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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #14

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We're hoping for a respite after the last three weeks. It's been busy: the NBA Draft; Heavy Wooing in Cleveland; Summer League; "The Decision"; Free Agency; two Prokhorov visits--and our interview; Billy King, etc., etc. So we'll use a slow weekend to take a look at a couple of things that flew under the radar, most notably two Avery Johnson interviews we belatedly trolled through Saturday. We also answer the question, who is Prokhorov's go-to guy on the Nets? We take a look at how the start of the Nets rebuilding compares to that of the 76ers after their disastrous 9-win season...and how it compares to the Knicks. Finally we look at what changes in  uniform numbers may mean for the fates of Josh Boone, Chris Quinn and Jarvis Hayes, three Nets who wanted to come back next season.

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...not to mention our own reporting.

Avery Johnson, In His Own Words

We spent some time Saturday morning listening to and watching Avery Johnson interviews, one a conference call with questions posed by season ticket holders and moderated by Gary Sussman; the other a video interview with questions from Chris Carrino, the radio voice of the Nets.

Johnson said something nice about virtually every player on the roster but noted that while the Nets will be "so much better than we were better last year", making the playoffs remains a "really, really lofty goal.". Still, Johnson said the Nets may not be "done" this off-season, even though the team has 12 players on guaranteed contracts and two more on partially guaranteed deals.

"Down the road, if there's an opportunity to get a superstar, believe me, Mikhail Prokhorov is going to be the guy who's gonna pull the trigger and we have cap flexibility. We still have 14 and a half, 15 and a half million dollars in cap space," he told season ticket holders, audibly pounding the table as he spoke. "Believe me, we're not done yet. We're still going to address our starting power forward needs, if we dont decide to start (Derrick) Favors." 

There was even a couple of pieces of news buried in the audio and video files: Larry Krystkowiak has been added to the coaching staff and the Nets are "probably going to bring in" a veteran point guard (and it sounded like Johnson has someone in mind). He's also got Devin Harris on a weight and strength program to cut down on his injuries and has dispatched Sam Mitchell to Atlanta to work with Favors.

As far as the starting lineup, he said right now, there are four players he likes, but didn't rule out changes. "Early on, Devin, Courtney Lee, Outlaw...not sure about the four...Brook Lopez. Anthony Morrow could come in beat everyone out at the 2. There will be a lot of trial and error.  Maybe we don't get there (a set starting lineup) til the All Star break".

One thing is for certain: defense will matter and already Johnson thinks some of his players who can play it. "Damion James is a good defender. Johan Petro, our back up center, is a good defender.  Derrick Favors is a good defender. Devin is capable of being a first team All-Defense. And they'll get a defensive rating sheet after every game".

Probably the most interesting thing about the interviews was Johnson's thumbnail descriptions of individual players. Here are some of them, with bits and pieces of the two interviews stitched together:

Devin Harris: "Devin has the capability to be one of the top five to seven point guards in the NBA.  We need to get him back to playing at a really high level at both ends of the floor.. and keep him on the floor.  We got him on a serious weight training program.  It's a matter of getting in the weight room and take a licking and keep on ticking. We will see him again in August.  It's a matter of him really building muscle. We need him to play upwards of 80 games. Devin is capable of being a first team all-Defensive team."

Jordan Farmar: "Don't call him a backup.  Jordan is a guy who's capable of starting, capable of pushing.  He's played in pressure situations before. We hope that that point guard tandem can be as good as any point guard tandem in the league."

Derrick Favors: "Derrick is purely in the development stage.  He's a young kid who we feel has star potential. He's going to be add 15 or 20 pounds in the next few years. Favors has that type of body. He's a guy who can rebound, get what we call dirty rebounds, block shots.  He already has a pretty advanced jump hook shot, both lefty and righty.  In Orlando, it was night and day between games 1 and 5. I told him before game 5, 'play like you did in high school' and he looked like the best player in the draft.  He has a huge upside."  At one point, he compared Favors to Kevin Garnett, another to Amare Stoudemire.

Damion James: "He was the best player in Orlando by far. He really was outstanding and out of all the rookies down there, I didn't see anyone player better than Damion. I don't know what Damion's ceiling is but he looks to be a Robert Horry type of 3 man, a winner, a guy who can play multiple positions defend multiple positions. We're really excited about Damion".  He admitted he might be "biased" but it didn't stop him.

Terrence Williams: "Terrence came and participated in our summer league process.  It gave me a chance to see Terrence.  I'm leaning to 1-2 or 2-1 with Terrence. He is not a 3 man. He has a pretty high basketball IQ. We're trying to get him to where he is consistent at both ends of the floor."  He emphasized TWill is "definitely" not a 3.

Anthony Morrow: "A guy who can play the 2 spot or the 3 spot.  He has an ability to consistently make three's and that's rare in this league.  He can make them off balance, he can make them from anywhere on the floor. Also, he just has an ability to score."

Travis Outlaw: "He has a lot of size and he's played some 3...he's played some four he played against stronger 4's but we think he's better at the 3.  He can run the wings, can score.  I had that with a guy in Dallas with Josh Howard who had that same ability to play athletic, to be and athletic 3 man. When we evaluated all the free agents, spent a lot of time with our scouts durin the season. Then at the end we had rankings. With all the big boys coming off the board, Travis was the best available 3 man, a player with size who can score the basketball. If need to utilize him at the 4, he can play the 4. We've got to have options, but my hope is to utilize Travis at the 3."  He seemed reluctant to talk about Outlaw at the 4, quickly trying to dismiss it. 

Johan Petro: "You've got ot have multiple bigs that you can put out there on the floor. And Johan he gives us that ability to--when Brook is not in the game--to put another bigger body in who's mainly a defender and a rebounder.  And we feel with (Brian) Zoubek coming on in our summer league we feel we're really deep at that position."

So, what's next? 

"We're focused on training camp, our off season development, our off season training--getting our guys stronger, getting them our playbook offensively and defensively so that when we hit the ground running in training camp, we can be ready to go. Right now, the goal is to develop our young talent, to get guys to compete at a high level on the court, to play an exciting brand of basketball".

"Hopefully that will lead to more wins than losses.  With our young players, that may taken some time".

"We'll use the same offensive scheme we had in Dallas: ball movement, player movement.  We want to push the ball as much as we can. Expect quite a bit of variety in our offense. We make guys battle it out. We think it's a good problem to have. (depth)"

"The team has to get an identity first. We have to take some baby steps before we get there."

"We're just trying to get through one practice, just one practice, and not screwing up everything. Then we want to get to our first preseason game."

Is he optimistic?

"What's the goal. (in Dallas, I won) seven out of every 10 games...right now that's the goal, that's the standard.  We don't want to go from 12 to 22.  We want the opportuntiy to comepte for a playoff spot...right now, that's a really really lofty goal.

"The Thunder didn't become competitive overnight. We're at the beginning stages of that. To be an Oklahoma City, got to have a superstar like they have with Kevin Durant. Right now we don't have that kind of guy on our roster.  We hope that Derrick Favors can in a year and a half be that type of superstar. That's why we drafted him.  We hope to get there one day but that's a good model to follow.

"Yes, we can make a run at he playoffs, but you look at the guys ahead of you."

Does he have the staff he needs? 

 We're going to have a coaching staff that has a lot of experience, especially head coaches, with Sam Mitchell on my staff and Larry Krystkowiak, who was the head coach at Milwaukee. We retained John Loyer, we brought in Popeye Jones from Dallas who's going to be a really good big man's coach and Tom Barrise, who's going to be my do-it-all caoch in every facet of the game. So we feel we have a really competent coaching staff that's going to be energized and are really good teachers." 

Mikhail saving money

It's always nice to save money and it appears the recent round of front office manuevers is saving Mikhail Prokhorov a ton.  Although the switch from Lawrence Frank to Avery Johnson appears to be a wash, part of Johnson's salary is still being paid by the Mavericks, at least according to Dallas writers. And since both Sam Mitchell and Larry Krystkowiak were signed to multiple year head coaching deals before being fired, we would think part of their deals are being paid by the Raptors and Bucks, respectively.

Billy King for Rod Thorn (and Kiki Vandeweghe) is a huge savings for the Russian billionaire. King will make $2 million a year, compared to $5.5 million for Thorn and $1.75 million for Vandeweghe.  Now, presumably, Bobby Marks will get a little more in his pay packet but it's not going to make up the difference. Then, of course, there's the roster, which as of now will cost him about $16 million less than last season's group.  Prokhorov is spending more in other areas, like assistant coaches' salaries, player amenities at the Prudential Center in Newark, etc. Haven't heard yet about replenishing those areas where the Ratner cost-cutting hit hardest: scouting, statistical analysis and simple things like executive assistants. At his press conference in May, Prokhorov promised, in response to a NetsDaily question, that those issues would be taken care of this summer.

Prokhorov has promised as part of his deal to buy the team to eat the Nets losses while in New Jersey up to $60 million.  So every little bit counts.

Razumov on the Rise

Looking for a power broker inside the Nets' Russian side?  Look no further than Onexim CEO Dmitry Razumov.  Quietly, the 35-year-old Moscow native has become the go-to Russian for the Nets front office.  Razumov's only official role is as a member of the Nets Chairman's Council, the team's board of directors, but he has been part of every major decision Prokhorov has made regarding the Nets, starting with the purchase.

It was Razumov who toured the Prudential Center during a preseason game last October, then helped put together the package that permitted the Nets to leave the IZOD Center and take up residence at The Rock. He accompanied Prokhorov to the NBA Draft Lottery, took part in the presentations to LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, was part of the hiring process for both Avery Johnson and Billy King, and according to King is the guy who he'll call to get deals approved. King noted that the decision to hire him was made by "Michael and Dmitry".

Razumov is described by Nets insiders as enthusiastic about the team.  He's the youngest player in the team hierarchy at 35.

The Model: The 1972-73 Sixers

During the worst of last season, the comparison between the Nets and 1972-73 76ers was everywhere.  The Nets were in danger, up until April, of breaking the 76ers' futility mark of nine wins.  The comparison was forgotten when the Nets won their 10th game against the Spurs.

But what about going forward?  Are the Nets following the path the Sixers took between 1973 and 1983 when they won the NBA Championship.  Are they progressing the way the 76ers did?  And based on the 76er model, is the new owner's goal of a championship in five years realistic?

The year after the 76ers won nine games, they went into an aggressive rebuilding mode: They drafted well, taking Doug Collins in the first round; then picked up Allen Bristow, George McGinnis and Caldwell Jones (already playing in the ABA) as well as Harvey Catchings with a later pick.  Those five went on to play more than 3,300 NBA games.  It took a while for McGinnis and Jones to make it to the NBA, but when they did, they proved valuable. The Sixes also hired a new young coach, Gene Shue. Shue had won 52 games the year before with the Bullets. And they practiced patience, as the win total went from 9 to 25 to 32 to 46 (and the playoffs) before getting to the NBA Finals in the fourth year after their debacle season. The key was the acquisition of Julius Erving from the nearly bankrupt New York Nets. In that 1976-77 season, the Sixers still had four of their five of their picks from the 1973 draft on their roster as well as a couple of solid young players in Darryl Dawkins and Henry Bibby. They lost in the Finals to Bill Walton's Trail Blazers, but over the next six years, Philly got to the Finals three more times before winning it all in 1982-83, the tenth anniversary of their nine-win season.  Sound familiar? Sound like a plan?  It should.

Knick Knocks

Speaking of models, we hear a lot about how much better the Knicks did so much better than the Nets this summer.  Really? 

From what we can tell, the Knicks will start one All-Star (with problem knees) in Amar'e Stoudemire; two young 6'11" swingmen, Danilo Gallinari and Anthony Randolph, with yet unrealized potential; a little-known Russian rookie named Timofey Mozgov; and Raymond Felton, a 6'1" point guard so good the Bobcats gave up on him. While we can't diminish Stoudemire's skills nor Randolph or Gallinari's possibilities, we look at the two key positions: point guard and center, and wonder why Knick fans are so excited, why the Garden is sold out.  We started following Mozgov when Andrei Kirilenko mentioned him as the next Russian NBA player last fall, right around the time Prokhorov agreed to buy the team.  After a solid performance in the European championships in 2009, Russian fans expected big things from the physically strong, athletically gifted Mozgov.  He didn't deliver for his Russian league team, Khimki.  Reports in the Knick-centric New York sports pages that Khimki may have been "hiding" him smacks of, how do we say this diplomatically, bull----.  Khimki is a contender in both the Russian Superleague and Euroleague. Their coach is also the coach of the Spanish National Team.  They like to win, not hide assets. As for Felton, the Bobcats' Larry Brown thought so highly of him in 2008 that he begged Michael Jordan to rescind his choice of Brook Lopez as the 'Cats' draft pick and instead go for D.J. Augustin, a real point guard. 

Not to mention the Knicks' bench.  Other than Chandler (who they're trying to trade and who needs surgery), Rony Turiaf and maybe Toney Douglas, it is underwhelming. There's Kelenna Abuzeike, Billy Walker and their three second round choices, Andy Rautins, Landry Fields and Jerome Jordan. Am I missing someone?  Oh yes, Eddy Curry who Mozgov's agent was told wouldn't be getting any minutes this season. All that hoo-hah about Mozgov choosing the Knicks because they are further along in rebuilding? Nope. It was about Mozgov being promised big minutes.

We're not saying the Nets will do considerably better than the Knicks.  But we are saying that as currently constituted, the Knicks ain't that much better.

How Good of a Shooter is Anthony Morrow?

A fansite for the Warriors noted this on Saturday....

"No NBA player has ever shot like this. If he can keep his accuracy where it's been, sometime in November, Anthony Morrow will officially become the best three-point shooter in NBA history. His career percentage stands at .460... that's the equivalent of a guy shooting friggin' .690 from two-point land. A guy like that will help you win games even if he can't do anything else, and Morrow rebounds his position well and almost never turns it over. His net plus-minus totals in his two Golden State seasons were +3.1 and +4.1, and adjusted plus-minus suggests that wasn't no fluke. He's a limited player, but a good one, and he and Courtney Lee will make a dynamite offense/defense combo at the two in New Jersey".

Why November? Because that's when he will enough attempts to qualify for the record...500.  He currently has 491.

Wing Span?

We have watched a few summer league games and the Draft before that and now believe that "enormous wing span" has replaced "ridiculous upside" as a measure of potential.  Lots and lots of players, we are told, have "enormous wing spans". 

Maybe.  As it turns out, a person's normal wingspan is equal to 107% of their height (without shoes of course).  So while people think Brook Lopez has an "enormous" wing span for a seven-footer, the facts belie that.  A normal seven-footer (if there is such a thing) would have a wing span of 7'5.88 inches. Lopez's wingspan, as measured at the pre-Draft Combine two years ago, was 7' 5.5.  So unless you think a third of an inch amounts to an "enormous" wingspan, Brook doesn't qualify. Damion James' wing span is about an inch longer than normal; Harris' is an inch shorter.

Only one Net qualifies as having an above average wing span.  Favors' 7'4" wing span is about 2" longer than you would expect for a player 6'8.75" in bare feet.  Not enormous though.

Final Note

If the assignment of uniform numbers means anything, at least three former Nets are history.  Anthony Morrow has been given #22, previously owned by Jarvis Hayes; Jordan Farmar has been given #2, previously owned by Josh Boone and Travis Outlaw has been given #21, previously owned by Bobby Simmons. Terrence Williams has already taken #1 from Chris Quinn. Johan Petro is going with #27.  We can't remember who wore that last. And if you care, Brian Zoubek has been wearing #35, no doubt an homage to Jason Collins, and Ben Uzoh, #18.