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....
Last time around for the off-season. Monday's Media Day begins the pre-season. Then it's on to the regular season, playoffs and... It should be an exciting time. As we note below, this has been an off-season found only in dreams. Other than LeBron James or Kevin Durant saying they'd love to play in Brooklyn (too early?), the off-season was just swell.
So, as we close this year's Off-Season Reports, our sixth straight year of weekly reviews, we conclude this was the best yet. Any argument? We also take a brief look at the three make-good contracts, laugh at James Dolan, introduce the Nets new in-house beat writer; review the possibilities in China, recall what original plans for Barclays Center looked like and offer a final Final Note with a number..
An off-season found only in dreams
We are so excited for the season to begin, even for the pre-season, but oh, that off-season. It was four months of fun, fun, fun. It may not have erased the memory of Game 7 vs. Chicago but it sure helped us push April's failings further down the trashbin of history. Who among us would have seen the addition of Paul Pierce or Andrei Kirilenko and the retention of Andray Blatche as a solid off-season, forgetting everyone else? How about all of us!
Here in one example is just how well the off-season went for the Nets, from Plan B to Plan A+. Nets fail in their pursuit of Kyle Korver. Nets try to sign Bojan Bogdanovic to the mini-MLE. Bogdanovic backs out because he can't get his buyout reduced. Nets move on to Plan B, which turns into Andrei Kirilenko for the same salary plus Alan Anderson! Nets retain Bogdanovic's rights. He stars in Eurobasket and his value increases dramatically! Kyle who?
Billy King, working with Mikhail Prokhorov and his CEO, Dmitry Razumov, drew gasps from fans from June through September. "The mystery man in the coaching search is who?" ... "How'd they do that?" ... "They're getting who??" ... "They're spending how much?!?
From hiring Jason Kidd to an insane Draft Night (when NetsDaily writers were still toiling away at 2 a.m.) to Andray Blatche's profession of loyalty to Brook Lopez's travels to Paul Pierce's well-placed barbs, it's been great. We will miss it so.
Now on to the real thing and hopefully more fun. Monday is Media Day with all 18 Nets in uniform (the 15 under contract plus the three on make-good deals). Monday night, they fly to Durham, NC, for training camp at the Mike Krzyzewski Center at Duke, where they will spend five days. Then a week from Tuesday, they will be at Barclays Center for the first preseason game vs. the Wizards. In the meantime, there will season previews, one by us Tuesday, as well as lots of tweets, blogs, reports, rumors and the October 5 pre-season game between the Thunder and Fenerbahce of Istanbul, starring Bogdanovic.
Toko and Sali's Wedding - THE highlight
in the tradition of Georgian weddings, as with other cultures, the new bride dances for her husband. Salome Jugeli, Toko's wife, added a nice touch. Just watch...
If you're wondering, what was under the Nets jersey, it's Toko's Georgian national team jersey which he had hoped to wear in Eurobasket. His knee injury, now healed, deprived him of the opportunity.
Nets biggest supporter - James Dolan
Knicks fans will have a hardIf time arguing they had a good off-season when its architect was just unceremoniously fired. And Dolan looked dreadful Wednesday at the announcement of All Star Weekend 2015. (We love Marc Berman's exclusive on why the Knicks waited until after the ASG announcement to fire Glen Grunwald: "Dolan was at the event and both the Knicks and NBA didn’t want the Mills-Grunwald shakeup to upstage the presser, according to sources." No, Marc, Dolan didn't want to answer questions about the crazy-ass move.)
Knick fans are furious, with a couple reprising Anucha Brown Sanders' testimony on Steve Mills from her 2007 sexual harassment trial --how he failed to support her. Knick players claim they knew nothing and everyone in orange-and-blue is worried this is the beginning of the end. Apparently, Dolan wasn't happy with an off-season whose two biggest acquisitions were a player who had been amnestied (Metta World Peace) and another who would have been unless the Knicks gave up three picks to get him (Andrea Bargnani).
Will this lead to a mass defection of Knicks supporters? Unlikely. Will there continue to be a slow trickle of fans, particularly from Brooklyn, switching to black-and-white. Probably. Is their measure? Yeah, somewhat. Merchandise sales figures for the NBA are based on sales of gear at the NBA's Fifth Avenue location and online. If the Nets continue to show relative strength in those numbers, it will be a sign that the Prokhorov Prophecy of "turning Knicks fans into Nets fans" is coming to realization.
The under-appreciated signings
Probably the most under-rated signings of the off-season have been the assistant coaches. Everyone knows who Lawrence Frank is, and what he will do, develop the defense. As Doc Rivers said, LFrank knows Kevin Garnett as well as anyone. He also knows Jason Kidd. John Welch will run the offense with Kidd while Eric Hughes, who coached Kidd as an assistant at Cal, will do a lot of the development work. Roy Rogers has the bigs; Welch has the point guards and Joe Prunty is expected to be jack of all trades. Charles Klask game preparations and analytics.
Word from inside the PNY Center is that all of them are workaholics, particularly with player development, not something last year's group was particularly adept at. They're also vets. Prunty, who coached Great Britain to two upsets in Eurobasket play, has three rings with the Spurs. Frank has coached almost 500 games as a head coach. Welch was part of eight straight winning seasons in Denver, where his boss called him "the best player development coach in the NBA." Rogers worked with Lopez his first two years, his best rebounding years. Klask, who Frank brought with him from Detroit, will set in the second row with Jimmy Sann, the advance scout. That job is more of an assistant than a scout. He had been a Kidd favorite when he twice worked for the Nets.
A little on the three make-goods and the Armor
The chances that Gary Forbes, Jorge Gutierrez or Chris Johnson will make the Nets regular season roster is minimal. Even if the Nets decided one of the would be a better add than someone on the roster, adding one of them and dumping a roster player would cost them $10 million more. A two-for-one trade or a player-for-a-pick trade could open up a spot and might even reduce the luxury tax a tiny bit. But at this point, nothing's happening on that front.
That leaves the Armor. Under normal circumstances, the Armor gains the exclusive D-League rights to the last three players cut from the Nets roster. However, in the cases of Gutierrez and Johnson, their rights are held by the D-League team they played for last season, the Canton Charge for Gutierrez and Rio Grande Vipers for Johnson. That doesn't mean the Armor can't ultimately land them. The Armor could trade the rights to one their own returning players or a pick in the upcoming D-League Draft to Canton or Rio Grande. Springfield has all but one of its eight picks in the upcoming draft.
An interesting footnote: Gutierrez (Mexico) and Forbes (Panama) will add two more names to the Nets international list ... just as they're about to unveil a Spanish language site.
Speaking of the Armor, they took over the PNY Center Saturday. Milton Lee and Doug Overton ran the Armor's annual open workout. It's not a promotion. Six players found at the open workouts have played in the D-League for the Armor.
An "independent" In-house beat reporter
Lenn Robbins, New York Post writer since 1997 and a Brooklyn native, will become the in-house beat writer for the Nets, starting Monday, at Media Day..
Robbins hasn't really covered the Nets. He's been The Post’s college sportswriter and columnist. He will provide coverage of both the Nets for BrooklynNets.com, including home and away games and team practices, as well as write about boxing, college basketball and the Islanders for BarclaysCenter.com.
"Lenn is a highly respected sportswriter, well-known in the market, who consistently offers comprehensive insight for his readers," said Brett Yormark. "I have given him complete independence in his coverage and we will have no prior approval over his work. Lenn’s arrival is an innovative step in further engaging with our fans."
According to several sources, the model for Robbins coverage is Sam Smith, the in-house beat writer for the Bulls. Smith, who covered the Bulls for the Chicago Tribune, now writes unvarnished pieces for the Bulls website, even speculating of trade rumors.
From Brooklyn to Beijing
Brett Yormark talked this week about the Nets international aspirations, saying he'd like the Nets to be the NBA home team in Beijing and Moscow and how the NBA will be broadcasting a lot of Nets games to China. It won't be the first time. The Nets do have a foundation.
The Nets had Yi Jianlian for a little more than two years. During that time, NBA International broadcast a LOT of Nets games overseas, knowing that Chinese and Asian fans had a big interest in Yi. Too bad they sucked and that Yi missed so many games. Beyond TV, five Chinese print and online reporters followed the Nets on a daily basis, even lived in New Jersey. Yi was at the time the third or fourth most popular personality in China, according to polls.
But if the Nets want a sustained popularity in China, it should know Chinese fans --and fans everywhere-- are more about championships than they are about big personalities. Until LeBron went on his championship run two years ago, Kobe Bryant was more popular in Beijing and Shanghai, again according to polls.
There's a lot of money to be made for the NBA overseas. Every team owns a 1/30th stake in NBA International and as the game grows, the profits from overseas grows and the value of the individual franchises grow.
What might have been
It's the first anniversary of Barclays Center and Bruce Ratner and Brett Yormark are making the rounds to discuss its great success, rounds richly deserved.
We decided, particularly for the newer fans to recall the original design of the arena, before it was named the Barclays Center, the Frank Gehry design from 2003-04.
First, this is what the bowl of the arena was supposed to look like. Much larger than the final product, it had some interesting design elements, including if you look closely the large entranceways into the bowl.
Next, the so-called Urban Room that would have linked the planned "Ms Brooklyn" office tower at the tip of Atlantic and Flatbush with the arena. It covers roughly the area of the oculus. The plan was for an all-weather public space.
Finally, there's the planned entrance on Flatbush Avenue, what would have been the main entrance to the arena.
There is no entrance, of course, on Flatbush, the main entrance was moved to the grand plaza in front of the arena. You're looking at where the Nets Store entrance is now located.
Better or worse? It doesn't really matter. With the SHoP/Aecom design, the Nets got perhaps the best arena in the NBA and Brooklyn got an iconic building that will rival (and we think eventually surpass) the Williamsburg Savings Bank as the borough's symbol, sort of like the Sydney Opera House in Australia. It was controversial as well. Now, (nearly) everyone wonders what the fuss was about.
Good Luck to Vinnie Viola, Doug Cifu
Vinnie Viola was until Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Nets the team's second biggest stockholder with 30 percent of the club and arena. Viola, who heads Virtu Financial, a big trading company, put in a bid for the Nets, but the Russian outbid him, reportedly by 50 percent. Since then, Viola and his No. 2, Doug Cifu, have been looking for a sports franchise to buy and this week found one. They bought the Florida Panthers of the NHL for a reported $250 million.
Viola, a big fan of Brett Yormark in New Jersey, is keeping Brett's twin brother, Michael, promoting him to CEO.
And in other hockey news, Frozen Faceoff criticized the Barclays Center ice, posting images of six obstructed views at the Islanders-Devils game, including this beaut.
The images were accompanied by this commentary...
Here are some of the beautiful views fans can expect when the Islanders move to the Barclays Center. Keep in mind there are plenty of great views around the arena, but I do find it odd that the NHL would allow them to play in this arena without some major reconstruction of the seating bowl.
Sounds like one Yormark has some work to do.
So what do we think? We're going to wait a while to see how training camp and pre-season develop before making any bold predictions. But right now, if we don't see a 10-game improvement in the win column, we will be very disappointed.