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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #15

The Nets didn't sign anyone this week...although they apparently tried to. So it's been a bit slow, the pace of the news sustained only by rumors, reports and rankings.  We're taking a long view this weekend, or at least trying to.  We look at Avery Johnson's impressive record of developing young players in Dallas, cull the best post-shower workout tweets from several Nets' Twitter files, lay out the trade assets, list some possible "glue guys" for the bottom of the roster, wonder what happened to all those rumors of a Russian invasion, spotlight the Nets' forgotten man, and finally, suggest when you might want to book your own Gulfstream for that trip to London and the NBA's first overseas foray.

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's Kindergarten

The Nets are likely to be the NBA's youngest team--Mikhail Prokhorov says so.  So what's Avery Johnson's record with young players.  If you look at what he did in his three years in Dallas, you'd have to say very good, turning one late first round pick into an All-Star, developing a lottery pick into a player one stop away from the All-Star Game, reclaiming two players other teams had given up on and giving several undrafted players their first chance, almost all of whom rewarded him with solid play...and are still in the NBA.

Here's our breakdown of what he did with young Mavericks.

In 2004-05, he took over from Don Nelson after serving a year and a half as an assistant.  On the roster were two players with one year experience, Josh Howard and Marquis Daniels, and three rookies: Devin Harris, D.J. Mbenga and Pavel Podkolzin. 

We all know the Devin Harris story--tough love leading to a solid relationship. But what's more instructive is the development job he did with Howard, the 29th pick in the 2003 draft, and Marquis Daniels, who went undrafted. 

After a decent rookie year (8.6 ppg and 5.5 rpg) Howard took off under Johnson, averaged 16.4 ppg and 6.3 rpg over the next four years, making the All-Star game in 2007.  Howard certainly had his issues in his later years in Dallas, including a rather famous birthday party that enraged Johnson and an infamous radio interview on the uses of cannabis that enraged David Stern.  Still, there's no doubt he was critical to the Mavs' great runs those years.

Daniels, who played four years at Auburn, had a similar rookie season, playing in front of Howard til he got hurt. When Johnson took over, he played the two in tandem.  Although injury prone (still is), the 6'6" swingman averaged 10 points off the bench for Dallas during Johnson's first two years.

Mbenga also had gone undrafted, but he's now in his seventh year in the NBA and is what he is, a third string center who can bang and block some shots. He also has two NBA championship rings. Podkolzin never developed in part because of severe health issues.

The next year, the Mavs had two new youngsters, one an undrafted rookie called up from the D-League and other a major reclamation project.  Josh Powell was the D-Leaguer who was called up. Initially, he played limited minutes. Then, Howard and Keith Van Horn got hurt and he got more time (which is classic Johnson). Like Mbenga, he's had a serviceable NBA career as a result of he opportunity it got in Dallas and has a championship ring as well.

Johnson's reclamation job that year was getting DeSagana Diop to live up to his potential.  Drafted at #8 by the Cavaliers, he was a disaster in Cleveland, booed mercilessly when he couldn't live up to the hype...and kept putting on weight.  The Mavs took a chance on him and after some weight training and conditioning work, Diop developed nicely into a solid defender, doing some good work on Tim Duncan in the 2006 Western Conference Championship series. Mark Cuban dealt him to the Nets, then famously and foolishly signed him to the full MLE.  Diop has never played as well as he did under Johnson.

In his last season with the Mavs, Johnson took on another reclamation project and again found an undrafted rookie who could give the Mavs' critical minutes.

Brandon Bass, a second rounder out of LSU, had played two years with the Hornets but was a big disappointment to the hometown team. scoring a total of 110 points in 50 games.  After being dropped by New Orleans, Bass signed for the veterans minimum in Dallas and suddenly blossomed, averaging 8.5 ppg and 4.3 rpg...playing in all but four games...over his last two years in Dallas. 

The undrafted rookie was Jose Juan Barea.  Like his mentor, he went to a small school, Northeastern, was seen as too small for the NBA but had the drive to overcome all that.  The 5'9" Barea, from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, was the Mavs 12th man in Johnson's last season and then moved up the ladder...and still credits his first coach for his first break.

Johnson seems quite comfortable coaching a young team and the record shows he has reason to.

They Want You to Know They're Working Out

They work out, then they tweet. Work out, tweet, work out, tweet, repeat. 

The Nets who have twitter accounts work out a lot.  Take a look at these tweets over a 24-hour period late this week.

First, there's Terrence Williams: "Just had a 2 hour workout feels good to put that work in yessir".

Travis Outlaw feels the same after his workout: "Just got done working out. No shortcuts! Shortcuts lead to dead ends but hard work leads to great rewards! Just call me Mr. Hard Worker!"

Another new Net, Anthony Morrow, is less descriptive, but he reveals a specific goal, a method to his madness: "Another week of work done, I'm tryna be an all star in this league."

But our favorite is Kris Humphries, who understands the full meaning of off-season: "Got my new golf clubs, gonna get my game right."

No word from Johan Petro, but then he is French...and everyone knows they do nothing during August. 

Trade Assets

It would appear that the Nets are pretty much done for the summer other than bringing in a veteran or two.  Of course, if a great deal comes along, they'll be ready.  Otherwise, they want to preserve cap space until the trade deadline.

Here's what they have in terms of assets should they be surprised by a big deal.

Cap Space: They have a payroll of 12 guys making $43,097,425. That's few hundred thousand less than the league minimum payroll but they don't have to reach that until the trade deadline.  And that number doesn't count the two partially guaranteed deals to Brian Zoubek and Ben Uzoh.

With the cap at roughly $58.044 million, that gives the Nets exactly $14,947,575 still left to spend, second in the league to the Kings.

Expiring Contracts: They have two - Kris Humphries at $3.2 million and Quinton Ross at $1.14 million, the league minimum for veterans. That number could jump if they sign a veteran or if Zoubek and/or Uzoh stick.  The Nets normally sign role players to one year league minimum deals with a team option for a second year.

Draft Picks: They have as many (10) over the next three years as any NBA team: four first rounders and six second rounders, broken up into one first and a second in 2011; two firsts and three seconds in 2012; and one and one in 2013.  The 2012 horde sounds better than it is.  The other first, besides the Nets' own, is the Warriors, protected 1-7, while the other seconds, besides the Nets own, are the Heat's (obtained in the Rafer Alston deal) and the Bulls' (obtained in the Chris Douglas-Roberts trade).  Barring a cataclysmic series of events, those two are going to be the 55 to 60 range.

Trade Exception: Trade exceptions only come into play when a team goes over the cap and that is unlikely for the Nets this season.  Still, they picked up a TE worth nearly $3 million in the Yi Jianlian for Quinton Ross trade.  It expires June 30.

Glue Guys:

Both Billy King and Avery Johnson have said they are looking for veterans who could help the young Nets in the locker room, with Johnson specifically saying he would like to have a veteran point guard to go along with Devin Harris, Jordan Farmar and TWill.

Some possibilities:

--Eddie House, who played some PG in Boston, but is mainly a shooter...can't have too many of those.  House has always been seen as a positive force in the locker room and does have a championship ring to show off.  32 years old.

--Jannero Pargo, who the Nets made a habit of pursuing every year in the mid-2000's.  A good defender and quick.  Turns 31 in September. Played in Russia two years ago.

--Chucky Atkins, who would dramatically increase the Nets average age. He's 36 but can still give a team some good minutes...and can shoot a bit as well.

--Anthony Johnson, who backed up Jason Kidd on the Nets two NBA finalist teams.  Keeps hanging on.  Likes playing with teams that win.  Played for Avery Johnson in Dallas, but didn't last a full season there.  He turns 36 in October.

--Earl Boykins, started his career in New Jersey.  Can still play but like House more of a shooter than a playmarker.  34 years old.  Can play good defense and shoot, handles the ball well, but he will be posted up repeatedly.  Then, again, so was Avery Johnson.

--Chris Quinn, how could we forget him? There's been some indication that the the Nets might bring him back...although there's always been the presumption that he would return to the Heat.  Dwyane Wade is a big fan of his locker room presence.

And our total longshot: Jon Robert Holden, who would be a 35-year-old rookie.  What's his pedigree?  A Bucknell graduate, Holden has been playing the point for CSKA Moscow for the last eight years.  Prior to that, he played for teams in Latvia, Belgium and Greece. He holds a remarkable record: In his 11 years in Europe, his teams have won their country's national championship every year. He was also part of two Euroleague champions and won the FIBA Eurobasket championship for Russia in 2007 when his jumper bounced in with two second left. Holds dual citizenship in the US and Russia. He is a free agent too.

Whatever happened to the Russians?

Speaking of which...everyone expected that the Nets would have some interest in a Russian player.  Putting aside the Andrei Kirilenko speculation, we thought we'd hear about some Net interest in one of three players: Viktor Khryapa, the 6'9" power forward who was Europe's Defensive Player of the Year; Alexei Shved, the 6'7" point guard known as "The Russian Rubio"; or Timofey Mozgov, the 7'1" center who AK-47 recommended as the next great Russian big man. 

Well, we know what happened with Mozgov.  Not on the Nets radar, said Rod Thorn after he signed with the Knicks.  Shved too has signed recently, with CSKA Moscow...through 2013.  He didn't want to be drafted, according to reports so he could have more leverage with NBA teams. Apparently not.  As for Khryapa, there were reports that some NBA teams were interested in him, but since free agency, there's been nothing.  He's reportedly vacationing. 

Similarly, Andrei Vatutin appears to have taken himself out of the running for a job in the Nets front office.  The 36-year-old president of CSKA Moscow and a favorite of Mikhail Prokhorov, has new the David Stern of Russian basketball.

That Other Swingman

We all know about the jam at the 2 and the 3 spots, as Avery Johnson calls them, eschewing the terms, shooting guard and small forward.  There's Courtney Lee and Terrence Williams and Travis Outlaw and Anthony Morrow and Damion James and even Jordan Farmar who can and no doubt will play some 2. 

Did we leave anyone out?

Indeed we did. Quinton Ross is the Nets forgotten man this summer.  He's 29, a throw-in in the Yi Jianlian salary dump, uh, trade of June 30.  And yes, he averaged only 1.5 ppg and 0.9 rpg in limited minutes this year in Dallas and Washington. 

But Ross is, as one pundit put it, "not the worst value you could have gotten for Yi." Why? because Quinton Ross plays defense and can hit the three too.

Here's what Basketball Prospectus wrote about his game last October.

"A defensive specialist is kind of like spinners on a car; they can add something to a quality model but when used on a clunker they just look ridiculous. Last year's Grizzlies were a Pinto, and Quinton Ross wasn't going  to do anything to solve their problems. Ross is different from peers like Bruce Bowen in that he's not an especially physical player. Instead, Ross relies on his quick feet to stay in front of players. He's more effective against guards, though he has also successfully defended bigger forwards like Carmelo Anthony".

Also, he can hit the three, shooting 38.5% in the two years prior to this season when he got lost between Dallas and Washingon.  Don't expect Avery Johnson to bury a defender.

Final Note

If you're looking to book flights early for the Nets trip to London, we're going to take a less than educated guess and predict it will take place in early January.  Looking at the event schedule on the O2 Arena website, there's nothing scheduled, at least publicly for the first three weeks of January.  Also, there's a gap in the event schedule during late March, but that might be too late. Again, we don't know.  Word is that the Nets will play two games while overseas.  We fully expect the other team will be one of the top teams in the league and wouldn't be surprised if it were the Bulls, but who outside the Nets, the other team--and the NBA--knows.  They do have the highest profile British Olympic hopeful, Luol Deng, and remember, the O2 is the Olympic basketball venue in 2012.

Just sayin'.