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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #20

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Training camp opens three weeks from Friday with Media Day.  Then, it's two-a-days as the Nets prepare for their preseason opener on October 3 vs. Maccabi Haifa.  Who will be there for pictures remains an open question. We look at reasons beyond basketball that make Carmelo Anthony attractive to the Nets; examine the timetable for Barclays Center; talk about Mikhail Prokhorov's interest in training facilities; take issue with Ric Bucher on the Nets' spending spree; list what former Nets will be playing in the Worlds starting Saturday (the reason we're early this week); keep up with the charitable Nets; and suggest what's the biggest news in all the 'Melo maneuverings.

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.

Melo of Red Hook

Carmelo Anthony grew up about two miles from the site of Barclays Center in the Red Hook Homes.  Like his wife, LaLa Vasquez, he left Brooklyn before high school, learning the hoops game in Baltimore.  His wife's family moved to Atlanta where she developed her musical career. 

In the calculus of 'Melo Movement, don't discount the value of bringing a Brooklyn kid back home. A three-year extension would assure that Anthony will be in a (new) Nets (?) uniform when Barclays opens in 2012.  Also, don't discount the value of having Anthony--and Vasquez--being part of a big marketing effort to sell basketball to the region's large Hispanic population. Anthony's mother is Puerto Rican, as are both Vasquez's parents.

Might the Nets will be willing to add a premium to their trade offer based on what he could do for the Brooklyn brand and other marketing opportunities in the city?  They certainly might.  It's never only about basketball.

A couple of other things about the 'Melo Matter: Terrence Williams, who's been mentioned in trade rumors, tweeted Saturday morning "Happy to be a NET yessir", adding, "watch the cards fall in place".  TWill has been tweeting about "chess" games all week.  The other thing is that if the Nets did a multi-player deal for Anthony, they still wouldn't be done. The Nets have 12 players on guaranteed contracts and three others on partially guaranteed deals. A two- or three-for-one or two deal would require them to replenish the roster. 

Arena on Time?

The Nets aren't saying whether the construction of Barclays Center is on time, delayed or ahead of schedule (We've asked).  But an exchange of emails on a Brooklyn street closing between an ESDC official and an arena critic seems to indicate that it's either on time or ahead of schedule.

The arena has to be completed by July 2012 if the Nets hope to start the 2011-12 season in Brooklyn. MaryAnne Gilmartin, EVP of Forest City Ratner, explained why back in April. She wrote in an affadavit:

"All of the various construction-related activities described in this affidavit are part of a carefully developed and very intricate sequence of work that is now intended to allow the Barclays Center arena to open in time to permit the Nets to play home games at the Barclays Center by the beginning of the 2012-13 NBA season.  Furthermore, it takes at least three to four months to commission an arena like Barclays Center--i.e., to test and refine the various buildings systems and the various operations (such as security and food services) that must be performing properly and efficiently before the arena can be opened for the professional basketball season. In other words, it is essential that the arena be completed by early July 2012, so that the commission process can be completed by the opening of the basketball season in October 2012."

The 26-month construction timetable, starting in May of this year, hasn't changed, at least officially.  This week, Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report emailed ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell about how traffic on Flatbush Avenue would be affected by construction at the arena site. She responded: "The lanes of traffic may be able to be restored a few months before the transit (subway) entrance and the arena open in the second quarter of 2010. We have been told that FCRC will restore whatever they can back to the public domain for vehicles and pedestrians as soon as possible."

The second quarter of course runs from April 1 to June 30. So it would seem the arena is a little bit ahead of that 26-month schedule.  That shouldn't be surprising. Barclays Center in one of the few big construction projects underway in the city.  Shortages of labor and materials, the most commong cause of construction delays, aren't a problem now.  Also, as we noted, the New Meadowlands Stadium came in four months early.

As of now, there are only two buildings still left standing in the Barclays Center footprint, both large, empty condominium buildings converted from industrial use.  Demolition scaffolding is starting to wrap itself around them.

Prokhorov Money Watch

As president of the Russian Biathlon Union, Mikhail Prokhorov was in Chelyabinsk, Russia, this week to survey land for an Olympic training center. He will invest about 350 million rubles or about $11.4 million. (The ruble's not what it used to be.)

Prokhorov has long understood the value of training facilities and other player amenities. Here's what he said back in June when he came upon the construction of the Nets' new locker room at the Prudential Center. 

"The layout and design are professional questions, but in terms of functionality I want to understand how the team will be situated here.  It's very important in any sport nowadays that a player who comes for a game doesn't have to think about anything else.  Everything needs to be comfortable, functional and the way he likes things to be.  He needs to feel at home.  It's very important.  And the first thing free agents ask about, aside from salary, is what the so-called perks will be.  And we need to be able to give them an answer that is absolutely competitive with other teams'."

We don't know what the Nets are spending on that locker room, which is of course a temporary facility, but Prokhorov knows what state-of-the-art looks like.  He had an extensive tour of Yankee Stadium during his May visit to New York and was particularly interested in the players' quarters.  He toured the locker room, massage area, workout area and spoke about it all with Yankees' management.

When the Nets do move to Brooklyn, their training facility will be incorporated into Barclays Center (and be visible from Atlantic Avenue through large streetside windows.)  It's being designed by the same firm that has the overall commission at Barclays. Ellerbe Becket most recently designed the Cavs' training facility.  While it's located in a suburban setting outside Cleveland, its amenities will give you a hint of what they have done in the past and what the Nets might be asking them to do in Brooklyn.

Breaking the Bank with Bucher

We were quite confused by something Ric Bucher wrote for ESPN the Magazine this month.  In discussing the 2010 free agency circus, Bucher wrote that the real story wasn't the Big Three's decision(s), but the way the game was being played in the shadow of an presumed lockout next July. 

After making some good points about team financing, Bucher wrote this:

"In anticipation of the 2010 free agent class, more cap room was created by teams than there were star players to spend it on. GMs who lost out on big names had to break the bank on also-rans to reach the league-mandated minimum payroll of $43.5 million. That's why the Nets wound up spending $14 million on the trio of Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro and Travis Outlaw.

 "'I understand the business end of all this," says Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups, who was a second-year player in the lockout-shortened season of 1999. "My only question is, Where's the basketball at in all this? It's almost like the game gets forgotten'."

"Not completely. Several teams signed players to coax fans into buying tickets. The Blazers lured undrafted second-year man Wesley Matthews away from the Jazz with a five-year, $34 million offer and the Bucks locked up Drew Gooden with a five-year, $32 million deal."

Now let's go through that excerpt with a skeptical eye.

The Nets "had to break the bank on also-rans to reach a league-mandated minimum payroll of $43.5 million"?  Okay, the Nets' signings of Travis Outlaw, Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro and Anthony Morrow did put the team payroll at $43.1 million back in July.  But the league mandated minimum doesn't have to be met until NEXT July 1 and that $43.1 million covered only 12 players. Moreover, there were plenty of reporting back then about how the Nets would likely trade for a starting power forward later in the summer or early in the season.  In fact, the Nets did trade for Troy Murphy on August 11, adding $10.5 million (net) to their payroll.  "Break the bank?" The total cost of those four contracts signed in July is $69 million (Farmar's last year is a player option.)  In the currency exchange of 2010 free agency, that's two Amir Johnson's. That's breaking the bank?...Mikhail Prokhorov's bank? Please.

Going right at that third graph now. "Several teams signed players to coax fans into buying tickets"...okay, we can accept that.  But please don't suggest that Portland fans called their ticket reps in a panic looking for scarce Blazer tickets after they signed Wesley Matthews. Wesley Matthews?!? Drew Gooden, who's now been with eight teams (the Bulls twice) since draft night in 2002, is a draw that can "coax" fans to the Bradley Center? If you look up "journeyman" in the NBA Dictionary, Gooden's face pops up in various uniforms and hair styles. Dwight Gooden might draw more fans. 

As for Billups comment, we have to say that if by next summer the economy is still in the tank and unemployment is hovering around 10%, don't expect too many in the public to side with the players over whether their $10 million contract is going to be fully or only partially guaranteed. That's one reason why we think a lockout isn't inevitable: the real possibility of it becoming a greater public relations nightmare than anticipated.  

Four Ex-Nets in Worlds

Four former Nets will be playing for their homelands at the FIBA World Championships, two of them against Team USA this weekend. Of course, one of the four, Nenad Krstic, will get a late start because of his three-game suspension for fighting last week against Greece.

Krstic is playing for Serbia; Zoran Planinic for Croatia; Boki Nachbar for Slovenia; and Yi Jianlian for China.  Planinic will be starting at the point Saturday for Croatia against the United States.  The game airs on ESPN Classic at 12 noon ET, then re-airs on ESPN2 at 11 p.m. ET.   The US will face Nachbar's Slovenia Sunday.

Then, there's the owner's team, Russia.  Half of the Team Russia roster--six players--have toiled for Mikhail Prokhorov's CSKA Moscow.   In fact, it's possible that no professional team has better representation on the Worlds' rosters than CSKA.  Planinic. for example, has played for CSKA the last two years.

Also on hand, rooting no doubt for the USA, is Billy King who has served USA Basketball in various capacities going back to 1987 when he played for the US in the World University Games.

More from the Charitable Nets

Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow posted videos associated with their charities this week.  Morrow posted an online "commercial" for Anthony Morrow Charities, talking about he wants to share the blessings he's recieved.  Meanwhile, Farmar posted a short video recorded at his basketball camp on helping the environment. 

Final Note

As the Melo rumors mount, we expect the coming week, normally the slowest of the off-season, to be very newsy.  There will be daily rumors of where he's headed.  Some will be true, some will concern the Knicks.  With 10 players under 27, 10 draft choices over the next three years and $16.2 million in expiring deals, the Nets are in the mix.  That in itself is big news.