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.
We reveal who we think is the mystery man, the coaching candidate that has complicated the Nets search, the person whose elevation would be shocking. We think it's No. 5. We also look at the Draft: who we're likely to see at PNY Center later this month and our draft sleeper, a potential Euro-Stash from the second round; a review of cap space in light of new salary cap and luxury tax threshold numbers; Mikhail Prokhorov's chances at joining Michael Bloomberg on the list of billionaire mayors of major cities; and plans that could beautify the neighborhood around Barclays Center.
Mystery Man? Is It No. 5?
Is it Ettore Messina? Dave Fizdale? Quin Synder? David Blatt? The fact that the average fan would have to go to Google to figure out who those guys are should tell you something. All qualified and all with great potential. Messina and Blatt are two of the smartest, most accomplished European coaches. Quin Snyder has been an assistant in both the NBA and Euroleague. Dave Fizdale is the Heat assistant in charge of the Big Three.
No, our best bet until told otherwise is Jason Kidd. Oh, we know ALL the arguments about how risky it is and how Magic Johnson failed in going from all-time great point guard to head coach. We know as well that Doc Rivers, Larry Bird and Mark Jackson all spent several years doing TV or helping out in someone's front office before being named. We also know they all had adult supervision their first few years, a valued, experienced NBA assistant. Specifically in the case of Kidd, there are other risks: like his off-the-court issues. His DUI case is still outstanding, we believe and could even result in serious repercussions. He wasn't pulled over. He was involved in an accident. He also had a domestic abuse arrest, although that was a long time ago and he did extensive rehabilitation, more than the judge required.
Of the three players who went directly from playing to coaching success without a stop in the assistant ranks, Kidd is most reminiscent of Bird. He is on Bird's level in terms of greatness. He has the individual records, the three trips to the Finals, the championship; the two Olympic gold medals, the staggering turnaround of a moribund franchise. Jackson and Rivers were great players. They were not on Kidd's level. Kidd's value is in his knowledge of the game, but also in his desire and his unwillingness to accept less in his teammates. A stare alone from the great man's eyes could have an effect that a rant from Scott Skiles would not achieve. He is, after all, Jason Kidd.
Deron Williams would love it. Brett Yormark would love it. Mikhail Prokhorov no doubt would as well. James Dolan, not so much.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
We are going far afield this week and deep into the second round. Bojan Dubljevic is a 6'9" center/power forward playing for Valencia in the Spanish League and the EuroCup, one level down from the Euroleague in continental competition. Dubljevic, from tiny Montenegro, averaged 12.5 points per game in 20 minutes, shooting better than 50 percent from the floor, better than 40 percent from three and better than 80 percent from the stripe. He averaged 4.5 boards and less than an assist per game. The International Basketball Scouting Service sees him as having NBA scoring potential, giving him six stars out of five in their rankings. In defense, he gets three and a half; in rebounds four and in potential five and a half.
He plays well in big games. In four regular season games against powerhouses Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona, he averaged 17.5 points and shot 46.2 percent overall and 64.7 from three. In the Spanish League playoffs, he averaged 12.7 points, but shot 63.6 percent overall and 42.9 from three. He can shoot.
Downside? He is not athletic, with an only 27.5" vertical and 3.67 second speed in the three-quarter court sprint. and that could slow his development.
The 22-year-old is currently 54th in Draft Express' latest mock and not listed on NBADraft.net. That's okay. IF the Nets were to draft him, it would be to stash him overseas for another year. We don't know the details of his buyout, nor his level of interest in the NBA. But we suspect that ANY player taken with a purchased pick in the second round is going to be European and bound for the Euro-Stash route to the NBA. Fine by us.
He will be showing his wares this weekend at the Adidas EuroCamp in Treviso, Italy, where a delegation of Nets scouts will be watching.
Individual workouts start this week, with the usual suspects and local products acting as fill-ins.
Who can we expect the next two and a half weeks? Here's a list from a variety of sources, including player agents: Allen Crabbe of California, Lamont Jones of Iona, of North Texas, Jamaal Franklin of San Diego State, Gorgiu Dieng of Louisville, Trevin Parks of Johnson C. Smith, Tony Snell of New Mexico, Gregory Echenique of Creighton, Archie Goodwin of Kentucky, Dami Sapara of the College of the Ozarks, Jeff Withey of Kansas, Reggie Bullock of North Carolina, and C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell of North Carolina State.
Expect that to change and expect as well a couple of international players. The Nets can only workout a player twice, in either group or individual sessions. That includes the Adidas Eurocamp. Also, watch for players who come in for a late workout in the days before the draft. In 2011, the Nets worked out Bojan Bogdanovic the day before. It's not unheard of for a player to be brought in the morning of the draft.
Cap Space Much? Nope
Word came this week that the league's projected salary cap/luxury tax numbers for 2013-14 will be up only slightly to $58.5 million & $71.6 million. For 2014-15, they're projected at $62.1 million & $75.7 and only slightly bigger increase.
What does it mean for the Nets? Not much. The team is already so far over the luxury tax and "apron" ($4 million above the luxury tax threshold) that such small increases are near meaningless. With so many long term contracts, the Nets chances for getting below those numbers are miniscule, without the Nets throwing all their future assets, draft picks and draft rights, into salary dumps ... and no one is interested in doing that. So for at least the next two years, expect the Nets to be stuck with the vets minimum, the mini-MLE and no $2 million bi-annual exception, along with whoever they can get in the draft and trades.
According to Sham Sports compilations, the most comprehensive out there, the Nets will currently pay $86,340,931 in salary next year --with C.J. Watson's player option but without the $1.1 million owed whoever they take with the 22nd pick. Those virtually even out, but the Nets will also pay Bojan Bogdanovic. We could do the long math and tell you how much it would take to get below the apron and get the MLE, BAE and S&T back, but a league source told us to simply forget it. It's not happening, not worth the time on the spreadsheet.
The big question of course is what happens with Kris Humphries contract. He would like to be back, but chances of that seem verrrry low. If the Nets, as we've noted before, will try to get value for him, but the most likely scenarios would involve taking on an even longer contract. The ideal trade would be sending Hump to a team with $12 million in cap space in exchange for nothing but a pick, swap of picks, etc. That would give the Nets a big trade exception. That's not likely either. And if you're wondering whether the Nets could do a sign-and-trade with the TE, the answer is no. They're hamstrung.
As for projections that the Nets will pay up to $47 million in luxury taxes next year, a league source told us you have to match that against how much money ownership making, whether in profits from the Nets/Barclays Center or in the rising value of their investment. The source also claimed it's not that high, but didn't detail why.
Mikhail Prokhorov is very serious about a run for mayor of Moscow on September 8, very serious. Reports out of Moscow this week had him scurrying to re-patriate ALL his overseas assets to Russia, either directly or through trusts, other legal instruments, etc., and that includes the Nets. It's required by law and if he used the law or the short deadline or the degree of difficulty, it would have painted him as someone not serious about his political ambitions. Moreover, his Civic Platform is running slates of candidates in local elections across Russia this year. With the mayoralty of Moscow now open, he has no choice but do everything in his power to meet the legal qualifications and run.
Does he have a chance? Sure. When he ran for President of Russia two years ago, he garnered eight percent of the vote nationwide, but 20 percent in Moscow. Now, in the most recent public opinion polls nationwide, he's at 20 percent. No doubt his popularity in Moscow has soared as well. He will face strong opposition from Sergey Sobynanin. Sobyanin, Vladimir Putin's former chief of staff, resigned the job last week but will run in the special election. Prokhorov charges --and most independent analysts agree-- he stepped down and called the "snap election" to put pressure on Prokhorov, to organize his campaign, to divest or move his foreign assets.
Other than his vast wealth, with an estimated $7+ billion of his assets in cash, Prokhorov is supported by many of the city's young people, always a resource in any campaign. He is also popular with the so-called "creative class," who are those engaged in new businesses and culture in the capital.
We will be sure to add September 8 to our next Deadlines and Commitments.
Bettering the Barclays neighborhood
The Atlantic Center Mall, across the street from Barclays Center, was developed at a time when the neighborhood was a lot tougher and a lot less demanding of good design. Just building a mall in Brooklyn was risky enough to warrant praise. Now with Brooklyn's downtown encroaching and Barclays Center gaining architectural notice, the mall's bland design makes it a sore thumb.
But a recent windfall for Forest City may permit an upgrade and a new facade opposite the arena. Forest City sold a chunk of its malls around the region this week to an Australian investor and one possible use could be a new face for Atlantic Center Mall.
The money could also be invested in some of Forest City Ratner's local malls, most notably the Atlantic Center Mall across the street from the Barclays Center. Ms. Gilmartin has spoken often of her desire to see the mall repositioned for a more affluent, gentrified Brooklyn. This would not only include replacing retailers in the 1990s complex but even tearing back the façade on the notoriously closed-off building, creating a more inviting experience both for shoppers and retailers.
In addition to its three planned residential towers at the back of the arena, FCR has the right to build two giant office towers above the mall, which would give the arena an even more urban setting. It will be long while, however, before they're built, if ever.
Final Note: Back to Coaching
What ever happens in the coaching search, the Nets have a strategy which is related to their salary cap position. There's not a lot the Nets can do to make dramatic improvements this off-season. The draft could help, and if the Nets can get something of value for Kris Humphries, that's good too. As we've noted, the Nets will also look to the D-League, amnesty, vets minimum deals, Bogdanovic, etc. An NBA coach is an NBA team's most important employee. And the Nets have the resources to balance their salary cap restrictions with a first rate coach and staff.