Jersey in 2010.

Wright Stuff

Does Brandan Wright want to be back in a Nets' uniform next season?

Here's what he said to Jonathan Abrams of Grantland.com a couple of days ago.

"It’s hard to say right now," Wright says. "Obviously, we’re in a bad situation with the lockout. But we’ll see how it goes.

Two months ago, he seemed resigned to re-signing.

"There’s a chance I might not go back (to New Jersey), but we don’t know — especially with all the labor stuff," Wright told a local newspaper in July. "Right now it’s looking like I’ll be back there. But you never know. It’s a business. You don’t know what’s going to happen."

Gotta think Nets brass are more interested in another line from the Abrams' interview. "I’m a lot stronger and I basically don’t have any body fat on me," he said. The other stuff sounds like negotiating points. Fans seem to forget the Nets wanted Wright, asking for him in the Troy Murphy deal and as noted above giving up a second round pick to get him. Sign him? Sure if the price is right. It's hard to get too down on a guy who both John Hollinger and Dumpy like..

D12's Favorites

That Dwight Howard interview, unearthed from Russia Today by Elonepb and NetsKing, was shocking on a number of levels. Let's examine a few of them.

--What he could have said. D12 could have been diplomatic and said, "there's so many players on the list" or named obvious suspects: LeBron, Kobe, etc. He didn't. He could have named Andrei Kirilenko, who was right there with him in Moscow. Russian TV would have eaten that up. He didn't.  He could have named at least ONE of his Magic teammates. He didn't.  Or he could have said, "my team in Orlando". He didn't. Howard knew exactly what he was doing, we think.

--Once Elonepb tweeted it, Deron Williams and Anthony Morrow quickly retweeted it.  We don't know if that would count as tampering if there was a CBA in place (probably not), but we found it very interesting that D-Will and Ammo immediately and openly endorsed the idea. 

--The Orlando media --newspapers, TV, blogs-- avoided it. One would think they would have known about it...if they follow us on Twitter as any smart hoops fan does! Of course, there's lot of reasons to ignore it (none of them legitimate) like it was old and he could have changed his mind since then...or you're in denial about how much he wants out of Orlando and other parts of that interview don't exactly overflow with love of the Magic.

And more kudos to Eliot and Brett.

Jimmer and MarShon

Jimmer Fredette is running his rookie exhibition game in Salt Lake City this weekend.  Called "Jimmer's All-Stars" the game features a number of unsigned rookies.  Kawhi Leonard is there, so will Kemba Walker, Malcolm Lee, Nolan Smith, Bismack Biyombo and some players not even drafted. Each will be paid $10,000, according to reports.

Who's not there? MarShon isn't there and no one seems to know why the leading scorer in the NCAA last season didn't invite the second leading scorer.  Most of the players invited were drafted after Brooks or not drafted at all.  So that's not it.  There's no bad blood between them, we're reliably informed. They never played against each other in college or high school. So that's not it.  Someone in Brooks camp thinks he might know.  Something about "broken ankles" during a workout or two before the Draft. The Nets play Fredette's Kings on February 15, if the season isn't canceled.

It's not that Brooks has nothing to do.  He's headed to Portland this weekend to meet with Adidas about sneakers, then back to Providence for class and some recruiting for the Friars. By the way, if the lockout ends before mid-December, Brooks might have to postpone that degree again.  Classes at Providence run till Christmas.

Prokhorov's Week

Mikhail Prokhorov remains a free man without any (visible) scars at the end of a week filled with analysis of his ouster from "Right Cause". It wasn't all bad. His e-mobile car debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show and his Polyus Gold, Russia's top gold producer (the world's sixth), reported a first half net profit of $206.8 million. That's nearly double year-on-year, due to the rise in the price and demand for the precious metal.

Of course, those who rule the Kremlin have memories longer than a week and there were hints of how their response might evolve. In disconcerting news, Kremlin-friendly news columns suggested that as part of his campaign, Prokhorov planned to set up tents in public places across Moscow to replicate the "Orange Revolution" that toppled a pro-Moscow government in Ukraine a few years ago.  That is a big no-no...one that could bring on an investigation.  Seems doubtful Prokhorov would be that in your face.

On Thursday, he also was the subject of a protest outside ONEXIM headquarters in Moscow. There, 100 vendors demanded to be paid for services rendered to him and "Right Cause".  The leader of the group told the Moscow Times, that "the event was unsanctioned", but police did not intervene. Yeah, right. This, too, could lead to an investigation. Meanwhile, Prokhorov is trying to get "Right Cause" to return $26 million to him, money he and his colleagues contributed to the party's coffers. Best of Luck.

The big problem, suggests Business Week, may not be government investigations or threats, but something more subtle and just as effective: promoting an air of uncertainty that could stifle business decisions. Partners will wonder, Will the Kremlin's heavy boot come down on him?

"Potential partners may now shy away from a deal, for fear that Russian authorities could retaliate by snarling Polyus’s projects in red tape," wrote veteran reporter Henry Meyer of Prokhorov's gold company. "The company may also find it more difficult to tap capital markets until the uncertainty surrounding Prokhorov has diminished."

It's already begun. Neither President Dmitry Medvedev nor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have responded to Prokhorov's charge that he was ousted by their aide who he called a "puppet master".  But this weekend he was denied a meeting with Medvedev.  As a long-standing member and very active member of the Kremlin's commission on modernization, Prokhorov would normally be invited, but he was snubbed and will not attend.

There is no greater threat to the Nets' future success than Putin's desire for control...and revenge.

The YES Deal

Someone knowledgeable tells us we misread a Sports Business Journal report on the Nets' deal with YES that we reported a month ago.  We wrote then that the Nets would get an initial bump-up in TV rights to $20 million.  We're told now that the increase is $20 million, which if correct would give the Nets closer to $30 million in TV rights. That's a significant boost considering that that YES had been paying the Nets around $10 million.  In return for that increase, the Nets agreed to extend their deal with the Yankee-owned network for another 10 years, to 2031-32.  An increase after two years of the worst NBA ratings, one third of the next lowest, the Clippers?  Yup.  Both sides think Brooklyn will increase the team's popularity.

Overseas Viewing

Next ten days will be busy for those Nets playing overseas. 

D-Will played his last preseason game Saturday night for Besiktas against Triumph Lyubertsky, a Russian team, scoring 13 in a double overtime loss. Next Thursday, Besiktas opens EuroCup play (one level down from Euroleague) Thursday against Dexia Mons of Belgium in Istanbul. By the way, reports that Zaza Pachulia have proven wrong, but Semih Erden, another seven footer, joined Besiktas this week.

After Saturday's Angers Tournament championship game in France, Farmar's Maccabi Tel Aviv will have some time off before opening night in the Adriatic League next Saturday night.

We're having some difficulty tracking Sundiata Gaines' preseason schedule in Tbilisi, Georgia, but he does have an official player portrait on the team's website. So we assume he's there already, at the other end of the Black Sea from Williams and Bogdanovic.

Bogdanovic's Fenerbahce Ulker has a particularly hectic week, even by European standards.  He joined the team and passed his physical Thursday, the team flew to Russia Friday. In Moscow, they're participating in the Gomelsky Cup on Sunday with a game against Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos. (Can Nets officials in Moscow scout Bogdanovic if they want? Yup. As long as the game is open to everyone, NBA rules permit them to attend. Since the Soviet Coach Alexander Gomelsky was a personal friend of Prokhorov and his father, don't be surprised if they do.)
 
On Monday, Bogdanovic leads his team home to Croatia, for a friendly game with KK Zagreb on Tuesday. The next day, it's on to Munich, Germany, to play a friendly game with Bayern Munich that night. They will return to Istanbul on Thursday to prepare for the Two Nations Cup tournament to take place that weekend. The tournament features Anadolu Efes, Sasha Vujacic's team, as well as Greece's Olympiacos and Panathinaikos.

Final Note...on Coverage

With the conclusion of FIBA Eurobasket and the Impact Basketball League (at least for Jordan Williams), we have to make some decisions on how much coverage to give the multiple of games that stretch out in front of us like the eastern Mediterranean Sea, where three of the Nets and Bogdanovic will be playing. We will try to keep up with D-Will, Jordan Farmar and Sundiata Gaines. They're under contract to the Nets.  We hope to follow Bogdanovic as well, just as we did Mile Ilic and Christian Drejer in 2004-06...but hope for better results.  Sasha? Ben Uzoh? Mario West?  We think we'll have to pass. Their chances of being back are limited, at best.  What about the Armor?  More difficult question.  When Uzoh and Terrence Williams were sent down last season, we gave them coverage.  But if there are no Nets on the Armor roster, what's the level of interest.  Early on, if there are no NBA games, sure.  And if someone on the Armor starts tearing up the D-League, we'll be there.

But no, we definitely won't be covering the French team Petro is investing in...but of course, we wish him and all the former, current and future Nets well, whether we cover them or not.

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