t's only three weeks before the Nets begin gathering at the PNY Center for informal practices, five weeks before NBA training camps (and Barclays Center) open, seven weeks before the first preseason game in Atlantic City, then two days later, the first pre-season game in Brooklyn...and It's a little more than two months before Nets vs. Knicks on November 1. Good times.
This week, we take a long look at the potential of Donte' Greene, for whom the Nets reportedly have "high hopes"; speculate on who may be in training camp; examine the three point prowess of the newer Nets; get a read on the value of having both your Euro-Stash on one team; and offer up a diverse packet of final notes.
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, tweets...plus our own reporting.
The New Guy
For a month, there was no news on the Nets' last two roster spots. After Nazr Mohammed and Andrei Kirilenko said thanks, but no thanks in late July, there were no tweets from Woj or Marc Stein, no late night hints from Peter Vecsey, nothing from China or Serbia or points east. Then, on Thursday. Marc J. Spears reported that Donte' Greene (don't forget the accent on the first name, the extra "e" on the second) had reached an agreement with Brooklyn. As it turned out, Greene had only agreed to a training camp invite, nothing more ... although it seems the Nets like him a bit more than other potential small forwards whose names have been mentioned this off-season, people like Damion James, Al Thornton and Adam Morrison.
Perhaps, having succeeded on one Green, the Nets decided to try again with another, this one with an extra "e", remember..
Greene is a member of the draft class of 2008, having been taken at age 20 by the Memphis Grizzlies with one of the picks the Lakers gave up for Paul Gasol. He's a month older than Brook Lopez. He was traded first that summer to the Rockets, then after a promising summer league, he, Bobby Jackson and a 2009 pick were sent to the Kings for Ron Artest. In Sacramento, he spent four years under four coaches, only one of them, the second, at all promising. But Greene is one of those guys teams with solid rosters can take chances on, players that always seem to find their way to the end of the Spurs bench, for example.
What's he like? Here's what Sactown Royalty wrote on our board Thursday afternoon.
Here’s the lowdown on Greene.
You’re not getting a guy who will go out and score 40 points or will play lockdown defense. You’re not getting a sharpshooter either. These are all things that the Kings wanted him to be, and tried to make him into unsuccessfully.
However, what you are getting is a very easy person to root for. Donté tries hard on the court, is a great teammate, very athletic, and really just needs some structure. In his 4 years with the Kings, Donté had Reggie Theus, Kenny Natt, Paul Westphal and Keith Smart as coaches. That’s not exactly the best way to get your career off to a good start, particularly when each coach asks you to come in and do something different. Theus and Natt had Greene trying to be a scorer (part of that was Greene himself as a rookie just chucking up every three he saw). Then Paul Westphal came in and tried to convert Greene into a Power Forward and then to a lockdown wing defender. Donté tried, he really did, but its incredibly hard to try to change one’s self so fundamentally every year.
On the court, you’re getting a very athletic guy who can play some defense, is a decent slasher, and probably needs to become a more consistent shooter from the mid-range to three point range. On fastbreaks, he’s a great target for easy buckets as he can get down the floor quickly and leap high.
Off the court, you’re getting a guy who really invested a lot of time building a relationship with the city of Sacramento. He was a big and vocal proponent of the Kings staying in Sacramento these past few years. He got to know a lot of the fans personally, and even helped one of them with a marriage proposal. He saved someone’s life on the American river when they fell off his boat and they couldn’t swim. He
wasis just an awesome person.
For Donté, I really hope that with all of the great veteran wings on this Nets team in JJ & Crash, he can begin to really develop into the player we always wanted him to be in Sacramento. That was never a star, but really more of the ultimate roleplayer.
Congrats on the signing guys, I think that you’ll enjoy it, even if Greene doesn’t play often.
There are other analyses, of course. Cowbell Kingdom, another Kings fansite, described him a little less enthusiastically, but still positively...
The 24-year-old combo-forward averaged 5.4 points per game in little under 15 minutes of action last season. He played in 53 of the team’s 66 games, starting seven times at either small or power forward. During his four seasons in Sacramento, Greene showed flashes of brilliance, but never found the consistency required to outright win the starting small forward position.
His best season came during the 2009-10 campaign when he averaged 8.5 points over 76 games, which included 50 starts. Coming into the 2010-11 season, Greene was scheduled to compete with Omri Casspi at small forward. But after coming into camp more than 20-pounds heavier than his previous season’s weight, he fell out of favor with then-coach Paul Westphal and found little traction in Keith Smart’s rotation this season.
While he had some major ups and downs during his tenure with the Kings, Greene became a fan favorite, even organizing a local charity game during the 2011 lockout and appearing in the documentary film Small Market, Big Heart.
If you search John Hollinger, you will find that he takes too many three pointers to too little avail but that he has potential. And if you search YouTube, you will get a sense of his athleticism and skill. There's the mixtape of his rookie season, (mostly deep two's and three's), some highlights from lockout exhibition games he helped organize (mostly dunks), and his top ten plays of the season last year (nice combination of offensive and defensive potential.)
Bottom line: there is no risk whatsoever with Greene, but there could be a nice reward. He is a training camp invite without even a partial guarantee. He's not taking anyone's spot in training camp. Teams can bring in as many players as they want. If he makes the team, he will get a vets minimum deal which, if need be, the Nets don't have to guarantee until January. He would add less than a million dollars to the salary cap. On the other hand, Sam Amick reports, "The Nets have high hopes for Greene and it sounds like he has a good shot at sticking around to back up Gerald Wallace." Anything to help us forget Gerald Green.
Welcome to Nets Training Camp, Whoever You Are!
The Nets, as noted, have 13 players under contract. Another, Greene, has a good chance of making the squad. What should we expect in training camp? NBA teams can invite as many players as they want to camp, but word is don't expect any surprises. Greene may very well be the highest profile player invited to camp. Dennis Horner and Jeff Foote could show up, but it's increasingly doubtful. Horner just received clearance to start practicing after breaking his foot in June. Haven't heard anything on Foote since the end of summer league.
As for the others who wore Brooklyn Nets gear in Orlando: Al Thornton played well enough but he recently tweeted that he's headed overseas. There was a report in July that Bryant Dunston, a 6'8" power forward from Fordham, had an invite, but he's since signed with Varese in the Italian League. Carleton Scott from Notre Dame? Edwin Ubiles from Siena? Adam Morrison? All had their moments in Orlando and none have signed yet. But none are likely to get a roster spot in Brooklyn, either.
As for a big to back up Lopez, don't be surprised to see the Nets try back-up by committee, with Mirza Teletovic, Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans all getting minutes. The Nets don't seem to have interest in the three amnestied bigs: Darko Milicic, Andray Blatche or Chris "Birdman" Andersen. Nor is a reunion with Yi Jianlian on the horizon ... although we think it would be delicious to see the Nets scoop up all the Chinese, Taiwanese and Chinatown fans the Knicks have antagonized.
One of the under-appreciated aspects of the Nets off-season, draft and free agency, is how the Nets have loaded up on three point shooters. Joe Johnson (36.8% career) and Deron Williams (35.1%) can go on tears from deep, but it's not just them. Three point shooting appears to have been a big consideration in the Nets' personnel decisions.
Some are better than others, but as their numbers show, you can't leave many of the Nets open. Consider the perimeter players' career shooting percentages: C.J. Watson (37.2%); Keith Bogans (35.2%); Gerald Wallace (31.8%); MarShon Brooks (31.3%); Jerry Stackhouse (30.8%); Donte' Greene (30.4%); Tyshawn Taylor (37.0% at Kansas) and Mirza Teletovic (40.5% in the Euroleague). Toko Shengelia has yet to show he can shoot with authority, but his Eurobasket numbers (33.3%) are better than his Orlando Summer League (12.5%) and Euroleaugue career (28.6%) marks. Upfront, Kris Humphries used to think he could hit the three but has laid off. Reggie Evans? His next three will be his first. Same with Brook Lopez, but that may be a matter of choice, by his coaches. There's no doubt he can hit from deep.
Watson Want Role Next To D-Will
Speaking of Watson (who knew he had the highest career three point shooting percentage on the team?), he told a Tennessee fansite recently that the Nets had recruited him with the pitch that he'll play with D-Will as well as behind him in the Nets' backcourt rotation.
"Just a great decision, great opportunity," Watson said of his decision to join the Nets. "Kind of like the same thing in Chicago, backing up a great point guard in Deron Williams and hopefully playing with him more. That's what Coach (Avery Johnson) said.
"(Williams) and Coach Johnson recruited me. I played with Deron on Team USA (in the Under 19 World Championships a decade ago). Also playing under Avery, he's a great leader and was a great point guard in the league. It is pretty cool, just all that before even basketball is pretty cool. New arena, new buzz, it's cool."
The Nets are quietly enthused about Ilkan Karaman's decision to join their other Euro-Stash, Bojan Bogdanovic, on Fenerbahce Ulker. In addition to make their scouting duties easier, the combination is seen as a net (and Net) positive.The 6'8" Bogdanovic and the 6'10" Karaman are both likely to start for Fener next season.
Both are excited about eventually playing in Brooklyn and that excitement (and chemistry) is likely to grow with them sharing practices, hotels, meal lines, etc. Perhaps most importantly, Fener is seen as one of Europe's most sophisticated basketball operations. They spend money on all the right things and have recently gone out and signed some of Europe's top players. More importantly for the Nets, they've recruited one of Europe's top coaches, Simone Pianigiani to run the team next season. Pianigiani, who is also Italy's national team coach, led his team to the Italian championship in all five of his seasons on the bench for Montepaschi Siena.
Bogdanovic has his first "NBA out" at the end of this season and some reports indicate that Karaman's contract with Fener also includes an "NBA out" in July. Would both of them join the Nets in 2013? The Nets are very high on Bogdanovic, perhaps even higher than they are on Mirza Teletovic or Toko Shengelia. He is unlikely to accept a minimum deal. Word is that he makes more than $1.5 million in Turkey and the minimum is barely $500,000. So the Nets would have to dip into the mini-MLE to sign him, barring some major overhaul of the roster. Karaman reportedly will make $1.1 million this season so the same calculus applies but can he play PF in the NBA? The Nets will learn that this season. Expect Danko Cvjeticanin, the Nets international scout, to spend a lot of time in Istanbul this season.
And lucky us! On Oct. 5, the Celtics will play Fener in Istanbul, a game that will be broadcast on NBA TV. So those of us with NBA TV will get a chance to see Bogdanovic and Karaman take on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
How smart is it of MarShon Brooks to bring his agent, Seth Cohen, on his trip to Moscow for Basketball Without Borders, Russia?This is the first BWB in Russia and a big deal for Mikhail Prokhorov, who you'll remember sold the Russian public on the Nets purchase by promising that Russian youth will benefit from tutoring by the Nets. Expect to see images of Brooks and the boss coming out of the trip.
You've seen big Nets stories the last two weeks in the New York Times (including a monster photo spread last Saturday); New York Magazine and Crains' New York Business. Know this: you ain't seen nothing yet. In the days and weeks ahead, as Barclays Center gets close to opening, expect to see a LOT more coverage of the Nets in publications big and small, and in more than one language.
The Nets association with "The Association" has yet to be officially announced, but cameramen for the show tweeted this week that they've been shooting around Barclays and getting cover shots of Brooklyn. We here they were shooting at the Orlando Summer League and at the Brooklyn Borough Hall rally for Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
Nice article on the latest addition to the Nets' front office staff: Brennan Blair, assistant video coordinator. Blair's local paper in Colorado writes about how he went from local sports star to the Nets (via Seton Hall and an internship.)
It's now late August and not one of the Nets free agents, Shelden Williams, Armon Johnson, Damion James and Sundiata Gaines, have found a new home. James is the biggest surprise. We had expected he'd get a training camp invite, but haven't see anything on that. Injuries have hurt him, but he can defense and rebound. And for those who are curious, the Nets have no Bird Rights on any of them. They've all been renounced.