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 and tweets...plus our own reporting.
This week, we try to wrap our heads around the concept of "Coach Kidd," devoting most of the Off-Season Report to his hiring, particularly the rift between pundits and players on Kidd's elevation. One group is skeptical, the other ecstatic. Guess which is which. We also look at a young PG the Nets just took a look at in our Draft Sleeper of the Week, review the possibilities if C.J. Watson departs, give our opinion on the big trade being proposed, say nice things about Bobby Marks and Milton Lee, and note that Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans share something else besides an agent (Andy Miller) and a friendship.
It's hard to recall a coaching hire that was so panned by (skeptical at best) pundits and so applauded by (enthusiastic at least) players.
The default position is that it's a "huge risk" and the decision was fueled not by basketball but by marketing or the need for "buzz" ... that is, a desire by the Nets organization to challenge the Knicks' primacy.
Typical were the comments of Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports and David Roth of SB Nation.
"(T)he focus right now is hiring a big name that can please Mssrs. Prokhorov and King, two basketball minds that have proven to have the patience of a Le Sueur pea over their respective NBA careers.
"This is why Brian Shaw, the associate head coach of a team that was by far and away the best defensive squad in the NBA this year while taking the defending champs to a seventh game despite missing former All-Star Danny Granger for most of the season, was dismissed even after a lengthy meeting on Wednesday. The Pacers’ associate coach is a coaching great in waiting, but upon hearing about mutual interest between Shaw and the Nets last month I honestly was disappointed. Why waste a talent like Shaw’s that on a roster like this?"
"(T)he team that hired Jason Kidd is the Brooklyn Nets, and the one thing that has defined that organization during its drearily slow extrication from New Jersey and throughout the ambitiously-branded and supremely-buzzy mediocrity of its first year in Brooklyn has been a steady lack of concern with things basketball-related. However well the Kidd hiring works out or doesn't, it fits very well into the Nets way of doing things. The idea was and is always to be bold and make a splash. So here's the splash."
We're going to leave the details herein for others to discuss, although we think it's hard to call the Nets "mediocre" considering they did win 49 games, eighth best out of 30 teams. But it's subjective and we accept that. However, it does appear that neither writer, nor the many others who echoed their line, had the opportunity to talk with people inside the organization about what they did and why they did it. We did ... throughout the process.
The Nets front office --and ownership in Moscow-- had issues with all the other candidates but their biggest issue was that none presented an opportunity to create a "unique culture" for "a new team" in Brooklyn.. The other candidates were either coaches who had been canned elsewhere or for whatever reason hadn't been able to secure a top job. "Retreads" was a word we heard more than once.
In Kidd, they saw that opportunity to do something unique, to build that culture in his image. He is part of the Nets history and a player universally respected in the NBA. Moreover, he "really, really wants it," as one person told us and whenever Kidd has really really wanted something, positive things happen. More than one person also noted that by officially retiring, he left $6 million on the table so he could move quickly. If he hadn't, the Nets would have had to ask James Dolan for permission to talk to Kidd and/or wait for buyout negotiations between the Knicks and Kidd to run their course.
There also seems to be some confusion between the Nets marketing machine, led by Brett Yormark, and the Russian ownership, led by Mikhail Prokhorov and Dmitry Razumov. The Russians are not driven by the need to create "buzz" to make money (as if they needed more). Their investment in the Nets has provided them with enormous returns already. If the Kings are worth $525 million in the tiny Sacramento market, conservative estimates put the Nets' value at between $700 and $800 million. Prokhorov paid $223 million for 80 percent of the Nets ... and 45 percent of the Barclays Center holding company ... and an option to buy up to 20 percent of the 16-skycraper $4 billion Atlantic Yards project at a bargain basement price. The team's luxury tax bill may appear to be staggering to most but they will tell you it's offset, thank you very much, by (small) profit and (huge) increase in asset value. It's a cost of doing business.
To prove they're right, pundits will point with jaundiced, raised, "J'accuse" eyebrows to Prokhorov's comments in Moscow Thursday . Didn't Prokhorov say the NBA needed more "star coaches?" Well, yes, he did, right after he said Kidd is a "born coach." He got his priorities right. And of course, the Nets are going to market the hell of it. Duh. Yormark is not a monk. As for the Nets inferiority to the Knicks, in year one of their intra-city rivalry, the Nets sold 96.9 percent of the 17,732 seats at Barclays Center, the exact same percentage the Knicks sold at the Garden. In year one. Yeah, the Knicks still draw three times what the Nets draw in local TV ratings but the YES numbers were up 210 percent over last year.
The bottom line: The Russians want to win. They like to win. They win all the time. They won with CSKA Moscow, spending lavishly but also wisely. Ten Russian league titles and two Euroleague championships in a decade plus of Prokhorov's ownership.
Kidd IS a risk, as we noted last Saturday when we identified him as the "mystery man" in the coaching search. (Hold your applause.) The risks go beyond his lack of experience to his off-court issues, which are serious and current. As we noted, those are the most worrisome. But to suggest that he is unlikely to succeed is kind of ridiculous.
At his core, his record is this: every team he has joined had a better season than they did the season before, from the University of California to the New York Knicks. He may not have been an assistant coach, but he has played more games (1,391) than ANY other NBA coach EVER. Not just rookie coaches, ALL coaches. And If you google "Jason Kidd" and "coach on the court," you get 488,000 hits; "Jason Kidd" and "coach on the floor," 96,000 more.
Then there are the reactions from players. As Tom Ziller of SB Nation wrote this week...
if the universally laudatory reaction Kidd's quick flip has seen from players is any indication, he won't likely struggle to reach his charges. Everything can be assisted greatly by his cabinet.
This is all to say that this is a really bold move by Brooklyn and we really have preciously little idea how it's going to work. But if it works, and if the Warriors continue to improve (as a young, good team should), you're going to see more teams snatch coaches off the players' free agent wire. It's the way the NBA works.
PLAYERS respect him and not just those on his team. Take a look at this sample of tweets, mainly former teammates, from Wednesday night, when the news broke. Those guys are also potential free agents or trade targets. The Nets won't be capped out forever, despite what hear.
Do we know Kidd will succeed? Of course not. We would have been happy with Brian Shaw, thrilled with Doc Rivers but there was NO WAY Danny Ainge was letting Rivers coach a division rival. We will just wait and see and leave the punditry to the pundits.
So as we depart this subject, we will leave you with a quote from Lawrence Frank, who may ...or may not... be Kidd's lead assistant. He knows something about what Kidd can do.
"Not only did he change a team in terms of culture," Frank said of Kidd's impact on the Nets. "He changed the culture of the whole organization. He made players better, he made coaches better, management better, the owners better."
What if Watson goes?
C.J. Watson is not likely to be on the Nets roster come October. All the Nets can offer him, unless they cut into the mini-MLE, is the non-Bird exception which would pay him $1.43 million, or up to $6.1 million over four. That's not likely to cut it. Best bet is that a 41 percent three-point shooter is going to get more than that on the open market.
Billy King noted that in his interview with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Friday.
"I haven't got the official letter, but I'm assuming he will because the salary he makes, he knows he can get that. If you want to make more, you can. So Jason and I have discussed if that happens, and we aren't able to retain him, we've got some guys in mind who we'd like to replace him with."
So who might that be? Here are some possibilities.
--Sebastian Telfair, 28, a Brooklyn native, former boy wonder and now just a journeyman player. Undersized at 6'0", he never matched the hype coming out of high school, hype that produced a book and a documentary. Being so close to Coney Island might rejuvenate him.
--Jamaal Tinsley, 35, another Brooklyn native. He's spent a lot of time around the league and recently improved his image with two solid enough seasons in Utah. He's on his last legs but did start 32 games for the Jazz last season.
--Daniel "Boobie" Gibson, 27, not a Brooklyn native, but rather Houston born. Perhaps the closest free agent to Watson in terms of skills, as long as he can remain healthy. He played well when he played with LeBron James, but once LeBron left Cleveland, he got more attention. In 2010-11, the last year he was reasonably healthy, he averaged 11.6 points per game coming off the bench, shooting 40.1 percent from deep.
--D.J. Augustin. 25, also undersized at 6'0" and like Telfair and Tinsley more a pass-first point guard. Not a great shooter, except at the foul line. Played with the Pacers last year, averaging 5.2 points per game in the playoffs, but less than an assist per game.
--Jordan Farmar, 26, played two years with the Nets, who were happy to see him go in the Joe Johnson trade. Didn't find work in the NBA after being bought by the Hawks, so he headed to Turkey at Deron Williams suggestion.
--Randy Foye, 29, once coveted by Rod Thorn, who called him the most NBA-ready player in the 2006 Draft. Foye, drafted seventh that year, has never met expectations. At 6'4", 215, he is ideal size for an NBA point guard, but his shooting hasn't improved much. He peaked two years after he was drafted, averaging 16.3 points and 4.3 assists per game. Since then, he's hovered about 10 points and two assists a game. In 2012-13, playing for the Jazz, he averaged 10.8 points, but shot only 39.7 percent (41 per cent from three). To his credit, he played every game, for the first time since his rookie year. A Newark native.
Chauncey Billups? Likely to wind up in Miami. Pablo Prigioni? Likely to stay in New York (but wouldn't it be sweet to have Kidd steal him). Jarrett Jack? Nate Robinson? Would cost too much. Shaun Livingston? too fragile.
We assume Tyshawn Taylor will get a look and who know what the Nets plan for MarShon Brooks at this point.
We're probably missing some other candidates.
Draft Sleeper of Week
Archie Goodwin is unlikely to taken in the first round. At 18, he's a project who isn't likely to help for a while, but he is a point guard with size and with a point guard as coach, he might be worth a look, if as expected the Nets buy a pick in the second round.
Goodwin was part of another of John Calipari's super recruiting classes. Problem was last year' group got hit by injuries and wound up losing in the first round ... of the NIT. Goodwin decided he'd rather try his hand in the NBA. He worked out for the Nets last week and did well, we are told.
He is all about potential and the Nets, with one pick in the first round, are about performance, a player who can step into the rotation immediately or at least by season's end. Typically for a freshman, Goodwin's year in Kentucky was, as Draft Express reported, "marked not only by flashes of excellence, but also by long stretches of inconsistency."
Still, he did average 14.1 points for a 21-12 team. He was the only Wildcat who had the ability to create his own shot and so was the focus of the other team's defense. Only a year ago, he was a top 10 high school player.
He would be a risk for the Nets if they took him in the second round. The roster math would make it difficult for him to gain a spot. He would likely spend a lot of time in Springfield but remain on the Nets roster and salary cap. What we expect if the Nets to is take a Euro-Stash if they do buy a second rounder. They did it in 2011 with Bojan Bogdanovic and planned to do it in 2012 with Toko Shengelia but he proved he could play (and had a small buyout).
The big trade
Virtually everyone now is reporting that the Clippers and Celtics are "deep" into talks that would "send" Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and maybe the contract of Paul Pierce ($4 million buyout on $15 million deal) to the Clippers for DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe and two first round picks.
Do we think this is going to happen? Doubt it. History will tell you that is a very high price for a coach and a 37-year-old with bad ankles. Traditionally, when coaches want to leave and teams are willing to give them their release, it's nowhere near that expensive for the team pursuing the coach.
Here's the history of coach "trades:"
The traditional price for a coach still under contract is a draft pick. The Magic provided the Heat with a second rounder for the right to hire Stan Van Gundy. The pick, later traded, turned into Dijon Thompson, better mustard that an NBA player. The Rockets gave the Knicks a second rounder for Jeff Van Gundy and again, after being traded, it turned into Stanko Barac. Stanko stank.. Back in 1996, the Heat had to give the Knicks a first round pick and $1 million in the 1997 draft to compensate for the loss of Pat Riley. That turned into Walter McCarty, who did play 593 games in the NBA.
So turn off the ESPN Trade Machine. If this happens, it will fly in the face of history and reason. Although it will mean the Celtics will be re-building.
Bobby and Milton
In the next week or so, we should hear whether Bobby Marks will join his buddy, Pete D'Alessandro in Sacramento and whether Milton Lee will join the number-crunchers in Memphis.
Marks is a Nets lifer, having risen from an intern to assistant GM, mainly through his knowledge of the CBA. Remember, he is on Larry Coon's advisory group, not the other way around. The Nets investment in the Springfield Armor was his idea.
Lee came on board when his prep school and college buddy, Chris Charlier, started looking at Brooklyn on behalf of his boss, Mikhail Prokhorov. Ha been a jack of all trades, handling the locker room design, analytics, and the management of the Nets' D-League franchise.
It's a credit to the Nets organization that the two are held in such high regard. If they decide to head west and south respectively, this week, we wish them well. If they stay, good for us..
One hand washes the other ... for charity
At the end of June, Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans, who share an agent and a friendship, will head to Jamaica for a Celebrity Sports Camp, run by the RuJohn Foundation. Blatche, who is of Jamaican lineage, has been quietly working with the foundation for several years, first with the Wizards and now with the Nets. He recruited Evans to join him this year.
Two weeks later on July 13, Blatche (along with MarShon Brooks) will return the favor and put in an appearance at Evans' celebrity softball game at Pensacola's minor league baseball stadium. It's the highlight of the year for the Reggie Evans Foundation.
Coach Kidd? Really? Yeah, really!