It's a movie! Here's the plot line: an evil genius of a coach plans a return to the top, and aided by a madcap Russian billionaire, he clones his former team...or something like that! We say green light this baby! We look at "Dallas II: Revenge of the Clones!"; update just how new it all is after the trade; talk about Melo, the Knicks, Nuggets and Nets; offer some possibilities for training camp invites; congratulate Sean May on his second new contract in two weeks; find out just how much of an Angeleno Jordan Farmar is; reminisce with Brian Zoubek on when the earth stood still and think about how the name change fits into the bigger picture.
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.
Dallas II: Revenge of the Clones!
Avery Johnson directs this blockbuster sequel...a multi-million dollar, spare no expense. remake of the team that won 60 and 67 games in back-to-back years!!
Starring Mikhail Prokhorov as Marc Cuban, Troy Murphy as Dirk Nowitzki, Travis Outlaw as Josh Howard, Anthony Morrow as Jason Terry and Devin Harris as Himself.
Also featuring Terrence Williams as Jerry Stackhouse, Damion James as Devean George, Quinton Ross as Greg Buckner, Brian Zoubek as Pavel Podkolzin and Johan Petro as the mysterious French-speaking back-up center known only as "Jop". Introducing Brook Lopez as The Hope and Derrick Favors as The Kid.
A heart-warming drama of a little guy with a heart of gold and a voice of glass who against all odds molds a bunch of clones into a team that surprises everyone but himself. Set in Newark, NJ in the present day, this tale will make you laugh and cry and forget you ever heard those chilling words, "and the coach of your New Jersey Nets, Kiki Vandeweghe!"
One more thing: Honey, guard the kids...remember, Popeye Jones is in this picture.
Yeah, yeah, we're getting ahead of ourselves. So what? At this point, any comparisons to 12-70 are irrelevant. How so? When the Nets open training camp on September 24, there'll only be three players left from last year’s camp: Harris, Lopez and Williams. Kris Humphries joined the team in January.
There'll be (at least) 11 new players (Favors, James, Ross, Zoubek, Ben Uzoh, Outlaw, Petro, Morrow, Jordan Farmar, Sean May and Murphy); a new head coach and three new assistants (Johnson, Sam Mitchell, Larry Krystkowiak and Popeye Jones); four new scouts (Frank Zanin, Danko Cvjeticanin, Bob Ferry and Roy Rogers); a new GM and assistant GM (Billy King and Bobby Marks) plus added people on the video, player personnel and training staffs. They will play in a new arena (the Prudential Center) in a new city (Newark) in front of new fans (2,400 new season ticket packages sold so far) under a new owner who stacks gold bars in Russia (Prokhorov).
They will also be featured in the NBA’s two biggest international events, the China Games in preseason and the London Games in regular season. Heck, they may even change the name!
"It’s All New" is not just a Brett Yormark marketing slogan. You want to dream, go ahead. You deserve it after last year's nightmare. No other team in the NBA has had as big a turnover this summer...the Heat has six players returning. And other than an expansion team, we can’t think of an NBA team that has had this many changes on and off the court in recent years, maybe ever.
The final (?) script changes for the Nets' movie took place at week's end, when Murphy was welcomed home to New Jersey and then, surprisingly, Rod Thorn announced he'll be driving down the Turnpike with Ed rather than strolling the woods with Peggy. Talk about your codas.
Officially, the Nets' front office was relatively low-key about the trade--of course, Johnson wasn't around and any press conference with Murphy will have to wait til after he returns from a Hawaiian vacation. They didn't want to say much about Thorn's change of scenery, either. But on background there was a lot of talk about the rationale behind the deal and what went down with Thorn.
"The thought process was that Murphy was the best available PF on the last year of their deal and it would not be fair to the fans and organization to wait once the season started to add someone," said one team insider of the trade, adding, "I think we are done but Billy is very aggressive."
As for Thorn, the feeling was a mixture of sadness that he moved on...to a division rival no less, mixed with pride in what has been accomplished over the last few weeks, some of it Thorn's handiwork, some of it King's. Ironically, one source at 390 Murray Hill Parkway boasted, the Nets are in better shape than the 76ers because of Thorn's final moves.
"We are in much better shape than our friends down the Turnpike," the source said. "I would take our players, coach, management and the future over Philadelphia in a heart beat, plus the Murphy trade would never would have happened if Rod was here." One reason: with the collective bargaining agreement about to expire, Thorn's priority has been to accumulate cap space.
As for the team's attempts to keep Thorn, he emphasized, "I know for sure that the Russians did everything in their power to keep Rod"...something Thorn basically admitted in his Philadelphia press conference. Thorn was less charitable towards the previous ownership under Bruce Ratner, however. "The last couple of years we dismantled the team on purpose, because of corporate decisions, so that wasn’t much fun.”
"Bottom line," said another insider. "The organization is in its best shape in six years."
One other point about this week's events. Murphy became the latest new player to say publicly he's looking forward to working with Johnson, "I'm excited about playing for the up-and-coming Nets and coach Avery Johnson. I enjoyed my time in Indiana, but it's time to move on." As we noted last week, Outlaw, Petro and Farmar all said Johnson is a big reason they chose the Nets. It's fun playing in a wide-open system and in Dallas, Johnson had the wildest offense in the league.
So are they a playoff team? When he gets back, expect Johnson to say they could get there...and repeat that's the boss' dictate to him. It'll be a long, tough haul but if everything, and we do mean everything, breaks right, they have a chance.
For Prokhorov, It's Think Globally, Act Locally
If the Nets do make the playoffs, it will be big news in Russia. The Nets have become Russia's team. In the last two days alone, the Russian press--and not just the sports press--has been all over team news. No fewer than 25 newspapers, magazines and websites ran stories on the Nets' plan to change their name when they moved to Brooklyn! There were also stories speculating that Andrei Kirilenko would join the Nets in 2012 and repeating Thorn's comment that Prokhorov will be an "excellent" NBA owner.
One thing we haven't seen yet: plans to broadcast Nets' games across the wide expanse of Russia, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. Over the past two years, with Yi Jianlian, Chinese broadcasters carried more than 50 Net games a year.
Have You Ever Been Melo?
We figure the Nets have about $3 million left after the Murphy trade but with $17 million in expiring contracts (Murphy, Humphries and Ross) they could have $20 million come July.
The big prize then, of course, is Carmelo Anthony who has a $65 million contract extension sitting on his desk. Word is that he may want to join the Knicks. That's nice, but if he doesn't sign that extension, the ball will not be in his court. At some point the Nuggets can be expected to give Melo a deadline to sign it...and we expect that will happen fairly soon. If he doesn't sign it, they WILL trade him, period. They have no choice.
Take a look at their payroll after this year. Without 'Melo, they would have to rebuild. In addition to him, KMart will be gone, J.R. Smith may be gone, Billups has a final year buyout of $3.7 million, Nene has a player option. So they would want the things the Nets have: picks, young players on reasonable contracts, expiring contracts and cold hard Russian cash. The Knicks? After December 15, they could trade some of their newly signed young players, but the first first rounder they can offer is the 2014 pick. By dumping first rounders or agreeing to swap them, they simply don't have a tradeable first rounder til then. Over the next four years, the Nets have five first rounders they can trade.
After finishing up his trading day on Wednesday, King noted the Nets would soon be inviting players to training camp, "I’m going to say, this will probably be the team. We’ll add some guys for camp, give some guys a shot."
The camp candidates will compete with the three players already on partially guaranteed deals: Zoubek, Uzoh and May. The Nets have 12 guaranteed contracts and usually like to carry 14 players, one short of the maximum, for flexibility. So the competition could be intense.
Here are some intriguing possibilities, without recommendation, but remember, both King and Johnson talked about "glue guys" and Johnson specifically said he'd like a "veteran point guard".
Have Ring, Will Travel
--Brian Scalabrine, 6'9" PF, Celtics. He's been to the NBA Finals four times in the last nine years, winning a ring in 2008 with the Celts. Former Net, he's done well for an unathletic kid taken out of USC in the second round. May take his family to Europe. While there, he will win. It's a guarantee.
--Adam Morrison, 6'9" SF, Lakers. He can shoot and he longer burdened by the expectations or salary of a #3 draft pick. He's had some tryouts and he could always head to Europe, but he might be interesting.
--D.J. Mbenga, 7'1" C, Lakers. Developed by Johnson at Dallas, he is limited in what he can do, but he does block shots, is huge and as a native of Congo, he would help with that global branding thing.
--Qyntel Woods, 6'8" SF, Asseco Prokom, Polish League. The best player in Poland and one of the best in Europe, he actually worked out for the Nets in June and got a few kudoes from Johnson. But he has a series of arrests and convictions, for organizing dog fights, marijuana possession and DUI.
--Sun Yue, 6'9" PG, Beijing Olympians. Like Morrison and Mbenga, he has a championship ring. He barely played for the Lakers in 2008-09 and was cut the Knicks in 2009. Still, he would give the Nets an opportunity to retain a lot of their Chinese fans.
--Sasha Pavlovic, 6'7" SF, Timberwolves. He was always seen as a shooter but in recent years, he's also been seen as a malcontent. He keeps threatening to go back to Europe.
--Joe Smith, 6'11" PF, Hawks. After 15 years in the league, he looked done last year, but the Nets looked at him recently. He wants full guarantee. Doubtful he gets it.
--Ike Diogu, 6'9" PF, Hornets. A lot of promise, a lot of injuries. On several occasions during his career, he looked like he might take off, but never did. He's recovering from microfracture surgery 10 months ago, not a good thing.
--Malik Allen, 6'10" PF, Nuggets. He would be back for his second shot, after having failed in his first. Traded with Jason Kidd to Dallas. He wants a partial guarantee of about $500,000, reports Dave D'Alessandro. Can't see that happening. A Willingboro native, he would be the third Jersey guy in camp, along with Zoubek (Haddonfield) and Murphy (Sparta), most ever.
--Rashard McCants, 6'4" SG, Kings. The Nets would probably like another deep shooter off the bench. McCants is the NBA's reigning enigma...at least among borderline players. He has career averages of 10.0 ppg and 36.8% from deep. He once hit seven three's in game. But he's been out of the league for a year and was the subject of a lengthy piece in ESPN the Magazine recently. What's his problem? Moodiness, individuality, unreliability. He is only 24.
--Joe Alexander, 6'8" SF, Bucks. The West Virginia product was often on Thorn's radar, but after two underwhelming seasons in Milwaukee, he was told his services were no longer required. He can jump out of the building and shoot from deep, but the rest of his game needs a lot of work. Did we mention he speaks fluent Mandarin?
--Chris Quinn, 6'2", PG, Nets. The Nets renounced his rights and gave his number to Terrence Williams, but he's still unemployed despite rumors Dwyane Wade wanted him on the Heat. He was a complete pro last season. We'd have no problems bringing him back to battle Uzoh.
Social Notes via Twitter
Reading through some tweets, we learned Sean May is getting married this weekend. He's been accepting congratulations after tweeting, "So I'm taking bets... Who thinks ima cry like my boy @DNoel34 did when my Girl walks down the isle tom!?!??" Later he admitted "So very blessed! Long day Tomm... Gatta relax get the nerves right then... Watch the women of my dreams take my last name! :-)" We offered our congratulations.
Meanwhile, TWill has been posting photos of him and his two young sons here, here, here and here on vacation. A lot of hoops action for the family Williams. Not to be out-cuted, Morrow has posted some shots of his daughter, here and here. He's also showing off some recent orthodontics, aka "grill" work, aka smile renovation.
Jordan Farmar is all about L.A. He grew up in L.A. He went to high school in L.A., went to college in L.A., played pro ball in L.A. and has a charity in L.A., which sponsors an annual basketball camp for L.A. kids. So it shouldn't be a surprise that his basketball camp is just a bit different, at least by East Coast standards.
In addition to the usual camp swag --the t-shirt, the autographed picture, the certificate of participation-- every kid who attends his "Hoop Farm" starting Monday gets a free yoga mat. Yep, a yoga mat. The campers engage in a half-hour of yoga instruction prior to even touching a basketball.
Hooray for Hollywood!
When Time Stood Still for Big Z
The Duke Magazine has an interview this month with Brian Zoubek about the last minute of the NCAA Final when Butler's Gordon Heyward almost made like Jimmy Chitwood in "Hoosiers".
"He's going into his jump shot, and I realize that Kyle's not on him anymore," said Zoubek of teammate Kyle Singler. "So I try to get a hand up, bother him a little bit.
"It's weird because people say time slows down, and it's hard to imagine that actually happening. But when you get in that position, you realize in your mind that, Wow, this is the culmination of everything-right now-in this one play. I realized that Hayward had been money all tournament, so I was praying that I did a good enough job and that he would miss it. And thank God he did! And the rebound came right down to me."
Zoubek also talks about his foot injury which kept out of a lot of games over his sophomore and junior season but which is now healed.
"Yeah, it was a progression, and it just took a lot of time-a lot of rehab, a lot of ice footbaths, a lot of hard work. And it was definitely a process over a couple of years to finally get to where my foot felt completely fine."
The Nets Kids dance team will be performing on the WPIX11 Morning News on Monday at 8:55 a.m. On Tuesday, the annual auditions for the Nets Kids will take place at the PNY Center, starting with registration at 5:30 p.m.
The possibility of a name change has gotten a lot of ink this week...after Ast, one of our Russian speaking posters, translated Mikhail Prokhorov's interview with Forbes Russia. But lost in the translation, so to speak, was a very subtle but very pointed dig at the Dolans.
In answer to Forbes' first question, about when he became interested in the NBA, Prokhorov said, "Our dreams began in 2003-2004 in 'kitchen talks' - it's cool to own an NBA club. They became real when we heard rumors that Cablevision, owner of MSG, Knicks and Rangers, was in dire financial strains. Some of our own financial bankers said that Cablevision will soon fall apart, and there will be a possibility of purchasing it."
The billboard may be down, but Mikhail seems to relish getting under the Dolans' skin. Cablevision was on the verge of collapse, in dire financial straits? That ain't about basketball. That's about stock price. Big difference.
As for the name change itself, we think Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has it figured out: It's all about a grand move, not a radical one. The critics' chronicler asks, "What if the team's 'name change' is just a feint to announce 'Brooklyn Nets' in a big ceremony?" Meanwhile, one possible venue for that big ceremony got closer to reality this week as workmen started pulling down the building that housed "Freddy's Bar". There was no protest.