NetsDaily Off-Season Report #7

We look this week at something that Deron Williams said, not trying to parse out what he meant because in this case, it was so direct: his views on Avery Johnson. We also quote Kris Humphries on the same issue.

We also look at another cool thing about Barclays Center: its wireless connectivity; examine a scouting shake-up and introduce the team's psychologist whose skillset is quite important this month; try to figure out who the Nets might eyeing at the end of the Draft's first round and note that you may be forced to do something else next Saturday at this time.

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.

Avery the Coach

There is often carping on these pages about Avery Johnson's coaching. The carping is usually about his substitution patterns which in the grand scheme of coaching are not as important as other aspects, but they are easiest to criticize. You can't ignore them. (The fact that the team lost 255 games to injury, illness and personal reasons adds to its lack of relevancy this past year.) There are certainly other issues, the most prominent being the Nets' atrocious defense. But his relationship with his players? That's a different story.

Twice this week, in unsolicited comments, both Deron Williams and Kris Humphries had kind words for Johnson. It's not uncommon.

"I like Coach Avery Johnson and I like playing for him," Williams told the Los Angeles Times. Considering that D-Will was offering positives and negatives about his choices in free agency, that's a big deal.

"I’m so glad that Coach Avery Johnson gave me the opportunity," Humphries told ESPN. "I learned a lot and I had gotten better every year. I’m looking to continue to do that." Considering Humphries was talking as if he was headed elsewhere, that too gave the comments added credibility.

Other players have said the same thing at one time or another. Jordan Farmar spoke of the Nets and Johnson during the lockout, "They are headed in the right direction and Avery Johnson is a hell of a coach," he said. "I have a lot of confidence the Nets will be very good in the future."

It's hard to recall a negative comment from his players and the Russians have always loved him. Johnson has not been blessed with talent or luck his last couple of years but if Deron Williams likes him, you know he's secure.

The promise of a good signal

Anyone who's spent any time in an NBA arena knows that very often wireless coverage is spotty and the ability to send pictures out of the building to a friend or relative can be very frustrating. Barclays promises a different experience and has configured the arena in a different way to address that.

"Five years ago, nobody was really talking about the apps that people were trying to run in venues; it was more about voice coverage," says Ross Manire, CEO of ExteNet, who Forest City has hired to design and operate the wireless service at the arena. "But, because of the video and pictures and text and e-mail [that] people want to use while they’re at a venue, this has become much more a capacity issue than just coverage. That drives a lot of what we do from a design perspective. We want to make sure that, when you have a stadium that’s full of 19,000 people and they all want to take pictures and send them to their friends, we have the capacity to address that."

The trick is a distributed antenna system, essentially a bunch of small cellular antennas that are mounted on ceilings and walls inside buildings, instead of on huge towers like traditional cellular antennas, as Mobile Sports Network reports.

"We have spent so much time designing this [building,] I don’t want to see one antenna," Chip Foley, director of building technology, Forest City Ratner told Sports Video Group. "They [ended] up using a different kind of antenna, these giant 12-in. panel antennas, which are going to sit above the [drop] ceiling."

Looking to the future, ExteNet Systems hopes to extend the reach of the DAS network to the area surrounding Barclays Center so that even after games, it can be valuable for fans leaving the game and wanting to send out images of that buzzer-beater. Like a lot of other features, it promises to be unique among NBA arenas. Hopefully, that shakeout period between completion and the Jay-Z concert, which will be about three weeks, will be enough to test a lot of the systems.

Draft Sleeper(s) of the Week

Rather than focus on one player this week, we take a look at the bottom third of the first round where the Nets may wind up if their plan to acquire a pick in the late first is successful. Which picks might be available and who's there?

First things first. Which pick might be available. The Celtics have #21 and #22, one of which is reportedly available. The Thunder and Bulls are reportedly willing to sell because they don't think they're going to get rotation players or at least players that will fit into their established rotations. They pick at #28 and #29. Golden State has the #30 pick (as well as the #7).

The bottom of the first round is filled with younger players: Five of the picks between 20 and 30 in a consensus mock draft are teenagers. Youth though is just one of the defining aspects of who they are. While they all have talent, they all have something that keeps them from moving up further. Tony Wroten, the 6'5" point guard from Washington, is seen as immature. Evan Fournier, the 6'7" French guard, is thin. Royce While, the 6'8" forward from Iowa State, has anxiety disorder that might prevent him from flying! Marquis Teague, the 6'2" Kentucky PG who the Nets interviewed in Chicago, is inconsistent. Fab Melo, the Syracuse seven-footer, has motor issues. People like Andrew Nicholson, the 6'9" St. Bonaventure forward, is a black hole. (He, too, is an international player, coming from the newest basketball hotbed, the Canadian province of Ontario.)

Who's the best bet for the Nets? They do like Fournier and Teague so that's one indicator, but who knows who else they like? We don't. White and Wroten have a lot of talent. One thing about Fournier and Teague, though. Both have the look of a player who will move up the mock drafts at the last minute as executives focus what they can do and put aside what they can't do. Both are 19 years old with a lot to offer.

How will they acquire player(s)? Look for them to use the $3 million in cash they have available through June 30. But also don't be surprised if they trade a player on the roster for a pick, which would free up cap space. Of course, they will have the Rockets pick in 2013, still lottery protected.

Music for Mirza

We don't know why we like this video of Mirza Teletovic's Euroleague highlights more for what it shows about his skillset or the music, which is quite heroic.

And for those who think that he may not be "tough" enough, note his comment when asked about playoff pressure recently. Loosely translated, the native of Mostar, Bosnia, said, "I survived three years of war. I can survive this." Indeed, Mostar (also the home of Bojan Bogdanovic) was heavily bombed and shelled from 1992 through 1995, when Teletovic was between the ages of six and nine.

Scouting shake-up

Every week or so, we check the front office directory on the Nets official site to see who's coming and who's going, who got a promotion. This week we noted that the Nets scouting staff has undergone a shake-up.

Out are Sam Mitchell, who was basically playing out the string of his contract; Jordan Cohn, who did a lot of the D-League scouting and Maury Hanks, who had been chief scout. Hanks, longtime fans may recall, was the scout who pushed for Brook Lopez in 2010, when others wanted his brother Robin or Jerryd Bayless. We don't know why Hanks is gone but we do wish him well.

No new scouts have been added. Ten seemed a bit much. He did notice that Frank Zanin, who worked with Billy King in Philadephia and came with him to New Jersey, is now Director of Player Procurement. We're told his duties will be explained at a later date.

Dr. Hickman's flags

Dr. Sara A. Hickman is the Nets team psychologist. She has a great reputation as a sports psychologist, having worked for years for the NFL, managing the NFL's Career Transition program as well as coordinating the Players Assistance and Personal Conduct programs. For the first time this week, the Nets publicly identified her.

Over the past couple of years, the Nets have come to rely on her for help in preventing the team from drafting knuckleheads or others with anti-social habits as they did in the past. (Memo to Dr. Hickman: if the Nets want to draft someone named Williams, stop them!) Word is that she will, after meeting with a player and reviewing his personality tests, offer a detailed assessment and plant a red, orange or green flag on their file. We've been told her red flags don't get ignored, that the Nets record of drafting immature players is too fresh in everyone's minds.

Final Note

We don't know if there will be an Off-Season Report next week. It won't be because there won't be enough news. With Gerald Wallace's contract running out on Wednesday, we expect a an update there. Plus individual workouts are about to start. It's just that we (well, one of us) will be on vacation in the Caribbean, far, far away and uncertain of whether there will be internet service at our hotel and whether we will be motivated. Considering that this site has been updated from Riyadh, Beijing, Rome, Istanbul, Honolulu, and Tehran, anything is possible. You'll know at 5 p.m. Saturday or thereabouts, mon.

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