We will be a month into the off-season this week, with one milestone (draft order) out of the way and the next big defining event, the Draft Lottery 10 days down the road. It should be a fun affair, assuming that the NBA and ABC project results on the screen outside ABC's Times Square Studios. If so, there will be viewing opportunities on the Square.
Of course, the draft will dominate the next few weeks, along with free agent rumors and whatever Brooklyn roll-outs Brett Yormark has planned. One thing we noticed recently: While we've seen a lot of renderings and some construction progress photos, there's a lot we haven't seen, like renderings of the practice court, the Nets' locker room and the Transit Connection. So, in that spirit, we look for --and find-- the model for the Barclays Center practice court and take an in-depth look this week at the short and long term prospects for mass transit to and from Barclays Center.
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.
Free Agency Begins Monday
The Nets will ave 20 free agents in this week. Other than a few D-Leaguers who had cup of coffee in the NBA this season, most played overseas or in the D-League last season. As we've noted in the news columns, there will be five former first round picks, four of them lottery, among the 20. Add some D-Leaguers who we've identified and we think we know the identities of all but eight of them. We expect a list on Monday.
What we haven't laid out is a competitive advantage the Nets have in bringing free agents like the vets at mini-camp or prospects from the combine who don't get drafted: money. The Nets haven't talked about their plans but if they follow what they did two years ago (before the lockout), they may be willing to offer those those like partial guarantees.
In 2010, they paid out more than three quarters of a million dollars in partial guarantees to get the players they wanted, something they hadn't done in five years and back then it was only $25,000 (to Robert Hite).
Undrafted rookies Brian Zoubek and Ben Uzoh got $50,000 and $35,000 each; Sean May who was later injured got $100,000 and Stephen Graham got $450,000. If they didn't make the team, they got to keep the money. Uzoh and Graham ultimately made the team, and although they didn't produce much, it's an indication of what the Nets might do this year, with a much broader and more experienced base to work with. Maybe they won't, or won't need to. Partial guarantees go against the cap and even though they are small, cap space may be precious. Of course, there's no need to pay players like these upfront in the free agent process.(The money does not count against the $3 million annual limite
Trying to get a read on Bogdanovic
It does appear that Bogdanovic wants to come over sooner rather than later and that King did indeed have a good meeting with the 6'8" swingman. However, there are two issues: 1) will Fenerbahce let him go? and 2) how will they pay him?
Bogdanovic's contract does not have an NBA "out" until next summer and so Fener will have to let him go. (Maybe a Nets exhibition game at Fener's new arena would do the trick?)
We're told the bigger question for the Nets is how to fit Bogdanovic under the salary cap. As a second rounder, he can negotiate his own deal under the salary cap. How much are the Nets willing to pay him when they obviously have higher priorities and if things go well, two very good players at his best position, Gerald Wallace and Gerald Green. We think it may be another year before Bogdanovic arrives. Problem is that he will be 24 then.
The Practice Court
We've seen a couple of pictures of construction at the Nets practice court at Barclays Center, even looked down at it on a tour of the construction site last year. But no renderings have been released. We do have a rough idea of what it will look like because the same architect who designed the Nets court also designed one for the Pacers at Bankers Life Arena. In fact, we're starting to think they're exact duplicates.
First take a look at the latest image of the Nets court from last month. Here's another view. Notice the brick work. Now take a look at the pictures from a 2004 story on NBA.com on the "Pacers’ Perfect Practice Court." Notice the brick work. The same.
How about some other features of the Pacers' court. Visible from the street? Check. Visible from clubs near the arena interior? Check. Tight quarters? Check. Benches slotted into a niche next to the basket. Check, check, check. Not that there's anything wrong with that. We like the Pacers court and hope that the Nets will incorporate some of the old-school design elements like the scoreboard and roster board (which we note is in black-and-white).
That article reported that Pacers wanted to replicate the "feel" of an old Indiana high school court. "This gives the Pacers both a strong sense of hoops tradition in the basketball-rich state, and a comfortable throwback gym in which to practice," said the NBA.com article. We hope the Nets will want to do the same with the hoops tradition in the basketball-rich city where they will play.
And yes, at some point, we'd love to see a rendering of what it looks like. (It should be noted that the arena practice court is really suited for shootarounds, that the Nets will continue to train at the PNY Center in East Rutherford at least through next season. We haven't heard anything to dissuade us from the belief that he Nets will eventually build a new state-of-the-art facility somewhere in the metropolitan area.)
Draft Sleeper of the Week
Until we know if and where the Nets pick in the lottery (we predict #3), we are going with players available late in the draft.
One of the players who's working out Sunday in East Rutherford is Robert Sacre, a 7-footer from Gonzaga who may be a deep slepper. Sacre is a cerebral type so he will get along with Brook Lopez. He's also a player with a positive personality.
"There's never a bad practice with Robert," Gonzaga assistant coach Ray Giacoletti told NBA.com. "There's never a bad day. I was around him for five years and I just don't remember it."
On the court, he's about defense, being named West Coast Conference defensive player of the year and a first-team all-conference pick. On offense, he's respectable with a jump hook and a great stroke from the free throw line. His biggest deficiency is rebounding (sound familiar?).
His personality, evident in an interview with HoopsHype, and his physical features (7'0", 247 pounds, six percent body fat) make for an intriguing prospect. Nets did well taking Brian Scalabine, didn't they? Sacre sounds like the same kind of guy.
There's also some revisionist history out there on the Draft in general: a number of people, including superagent David Falk, now seem to be saying this year's version is 1) top heavy and 2) even in talent from #2 through at least #6 and perhaps deeper. That's reflected in some of the mock drafts where after Anthony Davis, the pieces seem interchangeable from week to week. More pressure on the Nets to win the lottery.
In Transit, Gloria
There will be meeting in Brooklyn Tuesday night where Forest City Ratner will lay out its most realistic transportation plans for Barclays Center. It's mostly about Brooklyn residents' concerns about congestion in an already congested area, but will be a big deal for Nets fans, particularly those beyond New York City subway range.
What you can expect is a number of incentives (and disincentives) aimed at keeping cars off the street and fans on subways, buses and the Long Island Railroad. The Ranter consultant, Sam Schwartz, has already noted that massive changes in fans transportation preferences are possible.
In the case of the Mets, he has pointed out that nearly half the fans attending Mets games arrive at CitiField. That's nearly double what it was at Shea Stadium. He credits the change to a combination of a reduction of available parking spaces, introduction of super express subway trains after the game, increased LIRR service to the station near the stadium and an extensive transit marketing campaign. We've already seen the LIRR announce it will increase its service to the new Atlantic Terminal Station a block away.
In the case of the Devils and their move from the Meadowlands to the Prudential Center, the percentage of fans using mass transit jumped from five per cent to 42 per cent. Part of that success, Schwartz notes, was increased police presence along streets between the arena and Penn Station, as well as real-time NJ Transit train information posted on video screens after games.
Local residents complain the plan while that is all well and good, the final plan is late and that there is now little time to enact changes needed to make Barclays more accessible, fearing that the first year of operations could be an experiment. Fair enough, but in line with that concern, there's a number of MTA improvements being made in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn that should make things better.
Just as Barclays Center is rising in Brooklyn, a new transportation complex is rising in Lower Manhattan that will make moving from New 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. 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, including the nine 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 a 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 later this year.
Once, it's all 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.)
Beyond the nine lines that will link directly to the arena's Transit Connection, the G and C lines are two blocks away. Similarly, an MTA improvement project should speed trains on those two lines. And as noted, the opening of the new LIRR station at Atlantic Terminal in late 2010 was hailed as the first element of Atlantic Yards.
We try hard to find even the most remote sources of Nets news, using some skills and sources of our own and relying on our far-flung community of fans, like Siberia's RussianNets, to help out. It was such a combination last week that helped us learn that Deron Williams was headed from Turkey to Moscow on "vacation" with the Kirilenkos. Big news, we thought, and so we published it, exclusively. We feel we didn't get ample credit on that in some quarters, with follow-ups not noting the origin of what is an important story.
It wasn't the only time last week that happened. A relatively minor story on Barclays Center got picked up the next day as an exclusive. Considering how we learned about the story, we found it difficult to believe the reporter in question hadn't seen our story (or perhaps, it's possible someone having seen our story gave to the reporter as an "exclusive" without credit...whatever.) There are other examples, but we're not going to name names. We'd just like credit where credit is due. We link to every story we can find, giving full credit, by name, to the reporter or writer. We'd like some reciprocity. That's all. (Shout out to Hoopshype for crediting us on the Moscow story.)