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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #20

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.

Workout Wonders

The Nets will be back in East Rutherford next week, getting ready for the official start of training camp September 28. We’ve tried to keep track of where all they’ve have been working out this summer with some luck.

Yi Jianlian worked out at both Impact Basketball facilities in Reseda, CA., and Las Vegas, NV...and brought one of their trainers with him to China for the FIBA Asia Games. Chris Douglas-Roberts, whose tweets about working out will have you ordering Aleve by the bucket, spent most of his summer at Basketball Results on Long Island. Devin Harris and Bobby Simmons were sweating at ATTACK Athletics outside Chicago. Courtney Lee spent his summer in Bradenton, FL at IMG Academies.

Eduardo Najera and Keyon Dooling spent a lot of their time resting and recuperating from surgery and a few other Nets, like Brook Lopez, had personal trainers. Sean Williams worked out with Chris Bosh in Dallas for a while, then spent time at the Nets' practice facility and Tim Grgurich's camp along with CDR and Terrence Williams.

Each camp has its big names. Impact has the cerebral Joe Abunassar; Basketball Results the demanding Jerry Powell, ATTACK has Tim Grover who trained Michael Jordan; and IMG Academies has Mike Moreau who writes for HoopsWorld and David Thorpe who does the same for ESPN.

Moreau raved about Lee last week on HoopsWorld, saying "No matter what he faces in New Jersey, his character and work ethic will see him through." Thorpe explained to ESPN readers what a day is like for the pro’s, including Lee, when they’re training.

Our emphasis is on sending players back to their teams feeling better about their game than they ever have. So our work in the gym has to parallel that lofty goal. After a 45-minute stretch/taping/foam-roller session, we do 90 intense minutes five mornings a week. Every player has to get better at ballhandling, jumping, defense, rebounding and sprinting, so we do lots of that. Some days our students will dunk 150-plus times in one workout (off each foot and both feet), typically following all different sorts of actions (dribble-drives, handoffs, after an offensive rebound, etc.). Other days will feature more work on the midrange game, including taking hundreds of shots (again, always following a multitude of actions). Two days a week, we'll put them in drills that require chasing 150-plus rebounds out of their general area.

Hope it worked.

When the Stars Come Out

A little noticed deal between sports agencies two weeks ago could have an effect on the 2010 free agency circus. CAA Sports hired veteran agent Henry Thomas, who counts Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh among his clients. CAA basketball agent Leon Rose already represents LeBron James. That puts Wade, Bosh and James under the same agency roof.

CAA could in effect be a one-stop shop for GM’s and owners wanting to improve their teams. CAA has one other All-Star client…Devin Harris. Does that give the Nets any advantage. No, but it doesn’t hurt either.

Meanwhile, David Falk, the most powerful basketball agent in the 1990s, says the "hysteria" over the 2010 NBA free agent class is overblown. After it’s over, Falk told Sports Business Journal, "People will look back and say, ‘What was the big deal?’" (Falk once represented the Nets three highest paid players: Stephon Marbury, Keith Van Horn and Kerry Kittles…and a guy named Jordan.)

Under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, players can make more money staying with their old team, Falk noted. "I think the economics will dictate that most free agents stay with their old teams."

What would that mean for the Nets, if they have an owner and an arena by then? The Nets could pick and choose from a menu of less free agents, and there will be lot of them…or as we noted a while back, save some of that cap space for their own players. Next summer, assuming that Yi does well this year, he will be eligible to be extended, with a new deal starting in 2011-12. Also, Jarvis Hayes could be eligible for a nice raise.

Najera in Jersey...not San Juan

While we would have liked to see Najera in the FIBA Americas Cup—we’d like to see anyone play anywhere, we understand the Nets decision to deny him permission to play for Team Mexico.

And we were reminded this week as well of what Najera can bring, reminded in an odd manner. Commenting on a particularly raucous "friendly" i.e. exhibition game between Mexico and Uruguay, Tom Ziller of FanHouse commented:

Let me first allay your concerns: Eduardo Najera is not with the Mexican team this summer (by decree of the Nets), and that is why there were no fatalities. Uruguay should be sending Rod Thorn its finest Grappamiel for that decision.

Najera is something the Nets didn’t have last year...or the year before that…or the year before that: a physical defender and of equal importance, someone who everyone knows is a physical defender. IF he can do that, it would be a great thing for the Nets and for him.

Everyone else in Asia?

It seems that way. This has been the Nets’ Asian Summer, as we've noted before, with Harris, Lopez, Brett Yormark, Jaclyn "Jac-of-all-Nets" Sabol, The Dunking Divas and even Sly having made appearances in China or the Philippines. We're also hearing reports that all 82 of the Nets' regular season games will be broadcast back to China this year. Last year, all but 20 were broadcast. With Yao Ming out and Sun Yue cut, Yi will likely be the only Chinese player in the NBA. Got to find some way to satisfy those 300 million fans.

Also, Harris’ visit to the Shaolin Monastery made us think about something we think Nets fans and players overlook, how being exposed to New York changes one’s perspective on the world. With that perspective can come opportunities that aren’t really imaginable for a kid growing up in the Starktown section of Milwaukee.

Harris admitted last summer he’d never been overseas before traveling with the Nets to Paris and London (where Stuart Tanner made for an odd European Union welcoming committee). Since then, he’s been to Europe on vacation, to Beijing with Lopez to teach at the Adidas Nations Camp and to Zhengzhou City for the Haier Champions Camp, an NBA-sponsored development camp. We’d like to think that living and working across the Hudson from New York changes you…for the better. Maybe Harris should take Lee to a fancy New York restaurant next month and talk to him about how you don’t get those opportunities in Dallas or Orlando. It can also get you All-Star votes, sponsorships with Asian companies, etc., etc.

Speaking of Asia, a big shoutout to Yi for his work with the school children of Sichuan. Just before the Beijing Olympics last year, 20,000 school children were killed in the devastating earthquake that stuck the Chinese province. Thousands more were orphaned. Yi made TV appearances seeking help and has since made the school children his special cause. He's raised money for them in various ways and visited them first after arriving back from the U.S. last month and then again Thursday before departing China. He has helped finance school programs and a week ago was the star attraction at an event in his hometown of Shenzen, accepting an oversized check from Proctor & Gamble who’s been setting aside money on the sales of their consumer products in China.

Astounding Stat

We read Kelly Dwyer's article on the top 10 defenders of the last decade and were happy to find two former Nets in the mix: Jason Kidd and Dikembe Mutombo (even if only for a brief period.)

But what really shocked us was what Dwyer noted about Kidd's effect on the Nets' team defense.

His addition (among others, we should point out) completely turned the Nets around in 2001-02 - they jumped from 24th to 17th in offense, which is what everyone talked about, but flew from 23rd to 1st overall defensively with Kidd at the lead. For comparison's sake, that's like last season's Knicks (23rd overall in defensive efficiency) jumping to the top of the list in 2009-10.

And that defensive proficiency continued for three years.

01-02: Offensive Rating: 104.0 (17th of 29) ▪ Defensive Rating: 99.5 (1st of 29)
02-03: Offensive Rating: 103.8 (18th of 29) ▪ Defensive Rating: 98.1 (1st of 29)
03-04: Offensive Rating: 100.8 (25th of 29) ▪ Defensive Rating: 98.0 (4th of 29)

We had forgotten that, but recommend that Lawrence Frank use all those stats on the opening day of camp to prove just what can be done when defense is a priority.

First Wave

Everyone knows the Nets are rich in expiring contracts, and most of them mid-range, making it easier to include them in trades. The two biggest prizes among them are the two point guards, Rafer Alston and Keyon Dooling. They make reasonable money--$5.25 million for Alston, $3.56 million for Dooling with a $500,000 guarantee in 2010-11.

It was only a matter of time before speculation arose about their future, and on Friday, respected Heat beat writers from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald just stoked it a bit. Both noted in Friday's papers and blogs that the Heat have decided against filling their backup point guard position through free agency. Instead, Pat Riley wants to do a trade. The two writers drew up a list of players who would fill the bill for Riley and started with Alston and Dooling. The Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman also drew up a list of Heat assets, which featured a few young players—Dorell Wright, Daequan Cook, Chris Quinn—a few older, more veteran players—Udonis Haslem and James Jones. Winderman noted as well that the Heat have two first round picks: their own and the Raptors’ lottery-protected pick. He could have added that the Heat also have three second round picks, the draft rights to Patrick Beverley and Robert Dozier, both of whom chose to play in Greece this season and two trade exceptions worth $4.2 million and $800,000, about the same size as the Nets' two exceptions. TE's can grease a number of trade scenarios.

One can see how the Heat and Nets would be ideal trading partners. The Heat have what the Nets want, and vice versa. Alston and Dooling even played for the Heat, Alston in 2003-04 and Dooling in 2004-05. Dooling was born and raised in south Florida and lives there in the off-season. The three most attractive players (at least to us) on the Heat list have digestible contracts. Haslem and Wright have expiring deals and Cook, a sharpshooter who loves playing the Nets, is on his rookie contract. While the Nets already have five first round picks the next three years, as many as any other team, both Rod Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe know the value of stockpiling picks. They have almost as many now as they did just before the Carter trade in 2004.

Moreover, the Nets would seem to have a competitive advantage here if they choose to negotiate. The Heat are trying to shore up a deficiency and have let everyone know (via the beat writers) that they are going the trade route. They don’t want to pay too much luxury tax. They’re $3 million over the tax threshold with the players they already have under contract and they, like the Nets, want to preserve as much cap room as possible next summer so no long contracts please.

We have no idea who, if anyone, the Nets like on the Miami roster or if they are even willing to trade either Alston or Dooling right now. But we could construct a number of scenarios even without resorting to the ESPN trade machine. We’ve always liked Wright for his potential, as have the Heat. But a series of injuries has tried the Heat’s patience. Wright, drafted in 2004, is still only 23, younger in fact than at least one player taken in this year’s draft. He’s reasonably priced at $2.88 million. Cook is 22, a shooter who did a nice job on occasion last season, averaging 13 ppg and 44% from deep against the Nets. Haslem is Mr. Reliable on the boards, just on the right side of 30 and someone the Nets once had interest in. He seems to be on the decline.

Like free agency, the Nets won’t make any deal unless they can reduce the roster. We think it’s not likely, but it’s fun to speculate. And we think between now and the trade deadline, they’ll be a lot of speculating to be done.

Great Mentioner Update

We know, we know, we know, it’s foolish that we’re still keeping track of possible free agents targets mentioned by those great mentioners, Dave, Fred, Al and Julian (plus a few we think might show up).
No new names were posted on any of those blogs this week and none of the old names got subtracted.

Still, here’s the list of the mentioned, with the prominent subtractions: Melvin Ely, Mikki Moore, Ime Udoka, and Rodney Carney. Those guys ain’t attracting a lot of vibes.

So, in our boredom last week, we identifid a few "fallen angels" out there, who might even sign for a non-guaranteed deal come September: Gerald Green, the 6'8" swingman who's failed with Boston, Houston and Dallas but did win the Slam Dunk Contest; Rashard McCants, the 6'4" Carolina ballhog, er...sharpshooter, who the Nets were interested in before the 2005 draft; Johan Petro, the French 7-footer who had the best game of his career against the Nets; Morris Almond, who would annually tear up the D-League after being sent down by the Jazz--and who may wind up in Knicks' camp; and finally Sasha Pavlovic, who the Nets tried to trade for five years ago. They're all between the ages of 23 and 25.

By end of the week, Petro had resigned with the Nuggets who are also going to give McCants a look-see. We assume by now that the Nets have talked to agents for players who will get camp invites. We don’t know who they are, of course, we’re hopeful we’ll start hearing names soon…please.

Final Note

We’ll be off next weekend. We’re not going to Asia, just Spain, where we will be reading as much as we can on Ricky Rubio’s buyout negotiations. Until then, there's ample reading material on our new Player Profile category. We've assembled all the player profiles we've done on new Nets since 2006, everyone from Harris to Billy Thomas, including a few on players who didn't make the final roster, like Eric Williams, Jay Williams, Jumaine Jones, Julius Hodge and of course Rod Benson.