The Nets had a good week. Andray Blatche may be "troubled" (for want of a better word) but not so much that the Nets weren't interested in him. Josh Childress, another disappointment...on court, and Dominic McGuire also agreed to square off so they, like Blatche, can get a training camp invite, nothing more. You wouldn't have seen either happen if the team was still in Newark.
Of course, Blatche must pass a series of tests --conditioning, character, consistency-- before he steps on the court November 1 to open Barclays Center. We look at how he has too often embarrassed, some might say disgraced, the game but wish him luck in redeeming himself; tally up the latest payroll numbers; examine Mirza Teletovic's toughness and patriotism; take a guess on the uniform design; compare what Mikhail Prokhorov promised in April and how he's delivered so far, update Donte Greene's status...and remind everyone that this time NEXT WEEK, the Nets will be gathering at PNY Center for informal workouts! It's that close!
This has to be understood in any debate on what Andray Blatche could bring to the Nets: Blatche has repeatedly embarrassed the game. Call it immaturity or irresponsibility or whatever, the reality is that redemption will be hard to come by because his history is so marred by what he's done, both on and off the court.
His past has been one embarrassment, even disgrace, after another: soliciting an undercover policewoman for sex thinking she was a prostitute; reckless driving without a license; fighting with a teammate at a nightclub; refusing to enter a game; participating in Gilbert Arenas' despicable gunplay joke before during pre-game warm-ups -- for which he was fined $10,000 and that pathetic attempt at a triple-double two years ago. Not to mention a record of poor conditioning.
His issues cannot be dismissed. Teams don't casually dump 6'11" 25-year-olds with Blatche's talent, knowing it will cost them $23 million. At the end of the day, critics of the move question what consequences did he suffer? Some further embarrassment? He gets to keep all his money and thanks to the Nets, he gets a second chance. .
Pointing out his difficult early life in Syracuse's Pioneeer Homes only goes so far. Many, many NBA players have grown up in horrible conditions, some in America's cities, others in war zones overseas, but did not had Blatche's record of failure, much of it self-imposed. Pointing out the Wizards' dysfunction, same thing. Arenas was not built to lead men ... and that's being kind. It's impossible to imagine Deron Williams taking a dump in Marshon Brooks' sneakers, as Arenas did with Blatche. Eddie Jordan could never get a handle on things, but in spite of that environment, a lot of Wizards with less talent than Blatche did succeed.
He could certainly use a change of scenery. How bad is that there's an andrayblatchsucks.com, that's regularly updated? And try searching for Blatche highlights on YouTube. Here's a representative sample of what you'll find...
Andray Blatche Lowlights
Andray Blatche Goaltends a Free-Throw
Nate Robinson Outjumps Andray Blatche
Booing Andray Blatche: Is It Right For Wizards Fans To Do?
Ivan Johnson Dunks on Andray Blatche
Andray Blatche's Uniform Mishap
Andray Blatche does something Andray Blatche-y
Flip Saunders 'Disappointed' in Andray Blatche
Andray Blatche Quotes
That isn't legal, Andray Blatche
Stephen Jackson Andray Blatche Mix
We didn't even open the last one. Too scary. Can he redeem himself? Of course, he's young and should moving into the prime of his career. John Lucas, who has worked with many NBA players, said this of Blatche last month, just before he turned 26, "he has worked very, very hard." He has lost more than 20 pounds, played hard and said all the right things. In an interview with Blatche's hometown paper, Lucas said his redemption won't be easy. It shouldn't be.
"He’s shown the commitment to get in much better shape and the humility that comes with being amnestied," Lucas said. "Some team will give him a chance. But nobody will take your word for it. You have to prove yourself." Exactly.
At this point, Blatche owes the Nets and Avery Johnson a huge debt. NO other team worked Blatche out. NO other coach met with him. He is considered that toxic, even after averaging 16.8 and 8 at age 24 a mere two years ago. He can repay the debt by fulfilling his potential. We think the move was a smart move for the Nets. It lays all the risk, all the responsibility on Blatche's shoulders. If he fails, it's on him, not them. There will be no more excuses. He will walk into a locker room unlike anything he knew in Washington.
Looking at the upside, it's enormous. If it all works out, Blatche could be a big help to the Nets, both short term and long term. He gives them some insurance against a recurrence of Brook Lopez's foot problems. He gives them added versatility upfront, where they already have Lopez, Kris Humphries, Mirza Teletovic, Reggie Evans and two guys who can play both forward positions, Gerald Wallace and Tornike Shengelia. He is capable of exploding, as he did at the end of 2010-11, averaging 23.6 points, shooting 50.3%; 10.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks for the month of April (after the Wizards were eliminated from the playoffs, it should be noted.)
Before last season's debacle, even John Hollinger had somewhat kind words to say about him.
Not enough has been made of the fact that Blatche is a much better second banana than a leading man. Asked to be the focal point of Washington's offense last season, Blatche struggled to generate quality looks for himself or others ... Despite his reputation, Blatche is not a bad defensive player. An underachieving one, perhaps, but not a bad one. He can be lazy and is only an average rebounder, but between his length and fast hands, (third among power forwards in steals per minute), he's solid.
Long term, the big thing is that the Wizards will pay him a guaranteed $23.4 million through 2015. Whatever the Nets pay him will be deducted from what Washington owes him. He still gets the money. If at the end of this season, he's succeeded, the Nets can sign him to another vets minimum deal. They'd be limited in giving him anything else, but he's got that big cushion of the amnesty payments. Unless another team is willing to pay him more than $16 million, what Washington will still owe him a year from now, it would be in his best interest to stay as long as he likes it in Brooklyn. That's how we understand it. Of course, this could be virgin territory for the CBA. To be quite frank, no one with his talent and his youth has ever been amnestied before.
Lets hope for the best. If all goes well, it's a big deal.
Final (?) Roster Math
If the Nets sign Blatche and whoever wins the battle of small forwards to guaranteed deals, the Nets payroll will top out at a little over $83.5 million, making it the third highest in the NBA, after the Lakers and Heat. (Memo to Avery: you'd better be thinking championship with that big a payroll!)
It also means that the Nets will have committed $335.7 million in cash money this off-season to 14 basketball players. Only MarShon Brooks wasn't signed, re-signed, traded for or drafted since the end of last season. That's the second most ever, behind only the Heat's off-season in 2010, a front office source tells us. (You listening, Avery?) Add the $2.75 million spent on Draft Night to purchase the draft rights of Tyshawn Taylor and Toko Shengelia and you're at $335.7 million in roster-related expenditures, not counting luxury taxes, which are likely to amount to $12.9 million. The Nets haven't paid a dime in luxury taxes since 2004.
The breakdown in salaries is instructive. Top heavy teams --and no team is as top heavy as the Nets-- have a lot of minimum salary guys and guys who like Blatche are willing to settle for less than market value, for whatever reason. The Nets five projected starters all make $9.7 million (Wallace) or more this season. After that, Teletovic makes $3.09 million. The rest of the roster, including whoever wins the SF Sweepstakes, will make less than $2 million. Reggie Evans will make $1.62 million, Brooks $1.16 million. C.J. Watson, Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Bogans, Andray Blatche and the back-up small forward will all get the vets minimum, the amounts determined by service in the league. Shengelia and Taylor will get the rookie minimum.
The Nets also have two of the three biggest contracts in the NBA on their books. In terms of what's owed: Deron Williams at $98.8 million is tops and Joe Johnson at $89.3 million is third. Derrick Rose is second at $94.3 million. Blake Griffin is next at $85.8 million; Then, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, both at $79.3 million; Russell Westbrook at $78.6 million; Chris Bosh at $77.7 million; Kevin Durant at $73.7 million; Amare Stoudemire at $65 million and Carmelo Anthony at $64.2 million. Tied for No. 12 on the list, at $60,825,936 million? Kevin Love and Brook Lopez.
So, the Nets "Big Three" of D-Will, JJ and Lopez are owed nearly a quarter billion dollars ($248.9 million) while the Heat "Big Three" of LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh are owed $236.3 million. (Don't walk away, Avery.)
Donte Greene Update
On the issue of Donte Greene, who had an unlucky break two weeks ago, his injuries, we are told, are much like those Bogans suffered last season. That means ligament damage as well as an ankle fracture. He and his agent are still hopeful that he can join the Nets in mid-season. Will there be space on the roster?
Mirza - Proud Bosnian
Mirza Teletovic will be the third player born in Bosnia and Herzogovina (its official name) to play for the Nets. He and his friend, Zoran Planinic, grew up in the war-torn city of Mostar, as did Bojan Bogdanovic. Mile Ilic grew up in Tuzla. Teletovic however is the only one who's played for the Bosnian national team. Planinic and Bogdanovic have played for Croatia, Ilic for Serbia. The war tore loyalties and presented opportunities.
Teletovic is a proud Bosnian, as proven by this translated excerpt from sportsport, the Bosnian sports site, following the victory over Georgia on Wednesday.
The captain of our team tonight picked up all the possible adjectives because in Tbilisi he played a superb match. He led the team to victory and placement in the Eurobasket, and in meeting with SportSport.ba, Mirza commented about the match. "It was hard. We were tired and exhausted from the large number of games, the arduous journey. We managed to find every ounce of strength to play this game. We won because we wanted to show Europe and the world that Bosnians know how to play basketball and we deserve to be at the European Championships," said Teletovic to SportSport.ba.
With all the Nets connection to Mostar, isn't it time to airdrop Nets gear into the city, which is a big tourist destination attracting people from all over southern Europe? In fact, the Nets are becoming Bosnia's team. Teletovic's heroics in Georgia last week --five points in 25 seconds to secure a place in the European championships next year-- has given him new status. On Saturday, the top five basketball stories on SportSport Bosnia included four on Team Bosnia and Teletovic and one on his new teammate, Andray Blatche.
By the way, Teletovic's nickname in Bosnia? The Terminator!
We think we've seen a few hints out there. Here's a couple.
First, go to the portfolio of Timothy P. Morris who actually did the design work on the Nets logo for Jay-Z. As the portfolio shows, Morris has done a lot of work for Jay-Z, including some neat designs for a Jay-Z version of Cherry Coca-Cola and some of his tours. The famous Blueprint for Greatness sign outside Jim Dolan's office window in midtown were Morris' work as well. We're going to assume that Morris also has a role in the uniform design.
Hint No. 1, the arced "Brooklyn" logo at the front of Morris' designs. It sure looks like the front of a uniform to us, particularly when you think about that "B" inside the shield. What's if there for? The logo shown here has white lettering on a black background in Morris' offering, which would be the road uniform. The reverse would be the home.
Hint No. 2, the "B" shield logo itself. It's the Nets secondary logo. They have two primary logos, the Nets circle which will be shown at center court at Barclays and the Nets shield which is found on all sorts of gear, but particularly the Nets practice shorts. The Nets have trademarked, the so-called "B" just as they have the circle and shield. Buried within the trademark application is the hint: the description of what the Nets want to protect in the trademark, "DESIGN PLUS WORDS, LETTERS, AND/OR NUMBERS." Numbers? Like Uniform Numbers inside the "B" shield logo? Maybe. Take the "B" out of the shield and replace it with an "8." Along with the arced "Brooklyn", you might have the basis for the Nets uniform jersey. That's our guess.
One other thing, Jay-Z has been quoted that he wants the Nets uniform and logos to be simple and "classic" like the Yankees.Nothing fancy. This qualifies. We'll see if our guess is better than anyone else's...and we invite those with PhotoShop skills to come up with a design based on our speculation.
A Look Back, A Look Forward
It seemed a bit weird, to be quite frank. Back in April, Mikhail Prokhorov stood in a hard hat at Barclays Center and promised to beat Mark Cuban in a kick-boxing competition if he lost Deron Williams to the Mavs. Then, two days later, the Nets owner invited a group of fans, including one of us, to his Prudential Center suite to talk about his plan for a dynasty. This was the night the Nets were officially eliminated from playoff contention. The timing seemed bizarre. In some ways, talk of dynasty felt even weirder and more polyannish than the discussion of kick-boxing with a fellow owner. But the kick-boxing line was delivered in jest. The dynasty ... he was deadly serious about. In light of what's happened since then, it's interesting to look at just what the owner said and what he's done.
"First of all, I like Mark Cuban very much. He's a very funny guy, and I like him a lot, but I'm not Mark Cuban. I'm Michael Prokhorov and I don't want to be the owner, GM, doctor, security guy. No. So my job is to make everything the team needs," he told us, unsmiling. "So, it's more important than what is just inside of the team. It's behind the scenes. I don't like a lot of publicity. That's why the best we can do is create the best team in the league and to beat everybody, to make a dynasty.
"I dream about a dynasty not a single championship. Brooklyn helps us think globally ... gives us a competitive advantage," he continued, highlighting the value of a new arena in a new city.
"Great players will be willing to play with us," Prokhorov went on, noting that some players he's tried to recruit in the past were turned off by having to wait a year or two for Barclays Center to be completed. "It was impossible," he said.
"The New Jersey market is not like the New York City market. We are on the front page as soon as we are a good team. The best for us is to find a young, ambitious player and make him inside the team, a superstar. And of course, I will do my best in order to find, outside of the team, the best pieces we need. So we need to be just flexible. Our goal is still the same, a championship team."
Prokhorov said his plan over the next three years was to add "one or two good players and have a little luck."
Since April, of course, Prokhorov has been shown to have a better understanding of Brooklyn than most of us. The reality is that even before the Nets become "a good team," they are on the front page, the back page, business page, etc., making the Knicks nervous. Jay-Z helps, but Brooklyn is the real star of the off-season.
He also fulfilled that promise to "make everything the team needs." He spent $335 million, a third of a billion dollars, on new contracts; bought two draft picks for $2.75 million and committed to pay $12 million in luxury taxes this season and tens of millions, maybe a hundred million, in the next few. It's as if "luxury tax" doesn't translate into Russian.
We never doubted his commitment. We did doubt that "dynasty" thing, that he could turn things around as quickly and as efficiently as he, Billy King, Bobby Marks and his very underrated CEO, Dmitry Razumov, have. And the arena hasn't even opened and the games haven't even been played. That makes us a bit giddy with anticipation.
Mel Daniels was the closest the Nets came to being represented at the Hall of Fame ceremony Friday night. Daniels, now 68 and ailing, was a stalwart of the ABA, playing primarily for the Nets' big ABA rival, the Pacers. But in his last season as pro, Daniels played in the NBA and for the New York Nets. It was the Nets last year in Nassau Coliseum before they moved to New Jersey. Daniels, by then 32 and injured, played only 11 games for the Nets, scoring 39 points before hanging them up. Congratulations, Mel Daniels.