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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #15

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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.

So What’s Next with the Sale Rumors?

The Nets are for sale, either in whole or in part. Bruce Ratner’s been listening to offers for months and he didn’t go to Moscow last week for the sun. No matter how rainy New York has been, Moscow is more so. It’s not in Ratner’s interest to say the team is for sale. He doesn’t need any more bad publicity on his financial condition. The proper spin, as authored by Brett Yormark, is that Brooklyn is just sooo close that investors are starting to beat down Ratner's doors!

There are indeed impediments. The Nets have a huge debt-to-equity problem. With rising debt and sinking value, the ratio has been estimated at around 80%. Somehow those debt holders have to be paid off. The team also has a very fragmented ownership structure, with more than 100 individuals--including Jay-Z and author Mary Higgins Clark, corporations, partnerships, who want to be made whole. There are also separate partnerships for the team, Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards.

So what happens if and when a deal gets done? The NBA Board of Governors has to approve not just a sale but any significant new investors. The process has taken four months in recent years. During that time, financial statements are reviewed to make certain the new owners have the wherewithal and league security checks on the rectitude of the investors. A simple majority of the 29 other teams is all the new players would need.

We have to assume the approval process for Mikhail Prokhorov would be lengthier than one for Vincent Viola.

Prokhorov would be the first foreign owner of an NBA franchise and let’s face it, Russian oligarchs have not had the best of reputations among basketball types the last few years. However, make no mistake about Prokhorov’s wealth. As an associate of another oligarch told us, "Prokhorov suffers from boredom and $7 billion in cash". He showered money on CSKA Moscow, permitting them to sign some of Europe’s top talent.

Viola, on the other hand, is a known quantity, an investor in the Nets since 2004 and thus someone who’s been through the process before. Terry Semel, the former CEO of both Yahoo! and Warner Brothers, is likely to be very appealing to the board of governors as well.

It’s rare anyone gets rejected once they write the check. The last two transfers were approved unanimously and with the NBA owners crazy about expansion overseas, it’s highly unlikely they would reject Prokhorov.

Any move must be approved as well once the arena is ready. The Nets, by the way, don’t need the approval of the Knicks, don’t need to compensate them. Years ago, the Knicks made a deal with the Nets, the bottom line of which was that the Nets could relocate, if they wanted, to Brooklyn or Queens. The Knicks retained the rights to Manhattan, Bronx and Westchester.

Do we have a rooting interest? Yes, we do.

Great Mentioner Update III

We’re keeping track possible free agents targets mentioned by those great mentioners, Dave, Fred, Al and Julian (plus a few we think might show up).

Since last week, the list has shrunk again. Sean May has reportedly agreed to sign with the Kings, Chris Wilcox has signed with the Pistons, Matt Barnes with the Magic, Jamario Moon with the Cavs. And just this morning, Drew Gooden said he's Dallas-bound. The only new name, Marvin Williams, mentioned by Kerber, is highly unlikely. Kerber also says the Nets may revisit signing Glen "Big Baby" Davis, but it’s a long shot and "probably won't happen" although Davis' agent says the Nets' interest is "sincere". Moving Warrick up the list is Kerber's report that the Nets called his agent Friday after the Grizz pulled their qualifying offer, making him a unrestricted free agent.

Still, here’s the list, with the aforementioned additions and subtractions: Glen "Big Baby" Davis,
Marvin Williams, Linas Kleiza, Hakim Warrick, Ike Diogu, Melvin Ely, Mikki Moore, Joe Smith, Jamario Moon, Ime Udoka, and Rodney Carney

Meanwhile, Rod Thorn essentially warns this entire exercise, whimsical as it is, may be a waste: "I would expect there may be some changes between now and the time we come to camp," Thorn told Al Iannazzone. "But there certainly is a possibility that this may be our team."

On the other hand, Thorn told reporters that there was "nothing going on" on Dec. 15, 2004…and there wasn’t. He said the same thing on June 23, 2009…and there wasn’t. Two days later, Vince Carter was being called to inform him he had been traded. It happens.

One other thing, the Nets don't have to drop someone before they sign someone. That's a misconception. They certainly don't want to do it...it's a risk.

Iannazzone explained recently, asking Thorn about the sequence of player moves.

Do you want to subtract players before you add?
"Not necessarily. I just don't want to sign a mediocre player who may or may not play. I want to know if we make a move for a guy or sign somebody he's going to play."

My sense is Thorn wants to do something. He doesn't want a 20-30 win team. But the Nets need to clear players.

They don't necessarily want to add salaries without clearing players because what if they have 16 or 17 guys under contract and no one wants the guys they're trying to get rid. They would have to cut them and thus eat salaries, which is something this ownership doesn't want to do.

Sean Williams…Not

As mentioned above, Kiki Vandeweghe spoke to Ben Couch this week about all things Nets and he made what may have been an error of omission, or not. Kiki broke down the roster into younger players and veterans.

"I like our young players very much: Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, Jarvis Hayes, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Terrence Williams and Josh Boone, who are all young and all have big upside; they’re good players now, but they can continue to improve. I like our veteran group: Rafer Alston, Eduardo Najera, Keyon Dooling, Bobby Simmons, the addition of Tony Battie, Trenton Hassell. I like our group, we’ve got a nice mix of players."

Seven younger players, seven veterans. Anyone missing? Yep, 22-year-old Sean Williams. Considering that he’s been working out at the Nets practice facility, there’s no "out of sight, out of mind" excuse and this was an interview with a Nets employee so there has been ample opportunity for correction…if it was an omission.

We have to believe it isn’t an error, that Williams has finally worn out his welcome. There’s been no comments positive or negative, about Williams from Nets officials this off-season and we expect there won’t be until, more like when, he’s moved.

"The Muscle Devil"

We don’t speak or read Chinese, although we strongly recommend learning it. So we’ve had to rely on Google’s machine translations of the daily updates from Team China’s training camp. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t but what is not lost in translation is the wow effect Yi’s summer-long weight training has had. Everyone is talking about. It’s not that it’s a big weight gain. Both the Nets and Chinese officials put his weight at about 10 pounds more than last year. What does surprise is his strength…and more importantly, how he’s been using it…to be more aggressive.

He is "the Muscle Devil".

More than that, Yi’s return has permitted Chinese media to examine whether the mantle of Yao Ming should now be fitted squarely on Yi’s shoulders. It’s as if they fear Yao’s foot surgery could end or short-circuit his career.

As one writer put it Saturday…

"In the NBA, without Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian will have the maximum focus of the Chinese people; In Chinese Men's Basketball, without Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian has become the absolute core; In charitable activities or business activities, without Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian is the object of the media’s pursuit. It is said that Yao Ming was the old way, Yi Jianlian is the new way."

He has been the subject of various articles and television reports, as one would expect for the third biggest celebrity in China. There was an atypical media crush at the Team China training facility in Beijing Saturday morning. Team officials had at first refused to let the media in, but then the sports writers grew impatient and protested, wanting to talk with him and get photographs of his newly chiseled frame. The officials relented but put limits on how many questions, how many photographs.

It’s not all uncritical either. There have questions in the media whether he will be willing to use his new frame to mix it up, noting "Yi Jianlian is used to drifting on the outside." (Sounds like our message board!)

It’s beyond basketball, as well. One newspaper noted how Yi must fulfill Yao’s other roles, as spokesman for various charities, as role model for Chinese youth, etc. The writer praised him for visiting children in the Sichuan earthquake zone even before going to Beijing for training...a good sense of priorities. Sichuan children have been Yi’s big humanitarian mission, what he is known for in China. The writer suggested it was time he did more...just like Yao. (During our website hopping in Mandarin-to-English, we also learned Yi has broken up with his long term girlfriend, Li Hung…at least he didn’t leave her at the altar…and that Brett Yormark had visited 30 different Chinese firms last month.)

Bottom line, though, is this: Yi started training Wednesday, accompanied at all times by his personal trainer from Impact Athletics. That was another curiosity the Chinese media focused a lot of attention on. He will be thrown into his first game Tuesday vs. the Australian National Basketball League all-stars. It’s what the FIBA gang calls a "friendly game", what we call an exhibition. There’ll be three games, on Tuesday in Beijing, Thursday in Dongying and Saturday in Yinchuan, then the opening of FIBA Asia on August 6 in Tianjin. We hope to report on all of them.

And in This Corner...Bobby Simmons!

The fight world, or at least the Chicago part of it, was buzzing Saturday morning about Chicago heavyweight Fres Oquendo's nine round TKO over Bruce Selden. It was Oquendo's latest success in a recent string, some say since he signed on with Simmons Entertainment Management, Inc., owned by one Bobby Simmons. Simmons is encouraging the idea that Oquendo needs another shot at the heavyweight title. He's 31-5 with 20 knockouts.

"I've seen Fres training the last few weeks and he's really peaking right now," says the 6'7", 240-pound Simmons, a bit of a heavyweight himself. "He’s definitely put the work in ahead of this fight with Seldon."

Simmons has had quite an entrepreneurial summer. His fashion store on Michigan Avenue, called Succezz, celebrated its first anniversary earlier this month.

South of the Border

A few weeks ago, when he was touring Mexico--pushing basketball and an anti-violence, anti-drug agenda--a reporter asked Eduardo Najera if he was interested in becoming El Presidente...de Mexico! He denied any political ambitions, but it's no wonder. He's been everywhere this summer south of the US border.

He will be playing in the FIBA Central American Championships and the FIBA Americas Cup at the end of the month and it was announced Friday that he will head up the NBA's annual Basketball Without Borders program this year in Mexico. It will run August 6-9 in Mexico City.

Final Note

It was like old home week in Las Vegas this week. Not only were Devin Harris and Brook Lopez trying out for Team USA. Lawrence Frank and Kiki Vandeweghe were on the sidelines watching. Meanwhile, Rafer Alston was coaching the NYC Panthers in a national AAU tournament (they lost). Courtney Lee was also on hand at the AAU tournament watching the goings-on.

We assume everyone got together, at least for one of those all-you-can-eat-breakfasts for $1.99.