We're still happy. And getting happier. Why not? It's been a good week. Here's some more good news: The Nets have been chosen as the team NBA TV will follow this season on "The Association," the NBA's version of the NFL's "Hard Knocks." They don't follow losing teams.
Other than that, it's a random version of the Off-Season Report. We thumb through the numbers at the Nets' luxury tax situation going forward; take a look at Toko Shengelia's chances of sticking with the team; do some sleuthing on Mirza Teletovic's first foray into NBA action, two years ago in preseason; ask why no Gerald Green; examine who's likely to get training camp invites; note what happened to all those second round picks.
One other thing: we are now halfway through the off-season, which starts after the last game and ends at training camp. Hang in there!
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.
The Association: Coming Soon to Brooklyn!
On Friday, NBA cameras were seen coming out of the "Green Room" at Borough Hall where Avery Johnson, Billy King, Brooklyn's Backcourt and their families had taken a break from the festivities. League sources say the Brooklyn Nets will be the next team to star in the "The Association," NBA TV's highly successful reality TV show.
NBA TV cameras will follow the Nets around throughout the season from now till the end of the playoffs, in the locker room, on the practice court and running onto the floor at Barclays Center. Here's a typical episode from last season.
Why No Green
Last season, when the Nets wanted to extend him, they had very limited options. Green didn't have Bird Rights and the Nets were over the cap and thus could only offer him the vets minimum over two years. No one was happy with that option so a decision was postponed, amid Green's promises that the Nets would get a discount for the opportunity they had provided him.
In its most simple terms, Nets could have signed him, but decided there were other priorities. By the time those priorities were dealt with, their options to sign him were limited.
They could have signed him out of cap space, but they wanted to preserve as much of that as they could for the big deals they were working. They could have signed him out of their exceptions, but they decided they liked Mirza Teletovic more and gave him the MLE. Then as the demands of bigger deals began to limit their options, they got Teletovic to reduce his salary and abandoned the $2 million Bi-Annual Exception, which they could have used on Green. If they had used more than $3.09 million of the MLE or any of the BAE, they would be faced with a hard cap of $74.2 million. They needed more flexibility.
The alternative was offering Green the vets' minimum plus 20%. That came out to $1.2 million at no more than two years. Loyalty aside, that meant Green had a choice between the Pacers bid of $10 million over three or the Nets of $2.5 million over two. No brainer.
League sources said the Nets tried. They looked for loopholes in the Bird Rights decision that helped the Knicks, but found it didn't apply. Who's to blame? Maybe no one if Teletovic fills his promise. The Nets have reportedly been talking to his European and US agents, Misko Raznatovic and Jeff Schwartz, for more than a year. It will be up to Teletovic to make fans forget that March night when Green delivered the last great dunk in New Jersey. It won't be easy.
Living a Life of Luxury
Noting that this isn't our strong suit, we decided to venture into the land of the cap weenies and figure out how much the Nets are likely to pay for this week's spending spree. It's all back-of-the-envelope math and based on incomplete data, but we hope it's instructive.
The Nets will be over the luxury tax this season, for the first time in six years. It's not even close. Assuming Kris Humphries gets $8 million and Gerald Wallace starts at $9.5 million, the Nets will be at roughly $74.5 million, with only 10 players signed. Even assuming the Nets carry only 14 players (leaving one spot open for flexibility) and use vets minimums and not sign-and-trades to fill out the roster, you're closing in on $80 million in payroll and $10 million in luxury taxes. Mikhail Prokhorov seems willing to pay that.
Of course, those numbers will go up over the next four years. The Nets have four-year commitments to Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Wallace. In 2015-16, those four could make $75 million total, with Johnson and Williams each earning more than $22 million. We don't know how much the rest of the roster might cost or what the luxury tax threshold will be, but assume for arguments sake the threshold is about the same and the Nets wind up with a payroll of $90 million that year, after having stayed over the threshold for at least three of the four previous seasons.
That could result in a luxury tax of nearly $100 million in 2015-16 according to one estimate, Patrick Rishse's in Forbes. Now, a lot will happen in the next four years so this scenario is unlikely (we think). But consider a couple of other factors to mitgate your gasping.
1. This is an investment for Prokhorov. As we've noted (more than once), Prokhorov slapped down $260 million in May 2010 to buy 80% of the team, 45% of Barclays Center and an option (not yet exercised) to buy up to 20% for the overall Atlantic Yards project with its 16 towers of commercial and residential space. Conservatively, he has doubled his investment. If NBA teams in the league's two smallest markets are worth $335 million, without any ownership in an arena, then what's the value of a team that plays in the nation's largest market, not to mention half of a billion dollar arena. Start the bidding at half a billion. Easy.
2. Don't let anyone, particularly Knick fans (and ESPN pundits) compare what the Nets are doing to what Isiah Thomas did with the Knicks. Thomas wasted his owner's cash on busts and crazy people like Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry, Jerome James and Jared Jeffries, not three guys who have been selected to the All-Star Game a total of 10 times, a 24-year-old center who two other teams thought was worth the max, and a guy who has averaged a double-double the last two seasons.
Yeah, they're in cap hell for eternity, but they're also in New York City. They need to make a big splash...now. So for now at least, let the owners and managers worry about the money...and just enjoy the product on the court.
If you waited till the bitter end of the NBA Draft, either at Prudential Center or on ESPN, you were lost about the prospects for Tornike Shengelia. The official Draft Program didn't mention him and when his name was finally called, the ESPN crew seemed mystified. In fact they laughed at Adam Silver's attempt to get his name out. It had barely worked.
Then, Fran Fraschilla, ESPN's international expert, came on and spoke highly of Shengelia, who he noted goes by the name of Toko (which would have made it a lot easier for SIlver if he had known.)
"What you're getting here is a 6'9" scorer really good at attacking the basket with good physicality," said Fraschilla in bullet point style. "Has to work on his jump shot but again, [you're] talking about draft-and-stash with Euro bigs, very solid pick here for Philly. Put him on ice for a couple years. May see him again when he's 23 or 24."
Well, within minutes, everyone know the Nets had purchased his rights. Not long after, his agent, Dave Zucker, had surveyed the Nets roster and figured why not try to get the kid a tryout in summer league. After all, Shengelia had attended the draft, was in New York. Put him on the charter to Orlando, he argued. King agreed.
Shengelia quickly became a favorite not just of Nets' fans, but Rick Kamla and Dennis Scott who raved about his hustle and intelligent game all week. So did Avery Johnson, who admitted he hadn't seen any tape of Toko before the draft.
Will the Nets sign him, invite him to summer camp, buy out his European contract for $300,000? Maybe. A big part of any debate on this starts with the roster math. Is there a place for him once the final signings take place? The Nets have nine players under contract, counting Jerry Stackhouse but not Kris Humphries. Humphries, a back up point guard, back up center and back up wing, all identified as top priorities by Billy King, gets you to 13. We doubt they will go to the full 15 allowed, giving them some flexibility in case of trades.
What about Springfield? You could sent them there for most of the season. Emphasis on the "could." D-League types are not crazy about having a player making many multiples what one of their guys make on the roster. There is also the issue of money (although that hasn't seemed to be an issue this week). Assume the Nets buy out Shengelia's contract for $300,000 and sign him to the league minimum, a little under $500,000. Now add the dollar for dollar luxury tax and the cost comes to $1.3 million.
So what will happen? He may stay or he may head back to Chareroi Spirou, his Euroleague team where he' be monitored just like the Nets have followed Bojan Bogdanovic and now Ilkan Karaman, their 6'10" Turkish prospect taken after Shengelia. Don't expect a decision till later this week, if not later.
Dennis Horner didn't play for the Nets in the summer league, having broken his foot in the D-League National Tryouts a month ago, but he hopes the Nets invite him to preseason camp again in October. He thinks he'll be completely healthy by September.
"It was pretty rough at first," Horner told the Press of Atlantic City. "I was pretty upset. But I'm going to push myself hard to get back to where I need to be. I'm not going to give up on my dreams that I've been working my whole life for because of an injury."
Meanwhile, those who've been around the PNY Center this summer have noticed a familiar face, that of Keith Bogans. He's ahead of Horner in rehab, working out, after recovering from a devastating injury and surgery. He's also likely ahead of him on the road to training camp. If healthy, Bogan is more likely to get a training camp invite than Horner. More vets, fewer diamonds-in-the-rough would seem to be the order of the day in a "win now" strategy.
Things change under that strategy. In the past, the Nets invited undrafted players, former college players who'd spent time in Europe or NBA players looking for a last chance. etc. Last year, it was D-Leaguers as the Nets and every other NBA team scrambled to fill training camp rosters coming out of the lockout. Now, the Nets may be looking more at players like Bogans to fill out the bottom of training camp.
Welcome back, Brook Lopez! It must have been tough on Big Disney this week. He is, as his brother, Chris, told Fred Kerber, a "very proud man." And yet, fans and media, particularly in the basketball backwaters of central Florida, reviled him publicly. Fans of the Orlando Magic wanted nothing to do with him. He was "garbage", "crap", etc. Knick fans laughed at the Nets attempt to get Howard with Lopez, failing to understand how super star trades work (or that in head-to-head competition how Lopez owns Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler.)
We're not going to pile on stats to prove our point, but despite his imperfections, we've always seen Lopez as an asset, or as Deron Williams called him "a great player who is underappreciated." We expect a big season from Brook. The Nets are excited about the possibilities of what Lopez can do underneath with defenses focused on the Nets' perimeter players. Bottom line for us: Anything other than the Most Improved Player will be a disappointment. It would be sweet revenge.