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 second round of the playoffs, relying on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who have slipped interesting stuff into larger stories, blogs, tweets...plus our own reporting.
In this week's edition, we look at what's going on with the coaching search, post some draft notes, peer into the future of using the subway to get from Manhattan and New Jersey to Brooklyn, examine how the Nets aggressive marketing strategy is now being used by the Islanders and spent far too much time on the Emory College paper on how Brooklyn Nets fans are the worst in the NBA.
Who's your coach?
We don't have a lot of inside information out of the PNY Center. Few leaks there. The search for the Nets next coach is very close-hold, with Billy King holding his list tight. But reading the tea leaves and some tweets from around the league, we think the Nets top priority is a veteran coach and since King hasn't been talking to a lot of people, we have to think Lionel Hollins is at the top of King's list. The Nets can't talk to him until the Grizzlies exit the playoffs and that could be late June.
To us, the most significant tweet of the week was this one...from Peter Vecsey who is known to be close to the Nets brass.
I'm told agent Warren LeGarie has spoken 2 at least 1 team, probably 2, re what'll take 2 sign FA Lionel Hollins should terms scare off MG.— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) May 15, 2013
Why so important? Because it suggests that Hollins agent isn't averse to fielding other offers from around the NBA. .
The Nets, with such a veteran club, may want a veteran coach, not a rookie. As we said, it's close-hold and what we're going is what a lot of reporters, pundits and bloggers are doing: speculating.
Farewell to Stackhouse?
In a tweet late Friday, Jerry Stackhouse seemed to be saying he's unlikely to play again next season. When asked by a fan "you planning on playing another season next year?" Stackhouse replied, "No, but for the right situation....Maybe..“
When asked, "why wouldnt Brooklyn be the right situation? We love you here..." Stack responded, "Who's the coach......"
He was more willing to accept another offer from the Nets. Petra Pope, senior vice president of event marketing and community relations asked if he would sing the national anthem for the Nets again.
"Absolutely," he replied.
At the Combine
The Nets had a significant number of front office types at the Pre-Draft Combine in Chicago. On the sidelines, there was, In addition to Billy King and Bobby Marks, Gregg Polinsky, the chief scout whose official title is director of player development; Frank Zanin, who works with King and Marks and whose title is director of player procurement. Also on hand, Khalid Green, the Nets national college scout and Bob Ferry, who's title of scout belies his importance. He's one of King's key basketball advisers (and Danny Ferry's father.) On the court was Milton Lee, who has helped run the combine for eight years; Popeye Jones and Jeremy Bettle, the Nets strength and conditioning coach.
You would think with all those eyes and ears, the Nets would wind up with one or more good picks.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
Norvel Pelle is not just a sleeper pick. He is a super sleeper. As the draftniks say, he followed a "non-tradtional route" to the draft. The 6'11" (actually 6'10.5") center/power forward prospect was the top high school center prospect in 2011, playing for Price High School in L.A.
After agreeing to attend St. John's, he was ruled academically ineligible and wound up spending the last two years in prep schools. Despite never playing a minute of college ball, enough NBA teams were intrigued by him that he was invited to the Pre-Draft Combine this week, where he reportedly did well and took some interviews. He did not list the Nets as one of them when asked.
How raw is he? Plenty, but he is also athletic on the Sean Williams scale (and Sean Williams, truth be told, was barely 6'8.5" tall. His athleticism and shot-blocking can seen here, here and here. Prepare to gasp out loud. Is he a first round pick? No way. Could he be worth a later second rounder and a ticket to Springfield? Maybe.
Here's how Yahoo! Sports described him last month.
NBA scouts who tracked him in high school recall being intrigued with his shot-blocking prowess, baseline-to-baseline speed and ability to defend multiple positions, but they also remember a player who gave spotty effort and often seemed content to get by on talent alone.
Late Saturday, Jeremy Woo of Zags Blog and SNY wrote of Pelle's experience at the Combine and quoted someone there on his likely next step. “He’s probably a guy who’ll have to make it via the NBA D-League,” one Western Conference GM told SNY.tv.
The other picks
As you watch the Draft on June 27, note the following: there are three picks on the board that originally belonged to the Nets, two first rounders and a second rounder.
They are, in order:
--Pick #18, not held by the Hawks. It was traded in July 2012 to the Hawks as part of the Joe Johnson deal. It was originally a Rocket pick surrendered in return for Terrence Williams. Draft Express currently projects the Hawks will use it to take Archie Goodwin.
--Pick #21, now held by the Jazz. It was traded in February 2011 to the Jazz as part of the Deron Williams deal. It was originally a Warrior pick surrendered in return for Marcus Williams. Because of its protections, it was wandered, unattended, through the years. Draft Express suggests the Jazz may use it for Jamaal Franklin.
--Pick #52, now held by the Timberwolves. It was traded in June 2011 to the Timberwolves as part of the Bojan Bogdanovic deal. Draft Express projects the T-Wolves will take Erick Murphy of Florida down there.
After the Draft, we'll note who those teams wound up with.
Getting there will be easier
We've written about this before on these pages, but now that it's getting closer, it's worth discussing again. The MTA is making a number of improvements to its Lower Manhattan operations that will make getting to the games easier and more pleasant for both New Jersey and Manhattan residents, starting next June (just in time for the Finals!!)
As part of the post-911 reconstruction, the MTA is building a vast underground concourse linking PATH and the New York Waterways ferry terminals with all nine subway lines that stop at the Barclays Center station beneath the arena. Some aspects of the plan, mostly improved access and egress to stations, have already opened, but the big improvement is coming in a year.
Anchoring the new concourse will be the $3.2 billion WTC Transportation Center at the northeast corner of the WTC site at Church and Vesey Streets, near where the towers stood. It is going to be spectacular architecturally and will form one end of the concourse between the World Financial Center and the MTA's new Fulton Street Transit Center, a few blocks inland. Through it, pedestrians will have access to the ferry terminals, PATH and 13 subway lines, nine of which continue on to Barclays Center a few stops away. At Fulton Street, where more than 300,000 riders pass through daily, the MTA is reconfiguring the maze of ramps and passageways in another architecturally spectacular setting. The concourse is now structurally complete with only finishing work inside remaining.
Once, it's done here's an animation of what it will look like for a fan connecting from one of the nine lines under the arena to the PATH or ferry terminals. (Of course, you can still take a bus or train into midtown and get on subways there for a quick four or five station ride to Barclays.) For Manhattan fans, the project will make it easier for them to get to Barclays ... and avoid the horrors of Penn Station.
Marketing the Islanders
In case you haven't heard, the Nets/Barclays Center's business side has taken over the business operations of the Islanders under an agreement with Charles Wang, the Isles owner.
One of those operations is marketing and it's hard to miss the change, how aggressive the new bosses have been in pushing the Islander brand.
It started during the Bulls playoff series, when a group of Islanders showed up at Barclays. Several were interviewed for BCTV by Alyonka Larionov and said all the right things about their new home. (Alyonka is sort of Barclays secret weapon with regard to hockey. She produced and hosted NHL programming before joining BCTV and her father is Hall of Famer, Igor Larionov, who won the Stanley Cup three times. She's even drank from Cup!)
Alyonka also showed up at Nassau Coliseum during the Isles playoff run to find out what it means to be a "true Islanders fan" and discussed hockey terms, including what a "beauty" is with several of the Islanders.
Despite the fact that the Islanders aren't officially scheduled to take the ice in Brooklyn until 2015, there's now a section on the arena site dedicated to the Isles, with a page where you can put down your deposit on Islander season tickets two years from now and another promoting next September's preseason game between the Islanders and the Devils at Barclays. There's a new logo, called "Bound for Brooklyn" incorporating the Islanders' logo.
We don't know what role the Nets/Barclays Center marketing type played in setting up next January's outdoor game between the Islanders and Rangers, but we suspect the worst (best?)
Final Note: That Emory University study
We're not going to devote a whole lot of effort to debunking the silly Emory College attempt at defining passionate fans by analytic means. it found that the Nets were the worst home fans in the NBA and the Knicks the best. We would just like to point out some serious flaws in the study. The original study was so devoid of data that the authors were asked to provide some, which they did in a self-congratulatory addendum.
The authors note that key data they used to derive their conclusions is something called "home revenue." They attempt to estimate "home revenue," which is a finite, known but proprietary figure not available to them. Shouldn't they note that, explain its relevance?
"The analysis begins with a model of box office revenue based on variables that correspond to market potential (capacity and market population), team quality (winning percentage) and entertainment value (number of all stars, payroll). The insight or theory that drives the analysis is that this model can be used to predict the revenue that is due to quality and market potential. Any difference between this predicted value and actual value is due to 'fan loyalty'."
So the reality is that they don't have the finite, known but proprietary information that is the core of the theory so project it based on other data, including things as spurious as number of all-Stars, but ignore other data that might be important, like say MERCHANDISE SALES. Need we go there? The Nets now rank fourth in NBA merchandise sales. In the first several months after the merchandise was introduced, they ranked first.
On comparing the attendance between the Knicks and Nets, they use gross numbers of attendance.
"The teams share the largest population metropolitan areas but the Knicks achieve a 10.7% advantage in terms of attendance DESPITE charging much greater prices. It is this greater pricing power that pushes the two teams to opposite ends of the ranking."
Suppose instead of gross numbers, they used capacity percentage. The original analysis appears to rely on ESPN attendance percentages, that is, the percentage of arena capacity sold out on average each game. We say "appears" because the original article notes, " A quick look at attendance data from ESPN shows that the Trail Blazers regularly exceed capacity for entire seasons." Two points: the Trail Blazers attendance last season was 95.4 percent, which did not exceed capacity (or it would have been in excess of 100 percent.)
However, using ESPN data presents problems. It is inaccurate regarding the Nets. ESPN uses an NBA capacity of 18,000 for Barclays Center. That was the original number for NBA games. As the arena was completed, capacity was reduced to 17,732 (apparently to accommodate loge seating added late in construction.) The number can be found on the Nets website. So the actual percentage of seats sold this season is 96.9 percent, not 94.9. That would put the Nets at tenth (not 16th) in the NBA, just ahead of ... drum roll ... the Knicks at 96.3 percent and and the Blazers.
But let's put aside the methodology and data and look at the final product, which suggests below average work. Is there ANYONE in the NBA who believes that fan loyalty to the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic is on the rise ... or that their fans had greater loyalty than the teams that follow them in the Emory rankings: the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs??? You want an example of analytics gone wild???
The study is also a rare, rare instance where Barry Baum, chief communications officer of the Nets, and Norman Oder, the leading critic and chronicler of Atlantic Yards find common ground.
Says Baum, after reading the original article, "With all due respect to Emory University, that is a seriously flawed study."
Says Oder, after reviewing the article and supporting data, "The Knicks' attendance edge is magnified by an arena with greater capacity, and the willingness of Knicks fans to pay more. [It] has less to do with passion than a longstanding monopoly position in a large market."
If there is a continuing dispute on this, we suggest a review by Nate Silver, the New York Times stats guru ... and Nets fan. We are sure he will get to the bottom of it.