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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #23

This is it, the last Off-Season Report of 2010. By next weekend, the Nets will be doing two-a-days. Next weekend will be PRE-season, no longer OFF-season. (It does appear, however, that off-season will never end, thanks to Carmelo Anthony.) We take a look at how things could go down if 'Melo Drama gets more interesting; analyze why we expect Devin Harris to have a better and healthier season; take a look at the Nets' plans for a Brooklyn practice facility and how it could help against the Knicks; investigate Moscow practice facilities; read a few basketball annuals and a few overseas reviews of "Just Wright", then offer our final Final Note.

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, blogs, our own reporting.

How a 'Melo deal could go down

When Rod Thorn was negotiating with Rob Babcock of the Raptors about Vince Carter in December 2004, Thorn first offered Babcock a choice of 10 players on the Nets roster: anyone but Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, Nenad Krstic and Jason Collins, plus any two of the three picks the Nets received in the Kenyon Martin deal five months earlier. To make the salaries work, Alonzo Mourning had to be included. So Babcock selected Mourning, foolishly thinking he could get 'Zo to mentor Chris Bosh; Aaron Williams and Eric Williams as well as the Nugget pick and the 76er pick from the KMart deal, leaving the Clipper pick to the Nets.

Babcock wanted to include Jerome Moiso in the deal so he wouldn’t have to cut two players in a 3-for-1 deal. Thorn declined and Babcock cut Roger Mason Jr. before the deal, then Jerome Moiso after. That whole sequence took 48 hours. After the deal was complete, Nets signed Moiso who they cut after a few games. Mourning refused to report to Toronto, claiming injury and he was eventually bought out. Babcock wasn't fired for trading Carter. Ownership wanted VC gone. He was fired for getting such a bad return...thinking that Mourning would leave Miami for Toronto--then having to buy him out; getting two other older players with non-expiring deals. None of the three were young. At the time, Mourning was nearly 35 with kidney disease; Eric Williams who was 33 and Aaron Williams who was 34. It would have been better if Babock had taken Zoran Planinic, who was only 22. Finally, he had cut Mason, who turned out to be a pretty good player.

To make matters worse, neither of the first round picks proved particularly valuable. Babcock used the 76er pick to take Joey Graham in 2005 (leaving Danny Granger for the Pacers). Babcock's successor included the Nuggets' 2006 pick in the Jalen Rose salary dump with the Knicks. It yielded Renaldo Balkman (taken just before Rajon Rondo). With the remaining pick from the KMart deal, the Nets eventually picked Marcus Williams in 2006.

I suspect that’s how this deal would work, if it’s two-team negotiation: here’s the menu. you can take two from column A, two from column B. The Nuggets will then counter. It's highly unlikely that the Nets would able to get as good a deal as they did with Carter. We can dream.

Prokhorov Money Watch

The Nets spent some of Mikhail's money this week on jobs that the front office had deemed critical in meetings with him last spring. In addition to Milton Lee, stats guy, hired at the end of last week, the Nets named Robby Hoenshel as a rehab specialist. No more outsourcing rehabilitation to people like Leslie Wright. The team also added its seventh assistant coach, Doug Overton. Overton, who had been one of Lawrence Frank and Kiki Vandeweghe's assistants, was named Player Development Coach, a role he had filled without the title the last two years. The team may also have to add another scout, with Roy Rogers perhaps headed to Boston to coach big men. We says perhaps because ESPN Boston says the deal is not least yet.

For the record, the coaching staff consists of head coach Avery Johnson, lead assistant Sam Mitchell and assistants Larry Krystkowiak, Popeye Jones, Tom Barrise, John Loyer and Rich Dalatri (strength and conditioning) plus Overton (player development). At the end of last season, the Nets had Vandeweghe, Loyer, Rogers and Dalatri. Barrise had taken refuge in the front office and Overton was on the road as an advance scout.

The Last Hiring

Overton is likely to work closely with the yet unnamed Director of Player Programs, whose responsibility will be to work with young players on off-court issues. What might that new job look like? Gary Bogdanski was the Nets' equipment manager a few years back. The Nets informally asked him to keep Sean Williams on the straight and narrow. On the simplest level, Bogdanski encouraged Williams to do the right thing. That job was close to what the Nets would like to see formalized in a director of player programs. It's not an easy job.

"Sean is a person with a very good heart and he's a good person, but he's made some mistakes," Bogdanski told Matt McQueeny back in March 2009. "No question. However, the important thing learn from them and make sure they don't happen again. When I was there with the Nets, I was constantly telling Sean 'make the right decisions, be ready, be prepared just in case.' Always whispering in his ear 'do the right thing.'"

Bogdanski, of course, did more than that and whoever gets the new job will as well but that's the idea. Bogdanski, FYI, is now a player agent.

Living in the City

Henry Abbott of ESPN's True Hoop offered another opportunity for the Nets to steal the Knicks' advantage once the team moves to Brooklyn. Commenting on a report that Amare Stoudemire won't be living in the city, but rather the suburbs, Abbott wrote:

"I think the Knicks made a huge mistake putting their practice facility in the exclusive suburbs (Greenburgh in suburban Westchester). It's easier to be the city's team if the heroes are people of the city, you know? They're practically forced to live out by the Clintons and all those Wall Street titans. The Nets, on the other hand, once they're in Brooklyn, will be practicing, I have heard, in Brooklyn. If some of them live in Brooklyn, locals are going to love that and make the Knicks look aloof in contrast."

Indeed the Nets will be practicing in Brooklyn, in a gym that will be, along with some team offices, located within Barclays Center. Moreover, the practice facility will be visible from Atlantic Avenue. Like the arena floor, the practice gym floor will be 25' below street level. Fans and other passersby will be able to view the goings-on from the sidewalk...and yes, the vantage point will be close by the ticket booths. It works on a number of levels although one does wonder what happens if the team is in the playoffs and wants to try out some new sets.

One other point about Abbott's commentary...the Knicks need help in looking aloof?

Harris as "Muscle Devil"

It's that time of a year when players announce they have put on "15 to 20 pounds of muscle". Remember Yi Jianlian, Muscle Devil?

Usually, like Yi and Devin Harris, the muscle is seen as a way of improving needed strength and/or avoiding injury. There's a lot of talk on boards about how injury prone Harris is. We ask compared to who? If you compare him with the cohort of guards who sacrifice their body by constantly driving to the hole, Harris is no more injury prone than most of the big names.

Here's a list of how many games some players who drive the lane to get to the line have lost over the past five years.

Jameer Nelson -- 95 games lost or 19 a season...with a high of 40 in 2008-09.

Dwyane Wade -- 75 games lost or 15 a season...with a high of 31 in both 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Chris Paul -- 65 games lost or 13 a season...with a high of 37 in 2009-2010.

Devin Harris -- 64 games lost or almost 13 a season...with a high of 18 in both 2009-10 and 2007-08.

Tony Parker -- 46 games lost or a little more than 9 a season...with a high of 28 in 2009-2010.

Harris' injuries have indeed been nagging, but not catastrophic. He's never missed more than 18 games in a season. All of the others have missed at least 28. And we suspect if we dug deeper into the stats, we'd find his longest absence pales compared to the others. Yes, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo have survived, so far...but most of the daredevils listed above avoided injury early in their careers too. And statistical analysis shows if you constantly go to the hole, as measured by free throw attempts, you're going to miss games...period.

There's also hope that Harris beyond the weight gain will repeat his career season. Harris will once again be surrounded by players who can shoot. Granted, there will be no Vince Carter clone (unless the Nets arrange to acquire Carmelo Anthony without giving up Harris). But when he averaged 21.3 points a game in 2008-09, he had four players who shot better than 37.5% of their three point attempts...Bobby Simmons, Keyon Dooling, Jarvis Hayes and Carter. Only one Net, Dooling, shot that well from three last season....and the team dropped from 6th to 29th in deep shooting. If the off-season acquisitions repeat last year's shooting percentages, the Nets will again have shooters that will unclog the lane for Harris' drives (and Brook Lopez moves). Four of the new Nets--Anthony Morrow, Troy Murphy, Travis Outlaw and Jordan Farmar--all shot better than 37.6% from deep last season, and Damion James shot that well in the NCAA.

Let's not forget: Two years ago, Harris scored 47 in a head-to-head with Steve Nash; 42 in a head-to-head with Derrick Rose; 41 in a head-to-head with Jason Kidd; 39 in a head-to-head with Andre Miller; 38 in a head-to-head with Allen Iverson; and 34 in a head-to-head with Deron Williams…and they won every one of those games.

Mr. Marks and Mr. Anonymous Speak

The basketball annuals are starting to hit the stands, you know the glossy preseason magazines with the hefty price tags. We'll be taking a longer look at what they're saying about the Nets, but don't be surprised that you're not surprised. It's pretty much what you read all summer. Athlon, the glossiest, has a nice profile of Mikhail Prokhorov, but there's nothing you haven't read in the seminal work on the subject, "The Most Interesting Man in the World" (Shameless Plug).

A couple of things in the Sporting News annual did strike us. Bobby Marks is the primary source for the Nets' preview. Marks didn't get a lot (any?) face time under Rod Thorn, but now he can speak more freely. He admits, for example, that the Nets may have had to overpay for talent this summer after coming off such a difficult season.

Here's his thumbnails on some of the Nets' off-season acquisitions:

On the team: "Last year, we had a lot of older guys. There was a big discrepancy when you got past Devin, Brook, Courtney Lee and Terrence Williams. When you look at our team now, from 1 through 12, anybody can contribute for you."

On Terrence Williams: "He can play three different positions, the one, two or three. He gave us glimpses of good things towards the end of last season and he has the size and can defend multiple positions."

On Travis Outlaw: "He can make open shots. You think of him being young, but this is his eighth year in the league."

On Derrick Favors: "He has a tremendous upside, is 245 pounds and can probably add another 15 pounds of muscle. For a kid coming into the league, he's as good as it gets and we saw glimpses of him possibly being really good in the summer league...but there will be a learning curve."

On Jordan Farmar: "I see him playing significant minutes and I think he could start for a lot of teams."

Marks isn't the only one quoted in the Sporting News annual. So is an anonymous "opponent", not further described. He's less positive of the off-season acquisitions.

"I was a little confused by some of their signings. I don't dislike any of those players, but it was the length of the contracts and the money. Travis Outlaw is a good player, but he isn't a starting small forward in the NBA. (Johan) Petro got $10 million for three years? Jordan Farmar is a good addition. He's a back-up and maybe now that he's out of the triangle, he might benefit. I was perplexed with (Anthony) Morrow. He's a capable player because he can really shoot, but $12 million for three years... (Derrick) Favors is very raw and has a ways to go, and I don't know if he will ever be a really good offensive player. He is athletic and long and I think it was a good pick, but we don't know how good any 19-year-old is going to be..."

"Just Wright" Out on DVD, on Demand, Overseas

If you missed "Just Wright" at the movies, it will be available for home use in the next few days both on DVD and on Demand. The movie is going global as well. Problem is the reviews haven't gotten that much better. The Irish Times, among others, was unimpressed. Here's an excerpt of its review: "nobody here is going to pay good money to see a romcom concerning the discontents of the New Jersey Nets. (It’s a basketball team, apparently.)" Sounds like Mikhail Prokhorov and his globalization team have their work cut out for them.

Moscow Nights

The Nets have yet to release details on their trip to Moscow, including where the open practice will be held. One possibility: the CSKA Moscow practice facility off Leningradskiy Prospect and within "walking distance of the Dinamo Metro Station", if you're making plans. Avery Johnson checked it out in early August as part of his family's trip to Russia. It's a small facility but with good amenities. Mikhail Prokhorov owned the team, after all. Another possibility, depending on ambitions, is the 13,000-seat MegaSport Arena next door.

Here's a Russian TV ("TV Rain") report on Johnson's visit. He ran a practice for CSKA Moscow front office types, some players and the media at the facility. Video of the facility starts two minutes in.

Some Housekeeping

With Al Iannazzone and Stefan Bondy setting up Twitter pages, we've decided to link to them under our Social Networking category. We've also linked to the Twitter pages of reporters Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! and Chad Ford of ESPN. Why them? Because virtually all of the Nets' off-season moves, free agent signings and off-season trades were first reported by those three reporters, mostly via Twitter.

Final Note

There was no shortage of news this off-season, not with Mikhail Prokhorov getting approved as owner,"Just Wright premiere; the the unsuccessful Draft Lottery, the successful Draft, the hiring of Avery Johnson, Billy King and Bobby Marks; the departures of Rod Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe; "The Decision"'; Summer League success; Plan 'B" free agent signings; front office upgrades; and moves to acquire Troy Murphy, Joe Smith and Stephen Graham late in the summer...just when you thought off-season was over. Not to mention the round-the-world preseason tour. Did we forget something? Oh yeah, 'Melo...and the yet to be announced Big Surprise promised by Prokhorov.

As for predictions, we're going to wait until we see the team in preseason before playing prognosticator. It's been a long, strange trip...and fun, too.

It's all yours, Avery.