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.
Draft Day Deals, Made and Unmade
Lawrence Frank laid to rest the idea that the 2009 NBA Draft is not that good. In fact, he told an ESPN chat "After reviewing the players, there are several good ones. And I think you'll see some trading so teams can get extra picks. It's not really my expertise, but our scouts and GM think there's going to be some depth and some great players late."
The Nets haven’t been very active on Draft Day in the Rod Thorn era--never buying an addtional pick, but it’s not been for a lack of effort.
They have traded the rights to a first round pick twice:
--In 2001, the Nets dealt the rights to Eddie Griffin, taken at #7, to Houston for Richard Jefferson at #13, Jason Collins at #18 and Brandon Armstrong at #23;
--In 2004, they sent the rights to Viktor Khryapa, taken at #22, to Portland for $3 million in cash and Eddie Gill's expiring contract. (Thorn claimed that they could have rescinded that deal if a couple of players had been available, specifically Jameer Nelson or J.R. Smith.)
They’ve sold a second round pick once.
--In 2003 they sold the #51 pick that became Kyle Korver to Philadelphia for $125,000.
They have never bought a pick, but they have claimed to have tried.
--In 2005, Ed Stefanski said they tried to acquire a pick in the early second round to take Monta Ellis, who was taken at #40 by Golden State;
--In 2008, Kiki Vandeweghe said they tried to acquire a pick in the late first round to take Chris Douglas Roberts, who luckily dropped to the Nets at #40; and Lawrence Frank said they tried to acquire a pick in the late second round to take Jaycee Carroll, who went undrafted. (There is evidence that they like both of them after their workouts.)
They’ve tried to move up multiple times…surely more times that we know of. We do know of a few cases…or at least now what’s been reported:
--In 2006, the Nets offered the rights to the #22 and #23 picks to Seattle for the #10 pick so they could take Hilton Armstrong, who went at #12 to New Orleans. Seattle turned them down. The Nets took Marcus Williams and Josh Boone, Armstrong’s teammates at UConn. That same night, the Nets and Bulls were in trade negotiations all the way through the second round. The Bulls were offering Luol Deng and and their second pick in the first round, at #16, Thabo Sefolosha, for Richard Jefferson. The Nets wanted their first pick, at #2, Tyrus Thomas. The deal collapsed.
--In 2007, Charlotte turned down an offer from the Nets to swap Sean May for Boki Nachbar and the #17 pick, which became Sean Williams.
--In 2008, the Nets turned down an offer from Portland, two days before the Draft. The Blazers were offering picks #13, #33 and Steve Blake or Jarrett Jack for the #10 pick and Trenton Hassell or Maurice Ager. If that had happened, the Nets were ready to take Robin Lopez at #13. The Nets and Memphis were also in talks on Draft Day about a trade that would have send the #5 pick to New Jersey for the #10 pick and a future first-round pick, possibly the Nets pick in 2009 or the Dallas pick in 2010. If the Nets moved up, word was they were looking at two guys who they thought would not be on the board at #10: Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Love. Indeed, Gallinari went at #6 and Love at #5.
All in all, sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.
More June Dates
The last week of June is likely to be filled with Nets news.
The draft of course is June 25 and players and teams have until June 30 to exercise options. For the Nets, that’s only Jarvis Hayes (team) and Hassell (player)…and both of those decisions are pretty much preordained. The Nets almost certainly will pick up Hayes’ option and Hassell almost certainly will tell the Nets he’s going to stick around for another season. The Carlos Boozer rumors could get new legs that week as well. He has a player option expiring on June 30. If he opts out, as expected, then there will be added speculation on where he will land. Free agent signings begin July 8.
But beyond that, the day before the draft could see more activity regarding the Brooklyn move. That’s the day the Nets ownership will be meeting with both the Empire State Development Corporation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The ESDC will have to determine if the new Barclays Center design and other changes to the overall Atlantic Yards will require new hearings and a new approval. That same morning, the MTA’s board will be asked to approve a new price tag for the Vanderbilt Rail Yards, which make up 55% of the land needed for the overall project. Bruce Ratner had agreed to pay $100 million for the land, but now wants the price reduced and the payout extended. The MTA has already agreed to similar terms re: a planned development over the West Side Yards in Manhattan. Expect to see the new arena design released either that day or the day before.
If either goes against Ratner, there will be more delays. If not, the ESDC is likely to accelerate what is known as the "master closing", which would begin the eminent domain process on the remaining properties Ratner needs for the arena.
No Money for Lebron?
The big news out of the NBA this week (other than the Finals) was David Stern's comments that the NBA's basketball-related income might drop by 10 per cent the coming season. What would mean, if true, is that almost every NBA team will be over the cap and even over the luxury tax...and thus out of the running for the much vaunted 2010 free agency.
As John Hollinger wrote Friday for ESPN:
"The cap normally assumes growth of about 4.5 percent, so if revenue actually dropped 10 percent instead, the claw-back provision would be 14.5 percent, slashing about $10 million off the salary cap and luxury-tax levels. One source I talked to said even a 5 percent drop in revenues would push the luxury-tax level to slightly above $60 million, which would in turn put the majority of the league's teams over the tax line in 2010-11 unless they made some serious adjustments to their payroll. It would also dramatically reduce the projected cap space for teams hoping to get in on the bidding for prospective free agents like LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire.
What it also would mean, he writes, is that teams with big payrolls might follow the Memphis model and slash veterans and go instead for players who make less money. Put that in the Nets' context and you see even more reason, beyond the team's financial woes, to dump VInce Carter's salary this off-season. We're not saying it's going to happen. We just think fans should understand that it could.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
Last year, this feature was so much more fun. With three picks spaced neatly in the lottery, late first round and early second round, there were so many possibilities. This year, it's just the lottery pick. We will make do.
Ohio State's B.J. Mullens may be the most intriguing story in the draft. Like Jrue Holiday and Brandon Jennings, he was seen as a top flight NBA prospect in high school. Mullens is almost as much a monster as Brook Lopez. At 7'1" and 260, he is uncommonly (we will not say "freakishly") athletic. All his scores at the Draft Combine were better than Lopez's, from max vertical (32.5" to Lopez's 30"), three quarter court sprint (3.45 secs. to Lopez's 3.57), bench press with a 185-pound weight (10 reps to Lopez's 7) and court agility (11.1 secs to Lopez's 12.8). The only area where Lopez has an advantage is wingspan. His is five inches longer than Mullens, not an insignificant difference.
What makes Mullens so interesting is his life story. As the Columbus Dispatch chronicles, Mullens survived a childhood where he moved from homeless shelter to soup kitchen before finally settling at a teammate's home.
There are reportedly issues with his maturity (in spite of a cum of better than 3.0 both his semesters at Ohio State) and skill set, but not a lot of athletic seven-footers with inner toughness drop to #11. He could be a project, but no doubt an interesting one.
Yi vs. the Mullahs
It’s not bad enough Yi Jianlian has cranky Nets fans to contend with during the NBA season. This summer, he’ll also have to deal with bold statements from…Iran.
Iran has become China’s chief rival in Asian basketball and this week, Iran’s coach, Mahmoud Mashhoon warned Team China that his team could defeat them "even with Yao Ming", according to the Tehran Times.
"If the Chinese are proud of Yao Ming, we are proud of all our team players. Iranian players are full of enthusiasm, and we are optimistic about getting good results in the tournament," Mashhoon said.
The comment was seen not only as a challenge to Chinese basketball but also to the man replacing Yao. The Nets’ 7-footer will carry a lot of China’s hopes this August when the two teams face off in the FIBA Asia Games in August. Yao is out of the tournament with a foot injury.
Iranian basketball gained a lot of confidence the last two years, winning FIBA Asia in 2007 while China focused on training for the Beijing Olympics and then having its top player, 7’3" Hamed Ehahadi, sign with the Grizzlies. Ehadadi was signed after leading the Olympics in rebounding and blocked shots. Yi, the Olympics fourth leading rebounder, is likely to spend a lot of time guarding Ehahadi in Tianjin, China, where the Asia Games will be staged.
So if Yi dunks over the Iranian center, can he yell, "Who's your Ehadadi?"
From Prodigy to Prodigal?
Word that the Nets will be working out Brandon Jennings of Los Angeles and Lottomatica Roma set us wondering about about two comments Thorn made about one of Jennings' best friends, Marcus Williams.
Last winter, defending Lawrence Frank against a persistent critic, Thorn said the whole organization, not just Frank, had failed with Williams. "We all failed with Marcus," said Thorn, who he said he thought was "a terrifically talented kid".
Then in March, on the day the Warriors released Williams, Thorn was asked if the Nets had plans to sign him. "Not at this time, no," he said. "Not at this time"?. Does that mean there's a chance Williams, "the terrifically talented kid" could make a return in the summer...or fall?
We don't know, but we do agree with Vince Carter's comments this week that the Nets need a third point guard "for security". It doesn't have to be in the draft. As for Williams, there've been no reports about his future destination. He is playing summer ball (or is it still spring?) in Puerto Rico, where he's averaging 15.1 ppg and 9.0 apg...and twittering.
Speaking of twittering--and who isn't?--Hoopiquity.com has a nice list of the real twitter sites for past, present and future NBA stars. There are so many fake ones. Chris Douglas-Roberts has a very active twitter page and Devin Harris is about to join in the tweet.