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Nets Off-Season Report #6

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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 playoffs, relying on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who have slipped interesting stuff into larger stories and blogs.

Brook’s Durability

Quick, when was the last Nets center to play all 82 games? Not just a rookie, anyone. The answer is Mike Gminski who played all 82 in 1983-84, but Big Mike started only two of those 82. Darryl Dawkins played in 81 games that season, tipping off in all but the two games Gminski started. Jason Collins played in 81 as well, in 2002-03. Buck Williams played in 82 games five of the first six seasons he played for the Nets and while he may have played some games at center, he was primarily a power forward.

What this may suggest is that Brook Lopez may need a backup next year. It’s hard to imagine a big man escaping any kind of injury two years running. Robin Lopez anyone?

Selling the Nets Sponsors Overseas…with Yi’s Help

If you think the Nets are giving up so easily on Yi Jianlian, think again.

The Nets have retained The Leverage Agency, a New York ad agency to help their U.S.-based sponsors who have business operations internationally, particularly in China. That’s a twist. The Nets this year attracted Chinese sponsors, including Peak, Sina.com, and Haier, along with Nike China, Yi’s sneaker team, to advertise at Nets games. More than 50 Nets games were beamed back to China this season. Whenever you see Chinese characters on the front of the scorers’ table, be certain the game is being televised in the Far East. The Nets could also use the agency to help sponsors out in Mexico. Eduardo Najera is the only Mexican in the NBA and a folk hero for his charitable works.

Yi is one of three Nets in China this week. Lopez and Devin Harris are there for Adidas. It’s a first for both of them. No word on whether the three will hook up in a gym over there. Can’t imagine Yi at an Adidas event!

From Verona to East Rutherford

Andrea Fadini is the Nets new international scout who has spent most of his career as a general manager in the Italian League. Fadini, 55, replaces Rob Meurs who had a great career as international scout with the Spurs, recommending Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but who was responsible for only one international pick with the Nets and that was Mile Ilic. Meurs left the Spurs for the Nets because the Nets gave him a greater role in player development. It’s not known if Fadini has a similar role.

Fadini was general manager or team president for Udine, Siena, Trapani, Naples and lastly Benetton Treviso. Most of his time, however, was spent with Verona, where he returned as Managing Consultant this past season. He was the Italian league "dirigente dell’anno", or executive of the year, a few years back. His teams got to the Italian Cup Final Four six times winning it once.

He reached the pinnacle of Italian basketball in 2006-07 when he was named GM at storied the Benetton club just outside Venice, but a scandal brought him down in February of 2007. Italian basketball authorities charged that Benetton officials had conspired to add a player to the roster beyond league limits…sort of a Kevin McHale – Joe Smith thing. Fadini lost his job as a result and returned to Verona.

If you’re looking for a Net connection, here’s one: as a scouting consultant for Unics Kazan in the Russian league a few years ago, he recommended the team pick up Travis Best.

His primary duty is scouting the European leagues. Gregg Polinsky, the Nets director of player personnel and draft guru, described his relationship with Fadini this way: "International Scout, Andrea Fadini, will correspond with Kiki and myself throughout the year as to who he feels will merit a look. Kiki usually handles that by going overseas, as he did this year."

The One That Got Away

SLAM has a nice profile of the most prolific scorer in the history of professional basketball, Oscar Schmidt, and his Nets' connection. Schmidt, a 6'8" shooting guard never played in the NBA, scoring all 49,703 points overseas, primarily in Brazil. So hot a scorer was Schmidt he was given the nickname Mao Santa or Holy Hand.

Schmidt was drafted by the Nets in 1984 when he was 26. He was the first foreign player ever drafted, taken with the 15th pick in the sixth round. (That was the same draft that produced Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton.)

Three years later, in the gold-medal match of the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, Schmidt proved the Nets right. Team USA, made up of college players including David Robinson and Danny Manning, along with several other future NBA players, played Brazil. Brazil faced a 68-54 halftime deficit. Schmidt almost single-handedly led Brazil to a stunning comeback, finishing with 46 points in a 120-115 win.

Why didn't he play for the Nets? He wanted to maintain his "amateur" status and continue to play for the Brazilian National Team in international competitions. Until 1989, NBA players couldn't participate in international competitions. In 38 career Olympic basketball games, Schmidt scored 1093 points for a record 28.8 points per game average.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

Well, it’s not about where you pick, but about how smartly you pick. That was certainly true last season. If the 2008 Draft was re-run right now, Lopez would go no lower than #3. So looking at #11 in the post-draft despair, think positive thoughts.

Here’s one…

Well, James Johnson is really not a sleeper, but with some mocks putting him in the mid-teens, he’ll qualify for now. We expect him to move up after the workouts. He might not just impress. He might intimidate.

Here’s what Fred Kerber wrote about him this week in the Post:

Johnson is the son of a mixed martial arts champ father and a karate black belt mother. He's one of nine kids, all karate experts. He's a black belt, a national and world titlist and an accomplished kickboxer. He's mature, too. He comes out of his sophomore year at age 22. He has been compared to Ryan Gomes and Andres Nocioni.

Watching Johnson, you get the sense that he has yet to reach his potential. He can hit the boards and the three ball in the same sequence and doesn’t seem to let much bother him. He might take a half season or more to show what he can do in the NBA, but the Nets (currently) having few options at the 4, he could surprise if given minutes.

Stimulus Money Alert

Don’t be surprised to see more news about Bruce Ratner trying to get stimulus money for infrastructure improvements around the Barclays Center. There was a lot of discussion in the media, driven by the critics, earlier this year, less so now.

But something Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said this past week reminded us the idea hasn’t died. Key to any project receiving money is its "shovel-ready" status.

The Beep said on hearing Atlantic Yards had won its latest court fight:

"Today’s decision marks a significant step forward in the dream of bringing professional sports and a world-class facility back to our borough, and Brooklyn’s shovels are, and have been, ready. So, let’s pick them up and get to work!"

And not just that. Former New York Senator Alfonse Damato has been hired by Ratner to work some magic on the stimulus money, aka lobby.

Goin’ to Kansas City. Kansas City, Here I Come?

Newark Mayor Cory Booker got a lot of locals in Kansas City excited this week when he said he believed the Nets would be sold and that there could be a nationwide competition for the franchise. He warned that they could wind up in Kansas City or Seattle. One could accuse the mayor of trying to use scare tactics to get fan support for a Net move to the Prudential Center because the reality is different.

Seattle is not happening. The state legislature earlier this month decided not to increase the state luxury tax on hotels, which would have been used to upgrade the Key Arena. The NBA has said that without the upgrade, there’ll be no new team in Seattle. There are investors who are willing to pay part of the cost of the renovation, led by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, but they’re unwilling to foot the whole bill, which is what the legislature would like them to do.

There are other cities with modern arenas either built, under construction or planned that are looking for NBA tenants: Anaheim, San Jose and Las Vegas. Ratner would have to agree to sell to investors in those cities (why now?) and the NBA Board of Governors--in most cases, the principal owners of the 30 franchises--would then have to 1) approve the sale and 2) approve the move. The league Board of Governors would send a delegation to the proposed new market to investigate its suitability and then recommend yes or no to the full Board of Governors. In the last move, from Seattle to Oklahoma City, there was only one dissenter: Mark Cuban who smartly objected because it was yet another move from a big market (Vancouver, Charlotte, Seattle) to a smaller one (Memphis, New Orleans, Oklahoma City). His logic is that the increasing number of smaller markets will hurt the league in its next negotiations for television rights. Depending on how you measure the New Jersey market, a move to Kansas City would follow that trend...not so much with the others. It would also follow another trend. In each of the three previous cases, teams went from a higher income city to a lower income one.

The board can also be swayed by some of their number who would have competitive issues to certain moves. The Warriors would object, no doubt, to any team moving to San Jose, the Clippers and Lakers to any team moving to Anaheim and a lot of the governors might object to a team moving to the gambling capital of the world. Lakers might also have competitive reasons to oppose a Vegas move.

One other thing about Kansas City. They are far more likely to be the next home of the Islanders than the Nets. Owner Charles Wang, who is trying to redevelop the area around Nassau Coliseum, has even scheduled a preseason game in KC next fall as a way to led Long Island pols know he’s serious about moving the franchise. Hard to imagine the city and arena being able to take on two professional sports franchises.

Final Note

We like Ben Couch's off-season profiles a lot. They're informative, occasionally have a little news and like all of Ben's work are nicely written.