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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #21

Deron Williams is in Turkey...or maybe not.  Sasha Vujacic definitely is. Jordan Farmar is in Israel and MarShon Brooks in in Providence, finishing up his degree. Avery Johnson is headed for Moscow and Vilnius. Us? We just got back from vacation and wondered how we survived previous vaco's without Twitter, Blackberry and Facebook. 

Speaking of Twitter, in this week's Off-Season Report, we recount an exchange we had with Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi late this week on Mikhail Prokhorov's political ambitions. We also examine the implications of Kris and Kim's decision to look for an apartment in the city; visualize what a hockey pad might look like at Barclays Center, track Avery through Eastern Europe, offer intelligence on Brooklyn parking and a new fan amenity. 

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, and now the lockout. We will rely on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who slip interesting stuff into larger stories, blogs, our own reporting and analysis.

Politi's skepticism

Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi has never been much of a fan of Mikhail Prokhorov's purchase of the Nets, perhaps because it shut the door forever on Newark's dream of keeping the Nets in New Jersey.

This past week, he responded to one of our pieces on Prokhorov's presidential ambitions, tweeting, "Get the impression he's bored with his new basketball toy?"  His colleague Dave D'Alessandro had also suggested the same thing sometime back.  Back then, we asked Team Prokhorov if indeed that was so and were told that the reverse was true, although he did note he had wearily told Russian reporters he was spending 85% of his time on the Nets in the months after he became principal owner.

In an exchange of tweets, Politi expressed skepticism, noting, "We were led to believe he'd change the culture of the Nets. Now he's a budding Russian politician. Forgive the skepticism."  In response we noted that Prokhorov has spent $400 million on the team (actually more in long-term commitments), including $60 million this year (to cover team operating losses, debt service and things like spending money on trades and draft picks). More importantly, we noted that it's always been Prokhorov's style to hire the best people and let them do their job, as his colleague Dave D has written.

Politi added, "Agreed. But wouldn't you agree that Prokhorov sold himself as much more than that?"  Indeed, he did, but there was a purpose in that.  When Prokhorov bought the Nets, he knew he had nothing to sell but himself and with help from Ellen Pinchuk, his Moscow-based American public relations consultant, he was able to get well-publicized interviews in the lead position on  "60 Minutes" and the cover of the New York Times Sunday Magazine.  That ain't easy.  Not to mention the brilliant performances at his two biggest press conferences. The Nets had NEVER gotten that kind of (positive) publicity.

Politi is right to wonder how Prokhorov's political aspirations will affect his ownership.  We have too. 

On one hand, his style IS to let people he trusts run the operation, whether they be Americans, Russian or French. His decision to name Sergey Kushchenko to the Nets board of directors is the latest evidence of that. Prokhorov trusts Kushchenko who put together his two Euroleague championships while GM at CSKA Moscow and has cleaned up the scandal-scarred Russian Biathlon Union since.  As anyone who has met Kushchenko (and we have) will tell you, he is no shrinking violet...and he knows basketball.

On the other hand, a political career is different than one in business and if he is indeed serious about challenging the current government (regime?), then there are footfalls on that road, ones that could affect his ownership of the Nets.  When he first moved to buy the team, Prokhorov was careful to have President Dmitry Medvedev bring it up with President the United Nations!  When the deal was first announced in Moscow, some in the Russian parliament grumbled that he should have spent that money on Russian basketball.

But bottom line, there's no indication that he is spending less on the team. He spent $1.5 million or so to buy the rights to Bojan Bogdanovic on Draft Night and since then Billy King has said the team is looking at sites for a new training facility to go along with the practice facility in Barclays Center. Both came after he decided to enter politics. And sometime soon, according to Bruce Ratner, he will make a decision on whether to exercise an option to buy up to 20 per cent of the overall $5 billion Atlantic Yards project, presumably at a bargain price. 

Surely, Politi won't be the last reporter to suggest a waning of interest (and we have not seen a thing indicating where he stands on the CBA negotiations other than telling a Russian report a while back that it's "complicated"). But the real story will be what he does.  Marc Cuban may be the most visible billionaire in the NBA, sitting behind the bench rooting his team on. That would be nice, but Cuban isn't the only model.

Scouting FIBA Eurobasket

Danko Cvjeticanin, the Nets director of international scouting, was Bojan Bogdanovic's advocate inside the Nets.  Cvjeticanin is, like Bogdanovic, a Croat. He pushed hard for the Nets to take a long look at the 6'8" 22-year-old and with some of Mikhail Prokhorov's cash and a willingness to dump a second round pick, the Nets were able to secure him at #31.  So far so good.

Now, a "bunch" of Nets' brass will join Cvjeticanin in Lithuania at the end of next week to watch Bogdanovic at FIBA Eurobasket (assuming Croatia makes it to the title round). Who's expected in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital?  Avery Johnson is short hop away in Moscow, where he's  immersed in clinics, charity games and seminars.  So is Sergey Kushchenko, the Nets newest director and former GM of CSKA Moscow, but we don't know if he's going. Also, chief scout Gregg Polinsky is he normally would be.

Of course, the Nets' interest isn't limited to Bogdanovic who could be stuck in Turkey for two years.  They'll also be looking at undrafted European prospects; undrafted free agents, late bloomers who haven't been drafted as well as those players who have already been drafted but not signed and even some former NBA types worth a camp invite, whenever camp opens.  Sometimes, a player will stay in Europe until the time is right (and his contract permits). 

On more than one occasion, a player's rights have been dealt because a team doesn't feel a player has much chance with their team or, in the case of a first round pick, because a team wants to add cap space taken up year after year by a Euro. 

Take the example of Luis Scola, a second round San Antonio pick whose rights were long held by the Spurs, then traded to the Rockets.  The rights to two solid European prospects, Erazem Lorbek, a 27-year-old 6'10" power forward from Slovenia, and Petteri Koponen, a 23-year-old 6'5" point guard from Finland, were dealt on Draft Night 2011, Lorbek to the Spurs and Koponen to the Mavericks

Who among those with NBA rights is looking good?  For one, Ante Tomic, Croatia's 7'2" center whose rights are held by the Jazz, who as you may have noticed have a lot of big men.

Nickname for Bogdnanovic?

Speaking of Bogdanovic, we feel the need for a nickname. His name is just too long for our headlines. The obvious one is BoBo, but that sounds like a clown's name.  We haven't consulted our Croatian counterparts on what he goes by over there, but a thought did occur to us when we were checking on the pronunciation of his first name. It's Bo-YAN, not Bo-JAN.  So could (should) Bojan become "Boo-Yah"?  Real potential there after he makes a three pointer in The Barclays Center.  Something else to consider during this long lockout.

Kris and Kim Move to Manhattan

Amidst all the hype, like Kim's desire to have a baby in sync with her sisters, like a chance (?) meeting between Kris Humphries and Ray J, the man who made his wife famous with a sex tape, and like gossip that Humphries' parents were all that thrilled with things (they flew back to Minnesota on a commercial coach), there was this news: it appears Kris and Kim are going to take up residence in New York.  They're currently spending time in a $7,000 a night suite at the Gansevoort Hotel on Park Avenue (where no doubt they are getting a discount in return for publicity) and looking for places.  That would seem to indicate that Humphries wants to continue playing for the Nets, as he noted after the season ended.  Of course, since then, he's changed agents, to Marc Cornstein, and managers, to Kris Jenner, his mother in law, got married, became a star of reality TV and the gossip rags and no doubt made a lot of spare cash along the way.

Hoosier Hockey as Model


A friendly Islanders fan sent us this depiction of the way architects for Conseco Fieldhouse laid out its hockey pad in a basketball-centric arena. Conseco has hosted a minor league hockey team.  It's interesting because the architects, Ellerbe Becket, are also the principal architects for the Barclays Center and Conseco is the model, with modifications, for the Brooklyn arena's interior space.  As you can see, it's kind of an odd shape and some sightlines are not necessarily ideal particularly those at the east end of the upper deck.

The Search for Brooklyn Parking

Brooklyn residents recently got a chance to ask questions of the Empire State Development Corp., Bruce Ratner's partner in the development of the Barclays Center, particularly about plans for parking and other traffic issues. The answers are also relevant to those fans who intend to drive to games instead of using mass transit: subways and LIRR.

The bottom line is that the Nets and Barclays Center have to come up with a Transportation Demand Management Plan before the arena opening in September of 2012. Many of the provisions expected in the plan have been discussed before (although at least one, the "NetroCard idea, is not mentioned). 

Here's the relevant section for Nets' fans...

The Transportation Demand Management Plan under development per this FEIS commitment will include a comprehensive strategy to encourage the use of mass transit (and remote parking) by Arena patrons and a parking management plan for those who do drive.

The plan will detail the specific locations of off-site parking garage, pricing of off-site and on-site parking spaces and the mechanisms for encouraging the use of off-site parking garages and remote parking. Remote parking will be encouraged with free shuttle service to the Arena and parking spaces priced at half the price of the market rate at garages closer to the Arena. The plan will also specify the routes by which shuttle buses will travel from remote parking locations to the Arena and the pickup locations for the return shuttle trip to the remote parking location.

The Transportation Demand Management Plan will include a cross-marketing program with local businesses that would serve to stagger arrival and departure times, a 400 bike parking area adjacent to the Arena, and a requirement that at least 600 of the on-site parking spaces be HOV parking (requiring the purchase of three or more tickets). The Transportation Demand Management Plan is under development by FCRC, the Nets, and the Arena operations team and FCRC’s traffic and parking consultant Sam Schwartz Engineering (which has prepared these kinds of plans for Citi Field, among others).

Arena Critics' New Worry: Fallen Women and Pimps Dressed in White

Barclays Center critics have a new worry beyond rats, rowdy bars and terrorists (not to mention urine).  There are reports that fallen women, prostitutes, have been seen setting up shop near the arena.

This was reported on one blog frequented by the critics...

Shortly after midnight on Thursday, I spotted a very sad new development on Flatbush and Dean, across from the totally deserted arena skeleton: A young pimp working with two teenage hookers. He was dressed in all white and the girls were doing their best to vamp when he got a car to stop and check them out.…It’s definitely because that whole area is deserted while every body waits for the supposed arena crowd spillover payday to open businesses there that this kind of activity could take place. It is funny because the Flatbush Avenue renovation has been heralded by the pols as the necessary upgrade of the gateway to the new, improved Brooklyn. So in addition to an arena and some planters you now get street hookers and pimps hustling.

Maybe it was just someone emulating Walt "Clyde" Frazier's style from the 1970's. 

Final Note

Sometime in the next week or two, if there's no resolution on the CBA, the lockout will likely cause the loss of training camp, at least as planned.

Camp is supposed to begin on October 1 and normally this week is the time players return to New Jersey if they've been away to begin playing pick up ball at the PNY Center.  It's also the time the team normally announces the names of training camp invites, a short list we pounce on to see if there are any gems. Normally, there's not, but it's fun. Instead, we're counting "defections". No fun