Billy King was rehabbing after meniscus surgery this past week. Bobby Marks took his family on vacation. Neither left their cell phones at home, we'd venture. Still, with 13 players under contract and Nazr Mohammed and Andrei Kirilenko deciding to go elsewhere, it looks like a natural break in the free agent action.
We look at who's left and whether it's smarter to wait till training camp. We also talk about the historical value of paying out big bucks in contracts, update Bojan Bogdanovic's status, provide some new highlights of Toko Shengelia, count the Nets connections in the Olympics opening ceremonies and warn that the idea of driving to the games just got more problematic. We also offer our take on Nets vs. Knicks.
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.
What's Next, or Who's Next?
Billy King told Fred Kerber this week that the Nets are "pretty much done." That's not "done, done," just "pretty much done." It's apparently time to "digest" and "assess" what's been done so far, then make decisions on whether to sign a back-up center and/or small forward now or wait until training camp.
It would seem that another big, not necessarily a center, remains the priority. King said in his FOX Sports Radio interview last weekend that he wants to start the season with "five bigs." The hope was that Nazr Mohammed would be that fifth big. Didn't happen that way, surprising the Nets. Since then, three available bigs have either signed or committed to other teams: Aaron Gray signed in Toronto; Hamed Haddadi recommitted to Memphis and Ronny Turiaf has agreed to sign with the L.A. Clippers. Of course, Andrei Kirilenko, who can play PF, signed with Minnesota. So the cupboard is increasingly bare. The Nets have said that in a pinch, Kris Humphries, Mirza Teletovic and Reggie Evans can fill in. But we think they want more insurance than that. The questions are who and how.
Among the big men left are two whose personalities are not what the Nets are looking for: Darko Milicic, whose big problem has to do with locker room chemistry; and Chris Anderson, the Birdman, who has had some legal issues trailing him this summer. He also didn't play very well last season. There are two former Nets out there still looking for work: Kenyon Martin and Yi Jianlian. We have no idea whether the Nets have interest in either. By signing-and-trading for Reggie Evans early on, the Nets may have signaled a lack of interest in KMart. As for Yi, that experiment failed the first time. He has offers from Europe, but wants another chance at the NBA. We assume scouts will be watching him in London. Neither KMart nor Yi are centers.
As for small forwards,Matt Barnes is still out there. So is Carlos Delfino, but one would think they'd want more than the vets minimum. C.J. Miles, Deron Williams pal at Utah, is a restricted free agent. Damion James is not out of the picture either. If his foot is healed, the kid can play defense and rebound.
The Nets could just wait till training camp to decide on the 14th and 15th men. Al Thornton played well in Orlando. Jeff Foote showed some promise there, but he's still a work in progress. You'd assume both players will get camp invites. In the past, the Nets have brought in as many as 20 players. Still, if the Nets were really interested, you'd think they would have offered Thornton and Foote partial guarantees on vets minimum deals. They did that two years ago. Doesn't seem like they want to do that with them.
So, there are possibilities. The Killer B's don't seem overly concerned. It was disappointing for them to miss out on Mohammed. Chances of getting Kirilenko were always low. But losing out on Gray, Haddadi and Turiaf didn't cause the smallest of cringes. We have confidence things will work out. They have for the most part.
We were a tiny bit surprised to find that the Nets didn't pay a dime in luxury taxes during the Bruce Ratner era. We knew all about the penny-pinching that went on as the Nets sank deeper in debt as the team's move to Brooklyn kept getting delayed. But there had been reports that the Nets had paid a small amount in taxes. According to Mark Deeks' authoritative accounting, that was not the case. Now, the Nets are going to pay a lot in luxury taxes, and happily so.
After we wrote about Deeks' data, we got a text from inside PNY Center. It noted that eight of the last nine NBA champions paid the tax as did 13 out of the 18 teams who made the Finals in those years. "Got to spend to win," is the message. Indeed.
Who's the NBA championship team that didn't pay luxury taxes the year they won it all? Surprisingly, the Miami Heat in 2005-06. What championship team spent the most? The 2009-10 Lakers paid out $21.4 million. What team spent the most and got bupkis? Too easy. The New York Knicks paid out $45 million in luxury taxes to win 23 games in 2005-06. That's the second highest luxury tax bill ever, according to Deeks. The Trail Blazers paid out $52 million in 2002-03 for a first round exit.
One trend very evident in Deeks' data: teams are less and less willing to pay the tax. The Nets' bill, which is likely to reach $12 million will among the top two or three this season.
There was a flurry of tweets Saturday morning that Fenerbahce, Bojan Bogdanovic's Turkish team, was willing to part with the 6'8" swingman for cash. Both F.C. Barcelona and Besiktas, Deron Williams old team, were supposedly interested. Word is that Fener's new coach, Simone Pianigiani, is not enamored with Bogdanovic as his first option and was willing to part with him for the right price.
However, just as fast as the rumor arose, it was shot down. Ismail Senol, Turkey's top basketball writer, said that while there may have been talks, they became "too difficult" and Fener has decided to keep Bogdanovic.
The Nets want Bogdanovic and as a 6'8" swingman, he could fill the back-up spot behind Gerald Wallace. If Fener had decided to sell his contract, that isn't likely to improve their chances. Barcelona would take on Bogdanovic's contract, which has no buyout provision until next summer. So it appears he's still stuck. Fener didn't appear ready to renegotiate his contract with the Nets last month and the Nets might have a problem getting him to sign. All they could give him at this point is the minimum, less than a half million dollars. He makes about three times that in Europe.
Shengelia Highlight Reel
We just saw this highlight reel a couple of days ago. It's a compilation of Tornike Shengelia's best moments at the Adidas EuroCamp just before the draft. What impresses is Shengelia's post moves, passing and BBIQ. What's missing is any video of his jumper, which reportedly is why he fell into the 50's. His jumper didn't seem that bad in Orlando. So we'll see. In the meantime, enjoy and remember, he's 6'9.5", according to official measurements at the NBA-sanctioned camp. Not a lot of 6'9" 20-year-olds can do what he does.
Jay-Z Rocks Olympics
As Gary Sussman tweeted after the conclusion of NBC's Olympic coverage, the Nets were well represented at the opening ceremonies. Deron Williams was seen in the Parade of Nations snapping pictures (with an iPhone?); one ex-Net, Yi Jianlian, carried the flag quite proudly for China; the fiance' of another ex-Net, Maria Sharapova, did the honors for Russia, and in the recurring Budweiser commercial, a team owner, Jay-Z, was seen wearing a leather "Brooklyn Nets" cap...just as he was heard saying, "we're living out our creed." Nice.
First arena apartment tower underway soon?
In addition to putting the finishing touches on the arena, workers are also beginning to lay the foundation for the next big project at Atlantic Yards, "Building 2", a 33-story apartment tower at the southeast corner of Barclays Center. The pre-fab tower would be the first of three, the others 22 and 52 stories, at the rear of the arena.
Bruce Ratner's construction chief Bob Sanna told a hearing earlier this month that the preliminary construction work "makes very, very good sense" now because, if it's not done by late September, it would "require certain shutdowns" of arena access from the street. Specifically, there is a VIP entrance at the rear of the arena as shown in this architects' rendering of the towers. The arena is on the other side of the towers; the VIP entrance can be seen at the lower left of the rendering.
"The plan is to start construction after the arena opens but before the end of the year," Forest City executive Jane Marshall said. "That would mean that at some point we would have a construction logistics plan that we would coordinate with [the Department of Buildings] and [Department of Transportation]." Sounds like trucks, lots of them.
Bottom line: construction will start sometime after Opening Night and continue through the season. Another reason to forget driving.
We've heard all the griping, the negativity, the weeping and gnashing of teeth about opening up Barclays Center with the dreaded Knicks. The fear is all rooted in the recent past, when the Nets played (mostly) badly vs. New York and Knicks fans took advantage of cheap seats to run the gym, boo the home team and enjoy the evening at the expense of loyal Nets fans.
That was then, this is now. The seats will not be cheap and the Nets won't be bad. That was New Jersey. This is Brooklyn. The Nets are the buzz of the city: they signed two All-Stars--two players who will fit together; got value in the Draft, remade themselves by spending more money than any New York team ever has. There was no panic. Brooklyn Nets merchandise is flying off the shelves and finding its way to Las Vegas, Paris, etc. while New York retailers are scratching their heads, wondering what to do with all that Linsanity overstock.
Of course, Knick fans will be at Barclays on November 1. Good. They will add to the spectacle, add to the buzz FOR THE NETS, FOR THE NEW ARENA. This isn't a Knicks game. The game will be about a new team, a new arena, a new rivalry, a return of professional sports to Brooklyn. The Knicks will be secondary. The buzz about the game will be defined by the Nets, period.
Nets fans' fears are based on the recent past, a presumption that Knicks fans will dominate the arena. They're more likely to be wowed by it. They might dominate if their team is winning... or be heard if it's a close game. No surprise there.
Here's the bottom line: In 2004 when the Nets swept the Knicks, New York fans came to home and away games ready to "Go New York, Go New York, Go" and instead went away meekly, their Fugazy team sent fishing. Shut...them...up. If the Knicks are down by 12 in the fourth and D-Will has just lofted an alley-oop to Hump or Crash, or Joe Johnson has just hit a dagger three, there won't be loud cheering by the orange and blue. There will be frustration, there will be silence. There will be mutterings, "Same old Knicks!"