Every Sunday, we update the Nets' off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, analysis, etc. to help take the edge off missing the second round of the playoffs. We rely on our own reports as well as what the Nets’ beat reporters and others have slipped into larger stories, blogs and tweets....
In our next to last Off-Season Report, we look at the personality of two off-season acquisitions: Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko, the leader and the defender. We also look at Big Shot Bojan, chronicling Bojan Bogdanovic's heroics at FIBA Eurobasket. We hope for the best in Springfield, but it may not be easy for Doug Overton, the new coach. An we write about the big and small ways the Nets helped out in the community this week. As a Final Note, we offer congratulations, lots of them. Seems like not much is going on. We know that's not quite true. Maybe we'll know more next weekend, when we publish our last Off-Season Report and move to Pre-Season, which has its official start a week from Monday at Media Day in Brooklyn. Yes!
Paul Pierce's personality
Take a look at the Nets video of their annual softball game. Who's the dominant personality? Paul Pierce.The guy who in July expressed regret that he wasn't retiring in Boston has become a face, if not the face, of the franchise this off-season.
It was Pierce who stoked the Nets-Knicks rivalry, Pierce who (along with Deron Williams) arranged the L.A. workouts, Pierce who shows up first at the PNY Center virtually every morning. That's not a diss of D-Will, just that Pierce didnt get to be a fan favorite in Boston, based solely on his stats. The sunny personality and hyper competitiveness won him the love of Celtic fans (which continues to this day, as any check of Boston media will show).
Is that a problem? Shouldn't be. We think Pierce understands the value of pushing the envelope, giving the Nets a uniqueness, without intruding on others' turf. The Nets have four players who've been team captains --Williams, Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson. Who will be the Nets captain this year? It will be up to Coach, and former captain, Jason Kidd. Could it be Pierce?
Kirilenko signing as big as "The Trade?"
Back in July after the Nets press conference to introduce Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, KG volunteered to Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel, "The Kirilkenko signing was a HUGE signing." This week D-WIll said of AK-47, "We’re excited about that addition. That’s as big of an addition as [Pierce and Garnett], if you ask me."
Williams and Kirilenko of course were teammates for more than six years in Utah and remain close friends, but why would it be that big of a deal? Defense. Kirilenko remains a very good defender and more importantly it's his persona.
He thinks of himself first and foremost a defender and his record proves it: three times he made the NBA All-Defense Team. In 2012, he was named Defensive Player of the Year in the Euroleague (as well as MVP). Six times, he's been in the top five of blocks per game and he's currently seventh among active players in blocks. Once, he was in the top ten of steals. That level of defense is unique among the Nets. D-WIll may be a great passer, Reggie Evans a great rebounder, but Kirilenko has always seen himself as a defender. Even KG in that same interview on July 18, Garnett admitted that he wasn't a great defender until he joined the Celtics six years ago.
Kirilenko's game is not limited to defense. Last season, he shot 50.7 percent from the field, his best ever, and he remains one of the NBA's great interior passers. But Kirilenko sees himself first and foremost as a defender.
Of course, he could be around for only a year. He has a player option next year. But he seems like he's buying into the idea of the Nets and New York, living in Manhattan and helping the Nets sell sponsorships in Moscow.
Big Shot Bojan
You can focus on Bojan Bogdanovic's shooting percentages in Eurobasket (42.3 percent overall, 27.5 percent from three) or you can watch this video. Putting aside the numbers --outscoring 26 of the 27 NBA players in Eurobasket-- Bogdanovic proved he can hit the big shot(s) in big games. In the game vs. Greece, he had nine points at the end of regulation, then exploded for five points, including this three, in the first overtime and then eight in the second OT.
It wasn't just the game vs. Greece.
--Against Poland, Bogdanovic had 10 points in the third-quarter spurt that pushed back the first Polish comeback attempt, and was Croatia's go-to guy.
--Against Slovenia, another overtime game, a Boki Nachbar missed a three-point attempt with three seconds left in regulation. With the first minute of overtime, Damjan Rudez hit a three, followed by one from Bogdanovic, enabling Croatia to start off the extra period with an 8-1 run and effectively seal the win.
--Against Italy, Bogdanovic capped his performance by hitting a key triple with 3:28 left in the game to give Croatia some breathing space, 70-62, amidst Italy's comeback.
--Against Georgia, two minutes into the final quarter, Bogdanovic intercepted a George Tsintsadze pass and darted down the court to put Croatia back in the lead with a spectacular dunk, 57-56,
Croatia won all those games, part of its eight-game winning streak that ended on Friday vs. Lithuania. FYI, the Nets considered taking the 6'10" Croatian sharpshooter Damjan Rudez in the 2008 Draft, but instead took Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Meanwhile, in Springfield
Doug Overton, who played for eight NBA teams, wants to be an NBA head coach and he took a step toward that goal this week when he was introduced as the new coach of the Springfield Armor, replacing Bob MacKinnon, who had one good record and one bad one with the Nets' hybrid affiliate.
The 11-year veteran has promised "hard nosed" basketball and he has a reputation for toughness. Some fans will remember he reportedly made Chris Douglas-Roberts cry during his rookie year.
One reason for Overton's hiring: more integration between the Armor and Nets. Expect young players to spend more time in Springfield than they have in the past. Also expect a closer relationship between Overton and the Nets coaching staff, owing to his tenure with the team. The Armor head coach and assistant are effectively assistant coaches for the Nets before and after the D-League season. Overton's connections should give him an advantage.
Building a winner will no doubt depend in large part on the Nets' success. If Mason Plumlee, Toko Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor aren't needed in Brooklyn and sent north, that should make the Armor automatic contenders ... although it might not make them happy. Also, the Armor have the third pick in the D-League Draft the first week in November. That's likely to yield a player who's already spent time in the NBA and looking for a second chance.
On the other hand, the Nets full roster is making it difficult for them to attract training camp invites. The Armor will have exclusive D-League rights to the last three players cut in training camp. That's normally the way D-League teams build their roster. But the Nets aren't likely to have NBA-quality camp invites. The Armor will also try to convince some of the team's returning players to join up again. Some of their best players last season have already signed overseas including Carleton Scott (Italy), Ramone Moore (Hungary), Edwin Ubiles (Japan) and Kenny Adeleke (Dominican Republic). Dominique Jones has said he won't return to the D-League. The Armor open their season on November 22.
If you think you can help the Armor out, here's the form to fill out for their open tryouts. Open Tryouts are set for September 28 at the PNY Center and October 20 at the Springfield Armory. Nine players have appeared in games with the Armor after making the team through open tryouts.
This was a big week for Nets community efforts, both big and small. Deron Williams' Point of Hope charity deserves a lot of credit for DodgeBall, whose proceeds are going to the fight against autism, a very personal issue for him and his family.
Paul Pierce helped out on a smaller scale. As Stefan Bondy reported, Pierce helped Eddie Rodriguez get out of a bad place mentally last Christmas, then took it step further on Tuesday. Rodriguez, 12, was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 5, wrote Bondy. He subsequently underwent a bone marrow transplant, spending much of his life at a hospital near his home in Massachusetts.
A Celtics fan, he asked for a signed picture of Pierce – through the Family Reach Foundation, which provides financial relief to families fighting cancer. Pierce went further, first adding a jersey to the gift package, then on Tuesday, he appeared at a charity event for Family Reach in Manhattan while cooking alongside his friend, Chef Ming Tsai. What did they whip up? Pierce told Bondy it was his own specialty is tofu salad – seriously. Basketball, poker, tofu. Quite the Renaissance Man.
As Devin Kharpertian reported this week as well, D-Will also helped rehab some of the borough's playgrounds. Through "Brooklyn's Got Wings," a partnership with Red Bull and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, Red Bull donated $150 for every Williams assist in the 2012-13 season towards rebuilding basketball courts in Brooklyn.
Williams finished with 663 assists Multiplied by $150 and you get $99,450. As Kharpertian notes, "If only Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans made a few more shots last season..." Even without those buckets, the program helped refurbish parks in Fort Greene and Boreum Hill.
Toko got married Saturday in Tbilisi, Georgia. Big deal in Georgia. Congratulations from NetsDaily. Also congratulations to Nets PR manager Calder Hynes, who got married a few weeks ago and has taken a job with the Lakers. Calder was the author of @Nets_PR, now sadly defunct. Also joining the Nets as a public relations assistant is Caroline Burleson. Congrats to her as well. She had previously been a PR intern with the Grizzlies and Jazz.