Mikhail Prokhorov dreams of making the Nets a global franchise, with Brooklyn's international image at the heart of his plan. But he also could use some international players to help that plan along. The Nets have only one international player, Johan Petro and he's marginal at best.
But over the past few weeks, the Nets have been linked to a number of top-flight European (and one Central Asian) players. In each case, media reports have listed the Nets as the player's top choice or top two or three choice. With so much of the reporting scattered and from foreign language sports sites, we decided to summarize who's been linked to Brooklyn, what positions they play and the Nets' chances of getting them.
Ersan Ilyasova: 6'10" PF, 25 years old (?), Milwaukee Bucks. Apparently, the Nets top free agent target this summer. The Nets and Cavaliers are viewed at the top contenders for the 6'10" Turk who finished second in the Most Improved Player balloting. The market starts at $8 million per. Don't be surprised to see the Bucks make a bid. They can add an extra year, but are cash-strapped. Born in Soviet Central Asia (Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, your choice), he is now a citizen of Turkey, on whose national team he plays. He is seeking U.S. citizenship as well.
Andrei Kirilenko: 6'9" SF, 31 years old. CSKA Moscow. The most experienced and multi-talented player on the Nets' radar. AK-47 was rumored to be a Nets target after the lockout ended, but the Nets had to use the $11 million they earmarked for him to take on Mehmet Okur once Brook Lopez went down. Kirilenko has told a Moscow writer that the Nets and his old team, the Jazz, are his "top priorities" but he could still return to CSKA. Hosted Deron Williams on his Moscow vacation. A dual citizen of Russia and the U.S., he plays for Team Russia.
Bojan Bogdanovic: 6'8" SF/SG, 23 years old, Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, Turkey. Already a Nets property, taken at #31 in last year's draft. Described then as potentially a "steal of the draft" by Chad Ford. He wants to play for the Nets. Billy King has described him as "anxious" to do so. Chief International Scout Danko Cvjeticanin has told Croatian sports site he "needs" to be in Nets training camp. Problem is he has no buyout clause in his contract (which pays about $1.5 million) until next summer, so it will have to be re-negotiated. No word on where that stands. A member of the Croatian National Team.
Mirza Teletovic: 6'9", PF, 26 years old, Caja Laboral, Vitoria, Spain. Perhaps the most interesting story of the group. Some may call him the best player in Europe, but Teletovic is not on the same level as Kirilenko, who was the best player in Europe. Still, he has real offensive skills, with great athleticism, sophisticated post moves and a consistent three point shot...with a career mark of 40% from downtown. He and the Nets have mutual interest but after his buyout agreement Wednesday, expect him to get other inquiries. Beyond the Nets, there's rumored interest from the Cavaliers, Suns, Knicks and Timberwolves. Born in Mostar, Bosnia, as was Bogdanovic (and Zoran Planinic), He is a member of the Bosnia National Team.
Carlos Cabezas: 6'2" PG, 31 years old, CAI Zaragoza, Spain. A veteran of European play, Cabezas is coming to the US later this month for tryouts with the Nets, Knicks and Grizzlies. A heady point guard on the downside of his career, Cabezas could fit as a third point guard behind Deron Williams (hopefully) and Jordan Farmar (apparently). A smart player, his nickname is "The Brain." He wins...a lot. He was part of Spain's World Championship team in 2006, and the Spanish League championship team that same year. He also played for Spain's gold medal winning the FIBA European championship. A teammate of the Gasol brothers, Ricky Rubio and Jose Calderon.
Evan Fournier: 6'7" SG, 19 years old, Poitiers Basket, Poitiers, France. Fournier is in this year's draft and the Nets like him. How much they like him and how they could get him with only the #57 pick are questions still to be resolved. Cvjeticanin reportedly scouted him three times. The Rockets are known to like him as well, with GM Daryl Morey taking in at least one of his games. Morey has two picks in the mid-teens. The Nets would have to acquire a pick. Fournier was expected at the Nets Combine last month but hurt his ankle in his last French League game. He's still recuperating.
There is no way all of thse players wind up on the Nets. It would appear that Ilyasova and Kirilenko are the most likely choices with Bogdanovic's fate in the hands of Fenerbahce Ulker. None of the free agents --Ilyasova, Kirilenko or Teletovic-- can sign until July 11. By then, the Nets situation with Williams, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez should be resolved and the Nets will know how much they have to spend.