Mar 3, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards forward Andray Blatche (7) is defended by Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Antawn Jamison (4) during the second half at the Verizon Center. The Wizards defeated the Cavaliers 101 - 98. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
The Off-Season Report is a little shorter than usual. It's not that there isn't much going on, just that so much of it has been covered already. That said, we look at who's participating in the team's informal workouts, who's coming, who's going. We also look at the depth chart, believing that the team's versatility renders it somewhat moot; hope for the best with Andray Blatche and Josh Childress; note the Armor's role in Nets training camp; list some statement games that weren't on the calendar until this week; question the Harlem Globetrotters' claims and start a search for Nets fans overseas.
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.
Who's In, Who's Out
Players will be coming and going at PNY Center the next two weeks. Gerald Wallace arrived this week as MarShon Brooks headed to Russia for Basketball Without Borders and Brook Lopez headed to China. Headed to the US soon will be Mirza Teletovic and Toko Shengelia who finished up in the Eurobasket Qualifying Tournament a week ago. Once they've arrived, they will have to get settled in New York/New Jersey before they head to the training facility. C.J. Watson, who was in this week, has said he'll have to return to Chicago to deal with the first day of school. Joe Johnson is expected this week as is Andray Blatche. He seems ready in this Instagram image, posted Saturday. Josh Childress is at a Stanford alumni event this week, according to his Twitter feed
Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
So after 11 weeks of drafting and trading and signing and re-signing, the Nets depth chart looks something like this:
C - Brook Lopez, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans
PF - Kris Humphries, Mirza Teletovic, Toko Shengelia
SF - Gerald Wallace, Josh Childress, Jerry Stackhouse
SG - Joe Johnson, Marshon Brooks, Keith Bogans
PG - Deron Williams, C.J. Watson, Tyshawn Taylor
Obviously, because of the versatility of the team's new players, this is by no means set in stone. The Nets would to see if Shengelia can play small forward, if Teletovic can play a bit at center, if Tyshawn Taylor and/or C.J. Watson can play both guard spots, if Williams, Johnson and Brooks can stay on the court together; and how many spots can Wallace play productively.
Lopez has said that the value of the Nets signings, other than the players' individual talents, is that they were signed to fit a team concept, which is needed if you've got 10 new players and chemistry is an issue.
We note the last time the Nets had such a dramatic makeover was in Jason Kidd's first season, 2001-02. That team had nine new faces plus Kerry Kittles coming back from a year off from surgery. It also had four rookies. What that team did have which the current Nets don't was a number of great defenders and athletes, The Nets were first in both defense and fast break points in 2001-02. Can't see this Nets team do that. The 2012-13 Nets do have a more talented and versatile roster, 1-through-15, deeper three point shooting and much better talent in the low post. It will take some time to see if the Nets of 2012-13 have as good as leadership as the 2001-02 club. Leadership will be critical if the Nets are going to match the last "makeover" team, the one that went to the Finals.
It's almost certain, barring injury, that Andray Blatche and Josh Childress will be on the opening night roster vs. the Knicks. The Nets are hoping both can resurrect their careers, after they were amnestied with a combined $44 million on their combined tabs. They're different cases of course.
Blatche has had problems both on and off the court but the ones off-court are the ones that probably tipped the scales. Childress is a good guy. Everyone who's played with him respects him. He's a team guy. On the other hand, it's easier to explain Blatche's fall than Childress'. Blatche has had conditioning issues to go along with his immaturity. Two years ago, he put up 17 and 8 and in a late season rush, averaged 23 and 10 in April. Small sample, but he can, when under control, score the ball and rebound it. Childress, on the other hand, just seems to have lost it in Phoenix. His numbers crashed. Did his skills suddenly deteriorate to the point of being nothing more than a vets minimum, 15th man? We doubt that. Hopefully a change of scenery helps. As Paul Coro, the long-time beat writer for the Suns wrote this week...
He never was a good match in Phoenix but that will not keep him from helping the Nets, who will have Childress back up Gerald Wallace for a smoother fit. The Nets will appreciate him as a teammate and diligent worker and his minimum-level salary for a rotation player will make him easier for their fans to accept than he had been in Phoenix, where his non-rotation role was weighed against a $6 million salary last season.
As we noted in a tweet this week, if these two bring the game for which they got paid two years ago, it will add another $13.2 million in value to the Nets $83.5 million payroll. Pundits praised the Spurs and Gregg Popovich last March for taking on Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson. Their previous coaches publicly berated them, wanted nothing to do with them and sat them down. Blatche and Childress are younger, have at least as much potential and yet most pundits dismissed what the Nets did. It worked for the Spurs. Both were productive, helped San Antonio's playoff run. We think Avery Johnson, a graduate of the Spurs school of basketball, can get the same from Blatche and Childress.
Training camp invites
Howard Beck tweeted this week that the Nets are expected to sign three more players to non-guaranteed deals this week. One we know is Carleton Scott, the 6'8", 23-year-old small forward from Notre Dame who played in Austria last season and for the Nets in the Orlando summer league. Who are the others? Don't know officially, but we expect one of them to be a big...but not Chris Andersen, Darko Milicic or Kenyon Martin.
Inviting only three players beyond the 15 roster spots permits the Nets to develop whoever has been invited, watch them closely. The CBA permits a D-League club, like the Armor. to claim exclusive D-League rights to the last three players cut from the parent club. Bob MacKinnon and Chris Carrawell, the head coach and assistant coach at Springfield, will be on hand for training camp, as will Armor GM Milton Lee. They should be able to monitor the progress of Scott and the other two. If the Armor brain trust likes them, they can offer all three spots on their roster immediately. If they want a shot at making the Nets later in the season, the smart thing to do is join the Armor. MacKinnon and Carrawell use the Nets offense and defense as well as the parent club's terminology. Transitioning up or down should be seamless for the player. For those just below NBA level in talent, it's always a financial sacrifice to join a D-League team (highest salary is $35,000) rather than go overseas, but it's a good risk-to-reward.
(No one has told us this, or even hinted at it, but if Donte' Greene wants to join the Nets following his rehab from ankle surgery, it might be wise for him to suit up first for the Armor. He's hoping to be ready in January, which of course is before the trade deadline. Spots often open up then.)
In addition to the big games vs. teams like the Knicks, Heat, Lakers and Thunder, there will "statement games" for individual players this season, a chance for the players to show former teams they made a mistake trading or dumping them or in the case of Deron Williams, show a certain owner that, despite protestations to the contrary, he really did miss out. Here are a few...
Joe Johnson returns to Atlanta on January 16; C.J. Watson to Chicago on December 15.
Andray Blatche's return to Washington happens on January 4, although there will be a preseason contest at Barclays Center on October 15. He'll play against the team that drafted him, signed him to a big contract, then amnestied him. Similarly, Josh Childress arrives in Phoenix on March 24 after playing the Suns at home on January 11.
Brook Lopez gets a chance to show the Magic they made a mistake not trading for him in a home-and-home series in early November, first at the Amway Center on November 9, then two days later at Barclays. D-Will should looking forward to two dates in March, March 1 at Barclays vs. Mark Cuban's Mavs, then three weeks later on March 20 in his hometown of Dallas.
Bleacher Report (!) has an interesting take this week on why Jerry Stackhouse is going to be sitting on the bench this season, even if in street clothes. They named him one of the top 10 locker room presences in the NBA, noting that his long and productive career has won him respect as both a player and a person at age 37.
Stackhouse is 37 years old. He's been in the league for 17 years and Brooklyn will be the eighth team he's suited up for his career. He's a guy with experience both as the lead dog and as a role player. He will be Avery Johnson's veteran voice in the locker room, as will be small forward Gerald Wallace.
It should also be noted that despite the addition of a number of veterans -- Stackhouse, Keith Bogans, Gerald Wallace and Josh Childress, the Nets average age won't be that high, around 26. Ten players are under 30, five over. Toko Shengelia, still a few weeks shy of his 21st birthday, is the youngest.
First Basketball at Barclays?
The first professional basketball to be played at Barclays Center won't be played by the Nets, not if you ask the Harlem Globetrotters who arrived at Brooklyn's LIRR Atlantic Terminal Friday for a promotion of both their October 7 "game" and mass transit. They ran an impromptu practice inside the station and repeated, over and over, that it will be the team from Harlem, not the team from Brooklyn, who first takes the court across the street.
Note this, however: the first uniformed basketball players to set foot on the herring-bone patterned floor of Barclays Center will be the Nets, who will have their media day in Brooklyn October 1. The first day of practice is almost always given over to the media and October 1 is three days after Opening Night at the arena and the introduction of the team's new uniforms. Sounds like a plan.
Meanwhile, it looks like the Globies could be the first sporting event (if you can call it that) at Barclays. The planned preseason game between the Islanders and Devils, scheduled for October 2, looks increasingly like it won't happen. The NHL and players association are nowhere near a deal and a lockout could begin at midnight.
More on the Practice Facility
In online discussions with fans, Irina Pavlova laid out some thoughts on the Nets practice facility. The Nets have yet to choose a site, but Pavlova, the president of Prokhorov's US holding company, noted that the facility like the arena is going to be world-class, built for the Nets and won't be some converted warehouse, like the PNY Center.
If you want a championship team that attracts the top players, you don’t practice in a warehouse. You create a home for the team that they want to spend time in – they will spend more time there than at the arena.
New York is one of the most, if not THE most, expensive real estate areas in the country. The arena that cost $1 billion in NY would cost a fraction of that anywhere else in the country ... [The training facility] needs enough column-free space for two side-by-side courts ... And a good margin on the sides so players don’t hurt themselves. We are looking at ALL options.
Nets vs. Knicks
We found it curious this week that Hollywood Reporter chose to ask MSG's Alan Hahn his opinion on whether the Nets could challenger the Knicks in the city. Hahn said this.
Personally, I don't think the Garden has any reason to consider Barclays as a serious competitor mainly because of the No. 1 rule in New York City real estate: location, location, location. The Garden is in mid-town Manhattan, at the heart of New York City. It's also the Garden, an icon, a place with rich history and tradition. The Knicks will maintain a more glamorous cachet for now, but, of course, the perception of the franchises certainly can change quickly if the Knicks falter. But the Nets will need to have overwhelming success to really grab the attention - and the loyalty - of the city. Like the Mets in the mid-1980s, for instance.
Hahn, of course, is an employee of the Knicks owner James Dolan. Nothing against Hahn, but he could hardly be expected to be objective.
After we noted the improvements in the Nets Russia site, we checked back to see if further improvements were in place. Nope. In fact, the old template is back. We hope it, like the arena, is ready. What's interesting to us is that there have been a number of unofficial Nets fan sites and twitter feeds emerging overseas. We've seen a fan site in Italian and a twitter feed from Spain. Expect a lot more.