Every weekend, we update the Nets' off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, analysis, etc. to help take the edge off not winning the NBA championship. We rely on our own reports as well as what the Nets’ beat reporters and others have slipped into larger stories, blogs and tweets...
First things first
After a week that saw the Nets trade for two players, pass on renewing a third and come to terms with another, the Nets will almost certainly have 12 players under contract by week's end following the expected signings of Bojan Bogdanovic and Markel Brown (more on that later). That leaves three spots open, assuming the Nets will want to go to the full 15-man limit. Alan Anderson still doesn't have a home and the Nets did want him back a couple of weeks ago. Cory Jefferson played well in Orlando, as did DaJuan Summers and Michael Jenkins, a shooting guard who's had a good career in Italy.
Bottom line, unless Billy King has a trade up his sleeve, the Nets off-season is essentially done, with only a couple of minimum contracts left to be filled. That was fast. It always is.
LeBron, the Nets and the season ahead
Is the East wide open? Are the Cavs a championship threat? Who knows? It's July 13! We are wondering where the Nets fit. It's hard to tell. There are so many questions out there, starting with Brook Lopez's rehab from surgery which is a far bigger deal that Deron Williams double surgery; whether Kevin Garnett really wants to play another year; and is the Nets' Jarrett Jack the Jarrett Jack who dominated off the bench for Golden State two years ago or the one who disappointed in Cleveland? Not to mention how Lionel Hollins will do in the big city.
Sekou Smith revised his playoff picture in the East and had the Nets out of it. Same with James Herbert of CBS Sports. That would be a disaster on so many levels. Mikhail Prokhorov would have to consult a wedding planner as well as financial advisers. The Nets would be in danger of losing their first round pick to Atlanta because of the swap provisions in the Joe Johnson trade. Jobs would be at stake.
We remain fairly confident, if concerned. If Deron Williams returns to the form he showed his last year in New Jersey, let alone Utah, that would be fine. People forget that in that lockout-shortened season, he had the highest single game point (57) and assist (20) totals of any player in the NBA. If he returns to his Utah Jazz form, that would be wonderful. Hollins will presumably push him hard. Brook Lopez's doctors have told him and the Nets that he should be fully recovered. And there was word on Saturday that indeed his rehab is proceeding well. But he, them and us will be holding our breaths whenever he limps, even for a few seconds. We do like that Hollins said he told Lopez, over breakfast Friday, that the big guy needs to be more "nasty." Joe Johnson? Unless something awful for awkward lays him low, we see Joe Cool with a larger role. This is a guy who made his seventh All-Star game this season and averaged 21 points in the playoffs.
We also see both Andrei Kirilenko and Mirza Teletovic as under appreciated assets. A lot of pundits dismiss AK-47 as being done. That may very well be the case. A lot of power forwards simply fall off the table at age 32. But he should have a new opportunity with Hollins. In an interview with Russian media this week, he said he wanted to play more minutes than Kidd had given him and neither praised Kidd nor wished him well. Teletovic said last week that he is more relaxed this summer than last, has more confidence. He wasn't sure where he fit last summer.
Where we worry is how the Nets are going to replace Paul Pierce's scoring. Of course, the combination of Bojan Bogdanovic, Kirilenko and Teletovic might make up for some of it. That's a lot to ask.
Hello to Bojan Bogdanovic
The 6'8" Croatian swingman will be in New York this week to sign his mini-MLE contract. Big day for him, and now the big pressure. Before he decided to sign, he wanted two things: competitive money (check) and minutes (check). Now he has the pressure to go with it.
He will be called on to provide offense from the swingman position. It will take some time. It always does. But despite the sturm and drang of the last three years, misfires on signings, constant trade rumors, right up to Draft Night, the Nets have never wavered in their belief that he can play at a high level in the NBA. Privately, some have said he could have made the All-Rookie team this season if he had signed a deal last summer. Publicly, they've said more, going back to the week after he was drafted when Nets international scout, Danko Cvjeticanin, called him a cross between Peja Stojakovic and Carlos Delfino. Billy King recently described him as a "poor man's Peja." He may even be a better NBA player than a European player because he plays so well in the open court.
We expect he and Markel Brown will be signed and introduced sometime this week. Maybe together.
Farewell to Milton Lee
Earlier this week, Milton Lee left the Nets. He had been GM of minor league operations, running the Springfield Armor for the past three years. Now, without a minor league affiliate --and not likely to even use the D-League-- there was no room for him. He was also a confidante of Jason Kidd.
Lee was the first Nets employee in the Prokhorov era. Chris Charlier, who Prokhorov put in charge of the Nets acquisition, knew Lee from their days at UPenn. Charlier was familiar with Lee's basketball background, which included being an intern for the 1992 Dream Team. So, quietly, the Nets hired Lee as a consultant. He jokes that when he was hired, he thought it was a bit of a lark. He thought the chances of Team Prokhorov succeeding were no better than one percent. He became the vice-president of ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment. For a while, he was a member of the board of directors of both the Brooklyn Nets and Barclay’s Center.
As Team Prokhorov set up shop, he was given a few early assignments as director of basketball operations. He upgraded the statistics department, working off his experience on Wall Street. But truth be told, no one in the Nets was (or is) that much of a stats nut. He was put in charge of the "Nets campus" at Barclays, the locker room etc., producing a world-class facility within a facility. He was tasked with a lot of jobs, like managing the Nets bid for the 2013 All-Star Game and the site search for the new practice facility.
And he's helped run the NBA Draft Combine for years, organizing the combine and running workouts. But he spent most of his time on the Armor and if the team hadn't been sold, the Nets affiliate would have had the first overall pick in the D-League draft and D-League rights to 12 players with NBA experience. Unfortunately, the owners of the Armor sold to a group of Michigan businessmen who moved the team to Grand Rapids. The picks and the rights went with them and the Nets have doubts about the D-League right now.
Milt's professionalism was always evident, as was his work ethic. He was asked to get things done and he did. We wish him well.
The Off-Off Season
Summer league is done. So we will have to wait until October, a long, long time, to watch Nets players work their craft.
Au contraire, mon ami!
With so many international players, and so much international competition, there will be lot of games of interest to Nets fans in the two big competitions, the FIBA World Cup and the FIBA Europe Qualifying Tournament where European teams that didn't make the Worlds compete for places in Eurobasket 2015. Although Andrei Kirilenko has retired, the teams' four other internationals -- Bosnia's Mirza Teletovic, Russia's Sergey Karasev, Mexico's Jorge Gutierrez and Croatia's Bojan Bogdanovic -- will play a lot of games in the tournaments ... and the "friendly" --exhibition-- games.
Here's a list of where to find the Nets' internationals this summer, starting this weekend. The NBA players won't play in all the games, particularly the early ones, but we have listed all the games we can find (We're having a hard time finding the Russian schedule of friendlies).
July 12 - 13 -- Mirza Teletovic's Team Bosnia will play Israel and Slovakia in a "friendly" aka exhibition tournament in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.
July 19 - 20 -- Bosnia will play Italy and Montenegro in a friendly tournament in Sarajevo.
July 26 - 27 -- Bosnia will play Sweden a friendly two-game set, first in Sarajevo, Bosnia's capital, then in Zenica
August 1 - 2 -- Croatia, led by Bojan Bogdanovic, will play Canada twice in a friendly two set, both in Brod, Croatia.
August 3 - 5 -- Bosnia will play in a friendly tournament hosted by Italy. Teams from Italy, Serbia and Canada participate.
August 1 - 7 -- FIBA Americas CentroBasket. National teams from Central America and Caribbean compete at a tournament in Mexico. Jorge Gutierrez plays for Mexico.
August 8 - 10 -- Tres Naciones tournament in Technopolis, Argentina. Host nation will take on Mexico and Brazil.
August 8 - 10 -- Croatia will play in a tournament in France with the host nation, Serbia and Greece participating.
August 10 - 27 -- FIBA Europe Qualifications, a tournament to fill out brackets in FIBA's European championships, called Eurobasket, in 2015. Bosnia opens vs. Great Britain, whose coach is Kidd assistant Joe Prunty. Bosnia will play games vs. Great Britain and Iceland in home and away sets. Russia opens with Switzerland in Fribourg and plays vs. Italy and Switzerland in home and away sets.
August 20 - 21 -- Croatia will play in a tournament in Spain against the host country, Mexico and Ukraine. This is the only tournament where two Nets, Bogdanovic and Gutierrez, will play against each other.
August 26 -- Final Croatian warm-up for the FIBA World Cup will take place in Zagreb, Croatia's capital vs. Lithuania.
August 30 – September 14 -- FIBA World Championship in Spain. Gutierrez will play for Mexico, Andray Blatche the Philippines and Bogdanovic for Croatia. The opening game in Sevilla will feature Philippines vs. Croatia, meaning Blatche vs. Bogdanovic. Later that same day in Gran Canaria, it will be Mexico vs. Lithuania.
We didn't include the Philippines friendlies because there's no indication Andray Blatche will be back for the Nets.
We've written about Oscar Schmidt before. He's the Hall of Fame player from Brazil. He was inducted two years ago. He was also the first foreign player to be drafted by an NBA team, the Nets, in 1984. He never came to the US. He was interviewed recently for the NBA TV original documentary, the "1984 Draft."
Here's what he said about the Nets effort to bring him to New Jersey.
"The New Jersey Nets draft me, sixth round! SIXTH ROUND!! Do you know how many big people are in the sixth round?! 144th if I remember.
"They offered me a no-cut contract. It was unbelievably good. Nobody has it before. I refuse it."
Why? Because back then, an NBA contract meant a player had to forfeit his amateur status. So no Brazilian national team, no Olympic team.
"For me, the national team is the best thing in the world. Because in the NBA, teams are just teams, club teams. The national team is better. When you get the national team, you know you represent your country. So I must refuse it."
The Nets pursued him three years in a row, he said, but no way. By the time the rules were changed, in 1992, he was 34 years old and set in his way. In those Olympics, the Dream Team Olympics in Barcelona, he averaged 42.3 points per game.
Media Mogul Prokhorov
Mikhail Prokhorov is already a media mogul, of sorts. He owns RBK, a CNBC-like business channel on Russian TV and of course, SNOB Magazine. Now, he's taking a big step. He's bid for all the shares of Vedomosti, the Wall Street Journal of Russia, which has been put up for sale by its Finnish owners.
Onexim (Prokhorov's investment vehicle) has sent an official letter to Citibank offering to buy a 100 percent stake in Vedomosti, ITAR-Tass reported Thursday, citing a source who had seen the document and confirmation from a media executive familiar with the negotiations.
Prokhorov, whose wealth is estimated by Forbes at $11 billion, has already made multiple attempts to buy Vedomosti, several of his acquaintances told the paper. The sources also told Vedomosti that Derk Sauer, the Dutch founder of The Moscow Times and SIM, has been nudging him in this direction.
Prokhorov has said he's out of electoral politics, resigning from the president of his party, Civic Platform, but apparently he is not ready to step aside form political influence.
Happiness is the Truth
We always loved Paul Pierce. We thought him the most underrated superstar, mainly because he never had the great athleticism of the other superstars. He played an old man's game even when young. Last year, he didn't embarrass himself, at all, in a Nets uniform. He played fewer minutes than he ever had, his scoring and shooting numbers were down, but he played well in big games (until the series vs. Miami) and showed heart.
Now, he's gone to Washington. The Nets didn't even offer him a contract. It was both a business and basketball decision, and as we noted, there's little difference anymore. The argument is simple: he can't play the three anymore, particularly on defense, and while he can play the four, the Nets would rather give their younger players a shot.
From what we hear, he took the best offer he had. He still wants to play. How much remains the question. With Martell Webster and Otto Porter ahead of him in the rotation, he's likely to spending two years spreading intangibles. Good Luck to him.