NetsDaily Off-Season Report #14

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

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 would like to thank Paul Pierce for his late week comments. Otherwise, this could have been a blank space. But Pierce's interviews, one after another, provide us with lots of grist for our mill. We look at what he said about the Knicks, the motivation behind what he said and the reaction. We also argue that the Nets have a shot at "running the city." The Mets and Islanders did it in the 80's when they won ... and their rivals didn't. We also take a longer look at the first camp invite, Michael Snaer of Florida State and his buzzer beating heroics and look at the difficulties Russians will have watching Andrei Kirilenko.

Here's to you, Paul Pierce

We always liked Paul Pierce. We've always thought of him as the most underrated superstar in the NBA. He loves big games and often wins them. His performance in 2008 Finals was one of the best in recent memory.

We liked that he was traded to the Nets ... and now we just love him. His comments this week about how it's time for the Nets to "run this city" was a needed boost in the off-season. Just as August was looking like an exercise in boredom, he spiced things up. In each of his interviews this week, he raised the stakes in the Nets rivalry with the Knicks. He did not back down. He did not credit the Knicks in any way. He stirred the pot. Maybe it was his attempt to rally the faithful for four battles royale this season. Maybe he wanted to tweak the Knicks, noting how he hates them more now than he did when he played in Boston. Maybe he just wanted to raise his profile. Who cares? Whatever the motivation, it worked.

Knicks fans got all flustered on Twitter and on blogs. There was this fevered screed from someone on the Knicks Blog. Our favorite misstatement in the fact-free offering was that the Nets perform in front of 8,000 fans. The reality is that the Nets and Knicks had nearly identical attendance this past season, based on percentage of the arena capacity. The Knicks average attendance was 19,033, 96.30622881141527 percent of the Garden's 19,763 capacity for NBA games. The Nets average attendance was 17,187, 96.92646063613806 percent of Barclays 17,732 capacity for NBA games. Deep stats, baby.

The last time we can recall a player making such comments was in 2001 when Jason Kidd made a similar statement after being traded from the Suns ... and then followed through. Mikhail Prokhorov of course told his first press conference that he planned to turn Knicks fans into Nets fans. Impossible, you say? Read on.

Turning Knicks fans into Nets fans

The conventional wisdom, once again explained to us by the philosopher J.R. Smith, is that New York is and forever will be Knicks town, that despite having not won anything in 40 years, the team that plays at Madison Square Garden will be the center of New York hoops, if not the universe. Why, the pundits, point out, look at the Yankees dominance of the Mets! They had some good years, but this is and will always be the Yankees town.

On which we call bullshit.

Indeed, New York is the Yankees' town now, but within the lifetime of many fans, that was not the case. Do some research, pundits. In the mid-80's to mid-90's, when the Mets were winning and the Yankees were wallowing, the Mets owned New York. O-W-N-E-D. New Yorkers are not so blind in their loyalties that they won't try something new, if that product is better. This is New York, after all.

Here are the facts. In the decade between 1984 and 1993, the Mets outdrew the Yankees for NINE straight years. Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Daryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden dominated the back pages (not always in a positive way) and put fannies in the seats. The Yankees had some good years, but didn't reach the Mets' heights.

In some of those years, the disparity was staggering. In 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1990, the Mets outdrew the Yankees by 500,000 or more, peaking in 1989, when their advantage nearly reached 750,000. The next year, it was 725,000. The Yankees recovered and started a long string of championships after that and the rest is a history of one team dominating because it won and spent money while the other quite simply blew a golden opportunity.

Here's the data from Baseball Reference:

NEW YORK METS

1984 1,842,695 (6th of 12)
1985 2,761,601 (2nd of 12)
1986 2,767,601 (2nd of 12)
1987 3,034,129 (2nd of 12)
1988 3,055,445 (1st of 12)
1989 2,918,710 (3rd of 12)
1990 2,732,745 (2nd of 12)
1991 2,284,484 (5th of 12)
1992 1,779,534 (8th of 12)
1993 1,873,183 (11th of 14)

NEW YORK YANKEES

1984 1,821,815 (6th of 14)
1985 2,214,587 (4th of 14)
1986 2,268,030 (4th of 14)
1987 2,427,672 (3rd of 14)
1988 2,633,701 (2nd of 14)
1989 2,170,485 (8th of 14)
1990 2,006,436 (8th of 14)
1991 1,863,733 (11th of 14)
1992 1,748,737 (11th of 14)
1993 2,416,942 (5th of 14)

The Nets and Knicks are currently evenly matched and it would take some doing for the Nets to get beyond the Knicks, but the two teams' attendance (as a percentage of arena capacity) and merchandise sales (at the NBA Store in Manhattan and online) were very closely matched last season ... in the Nets' first season in Brooklyn! And lets' also note, the Knicks are not the Yankees. To suggest it's impossible? Bull!

See you December 5, 7 p.m. at Barclays Center.

In pursuit of Pierce

Speaking of Pierce, it should be noted that the Nets and Celtics talked trade at the last two deadlines, according to reports by both Fred Kerber and Adrian Wojnarowski. Kerber's report had the Celtics calling the Nets and asked for MarShon Brooks, Mirza Teletovic, Kris Humphries and two first round picks.

The Nets said no. According to Woj, the deal would have been smaller, with the Nets 2013 pick, along with Humphries and Brooks headed north. Woj predicted the trade would be revisited "around draft time," and of course he was right, being Woj.

"I think that Boston can revisit it in deals around draft time," he told WEEI in Boston back in February. "Brooklyn’s draft pick is not going to have a great value. They’re a playoff team, you’re getting a pick that’s not going to be really high, in a pretty bad draft. And you’ve got to try and get one good player back. Humphries and Brooks, you’re not really getting either."

It should be noted that Celtic deal was originally much less ambitious with Pierce going to Boston for Humphries and the Nets 2016 pick. So waiting paid off for both. The rest of the deal, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Brooks, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph, D.J. White, and the two other first rounders, in 2014 and 2018, was worked out on Draft Day (and Night).

A year before, at the 2012 Deadline, league sources said the Celtics called the Nets about their 2012 pick, offering Pierce for Mehmet Okur's expiring and the pick. Danny Ainge reportedly pulled the offer before the Nets could fully consider it and instead moved the assets to Portland for Gerald Wallace, who is five years younger.

Snaer Drums

We're waiting for the Nets to release the names of those who have received and accepted training camp invites from Brooklyn. The one name that has been out there is Florida State's Michael Snaer, a 6'4" senior guard who in past years might have stood a chance at making the team. Now, with 15 players on the roster, all with guaranteed contracts, barring a trade. Even then, would the Nets be willing to play out several million dollars in salary and luxury tax to a guy who might spend much of the season in Springfield?

Snaer does bring some things to the Nets. He can play defense, has a great stroke from three and oh, does he love the big moment. He reportedly holds the NCAA record for buzzer beating, walk-off shots, hitting six in the last two years. Here's a video of five of them...

The guy gets hugged a lot.

He is by no means a finished product. He shoots well from three but as Draft Express notes, he is not a "creative finisher" and as a result had a "subpar 46% 2-point conversion rate," one of the worst among top prospects. Not good for a shooting guard.

His defense, however, is NBA-ready, noted Draft Express. "what remains clear is that where Snaer will be making his money in the NBA is on the other end of the floor. His defense is already up-to-par with an eye towards the NBA, both in terms of individual and team defense. As has been written at length in previous evaluations, Snaer is a very good perimeter defender, with the lateral quickness and length to excel at the next level."

Look for him in Springfield if he wants to go the D-League route. As noted, the Armor automatically acquire D-League rights to the last three players cut by the Nets. His offensive deficiencies look like they can be corrected in a development environment. The NBA is filled with solid defenders who developed deep shooting skills to keep them employed. Snaer could fit that role.

Watching AK-47 from afar

The Nets want to improve their visibility in Russia. With a Russian owner, two other Russians on the board of directors and now Russia's best player on the roster, one would think the Nets will be popular in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Omsk, Tomsk and even Vladivostok. Not yet. It's going to take some doing.

As RIA Novosti, the official Russian news service wrote this week, quoting Irina Pavlova's interview with NetsDaily...

The capture of Kirilenko, who recently confessed to taking a $7 million pay cut to come to New York on a two-year deal, doesn't mean automatic exposure for the Nets in his native country: National Basketball Association games are shown on a cable television station that has a few thousand subscribers in a country of 143 million.

One of our Russian fans told us that despite the low penetration, there are other ways for Russians to watch the Nets. "Everybody watches pirated streams, any game they want," said the fan, who lives far outside Moscow. "Some have League Pass."

There's another problem as well, the time difference. Dmitry Materansky, who often accompanies Nets Director Sergei Kushchenko on trips to New York, noted that if you want to watch live, you have to stay up to 2 a.m.

How does the Nets ownership watch? We're told they record the games if need be. Mikhail Prokhorov, the same source tells us, watches the games for relaxation.

Popular guy

We've long believed that the most popular Russian oligarch in Brooklyn is Mikhail Prokhorov, but now he is also the most popular in Russia as well, according to a new poll. However, twice as many Russians don't like any of the super-rich.

The poll was conducted by Superjob.ru research center’s opinion poll and commissioned by Vedomosti, Russia's leading financil journal. The poll was conducted on Aug. 2–5, involving 3,000 adult respondents in 303 Russian cities and towns. Respondents were asked to choose from among 20 or so prominent Russian entrepreneurs (those most frequently mentioned by the media) or to propose their own candidates.

Prokhorov is favored by 13 percent of respondents. Billionaire Roman Abramovich, who owns Chelsea football club, ranked second with 8 percent. Well-known data security expert Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of Kaspersky Lab, placed third with 7 percent. According to the same Superjob.ru poll, 27 percent of Russians do not like any of the above people, while 18 percent found it difficult to reply.

In Brooklyn, we believe the numbers for Prokhorov would be higher.

When he ran for president of Russia two years ago, Prokhorov received eight percent of the vote, but in recent polls, Prokhorov's popularlity has risen to nearly 20 percent.

Final Note

More lousy reporting. A number of sites and at least one cable channel have gleefully claimed that the Nets website, Nets.com, has been hacked and now directs traffic to the celtics.com site. One site (wouldn't you know it was Bleacher Report) theorized it was someone in New England.

Wrong. Nets.com has never been the Nets site. It was set up years ago by a networking company who the Nets spoke to about buying the URL. The two sides couldn't reach a deal and the site's current owners have gleefully directed traffic from there to other NBA sites as well as site that made it look like Mark Cuban owned the site. He does not and never has.

It's getting kind of boring.

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