This could be it, the very last Off-Season Report EVER. As soon as training camp opens, we shut the off-season report machinery down. It's no longer off-season, but pre-season! We started this feature five years ago as a way to fill in the blanks left by the lack of a post-season. (You still following along? Good.) So if the the Nets make the playoffs, and they'd better, there is no need for a weekly report. So enjoy this last tasty morsel.
In this week's report, we look at some numbers from last night, all of which suggest fears of congestion and unruly behavior may very well have been overrated; share what we hear about who's doing well in those informal training sessions; update roll-outs yet to come; congratulate Jake Appleman on his book contract to pen the definitive story of the Brooklyn Nets; look at the resume' of a rising star in the front office; and offer final notes and the final word, Believe.
As we've said so many times in the past...
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.
Numbers from Last Night
6,794 - difference between the number of people who exit the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center subway station on normal Friday night and last night. That's one-third of the arena capacity.
1,200 - difference between the number of people who used the LIRR Atlantic Terminal station opposite Barclays Center on a normal Friday night and last night.
20 percent - rough percent of parking places filled at the Barclays Center parking lot.
0 - number of arrests for public urination.
What we hear
We talked to a lot of Nets types the last week, having spent a lot of time in Brooklyn: at the ribbon-cutting last Friday; the season-ticket holder open house on Monday; the Prokhorov Fund reception at BAM on Thursday and the Jay-Z Concert and reception this Friday.
So here's what we're hearing...
Every year, word begins to seep out of training camp about who's doing well (and who's not); who's in camp (and who's not). This year, the leaks are no different, but the information is, in that it's more positive. There have been enough players to field three teams on some days (with one "ringer" from another NBA team in the early days). Every one of the 18 players under contract has participated.
No surprise that the Nets three all-stars, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace are doing well. Same holds true for Brook Lopez, who everyone says is "looking good." Just the fact that he is finally playing five on five is encouraging, as is his attitude. But who among the others are surprising? Here's what we hear:
Andray Blatche. Jerry Stackhouse, who positively raved about Blatche this week, is not the only Net who likes what they have seen so far. How good has he been? How about Core Four good? And that's not just from one source. We all know the questions - and there are those outside the team who believe that once he's made the team, he won't be as committed - but Stackhouse's comments seem to indicate his support system here has already helped. As for Blatche himself, he tweeted this week about how much he appreciates his "second chance." We're told assistant coach Mario Elie is working closely with him. Having Blatche live up to his potential would be HUGE for the Nets, giving them unprecedented front court depth.
Josh Childress. The Nets other amnesty experiment has none of the issues Blatche is famous for. He is more than a solid citizen. He is an intelligent, mature individual who has been a respected locker room presence. He didn't "fit" in Phoenix is the best explanation of why he never was worth his Travis Outlaw-like ($33.8 million over five) contract. He has to prove that he can get back to being that solid sixth-man type he was in Atlanta when he averaged 11 points over the bench during his four years with the Hawks. So far, so good.
Carleton Scott. Surprise. Scott may have a shot at making the team. Don't ask us how. That's what Billy King gets paid to figure out. Avery Johnson is solidly in his corner, has been since Scott helped the Nets in the summer league. A 6'8" small forward with good range, he can also defend. He's 23 (for another week) and had a solid career at Notre Dame. He averaged 11.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 1.9 bpg for the Fighting Irish his senior year in 2010-11, helping the team achieve a 27-7 record. He was known for his clutch shooting. He played in Spain and Austria last year, then averaged 8.0 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Nets in Summer League. He scored 16 points in the opener against Orlando. If he doesn't make the team, look for Springfield to pick him up, with a promise of another chance down the line.
C.J. Watson. The Nets saw their signing of Watson as a big deal because he could have gotten more than a vets minimum deal elsewhere, but his agent said he chose the Nets because he thinks the Nets are going places. Multiple reports having him playing well, both backing up and next to Deron Williams. He did shoot 37.0% from deep last year. Backing up D-Will is old hat for Watson, another mature presence in the locker room. He backed him up (and played next to him) in the U19 FIBA World Championships a decade ago.
We've also heard bits and pieces about others. Marshon Brooks has remarked about Joe Johnson's strength. Tyshawn Taylor's athleticism will surprise people. Mirza Teletovic and Tornike Shengelia are adjusting nicely ot the US. Both have played professionally since they were 16 and survived civil wars in their homelands, Bosnia and Georgia. Both speak excellent English. Stackhouse is a magnet for younger players leaning the ropes. None of this matters of course till they get on a real court, a herringbone one.
First the Reality TV series, Now the BOOK!!
Jake Appleman has signed a deal with Scribner to cover the Nets inaugural season in Brooklyn. Appleman has written about basketball for The New York Times, NBA.com, Vibe and NBC Sports, and is a senior writer at SLAM magazine. Appleman tweeted the news Friday.
We are big, big fans of Appleman's work and wish him well. We'll be hoping for a couple of copies if we can find our names in the index. Actually, maybe not.
Roll-outs yet to come
It will be a full month between Media Day and Opening Night. So what's left to be rolled out? Arena? check. Uniforms? Check. Barclays Center TV? Check. But there's more. Here's some of what you can expect:
--The Nets "basketball campus", what used to be called the locker room, is still getting some finishing touches, we hear. It's also going to blow people's minds when unveiled, we are told. The quality of the player amenities has been rumored but those who have been inside say that in addition to the quality, there's size. Combined with the practice court, it may be the largest in the league.
--Brooklyn Knight. The Marvel Comics designed super hero will replace Sly Fox. No idea when this gets rolled out but was told a long time ago that it would be close to Opening Night.
--DJ. No more Glorious and those other guys. Hearing names...one big one or should we say, B.I.G.
--Training Facility. There is no date for this and it may not happen before November 1, but the Nets do want to get this out of the way. A facility like this, built in this metropolitan area, could cost tens of millions of dollars and take 18 months to build. Presumably, a site would be chosen before an architect. Ellerbe Becket, the principal architect on Barclays Center, designed the premier training facility in the NBA, the Cleveland Clinics Courts, in Independence, Ohio. One thing we're told: This will NOT be a made-over warehouse like PNY Center, but yet another "statement."
The Brookynettes' new uniforms were rolled out last week and they didn't get great reviews, but in subsequent days, they gathered some support, like from the website, "With Leather."
Frank Zanin's name is not one you hear a lot about. He was a video coordinator, scout and assistant coach under Billy King in Philadelphia and when King joined the Nets, he hired Zanin once again, first as a pro scout. Recently, we noticed that he has a new title, "Director of Player Procurement." Sounds like the 35ish Zanin is involved in assessing, signing and trading for players. Indeed, we're told played a big role in the off-season, working with King and Bobby Marks on those things front offices do in the summer.
Because of his long-standing relationship with King and his video and scouting experience, he's trusted by King. Zanin is a basketball --and Philadelphia-- lifer. His father coached at Haverford College and he and his brother T.J., now an advance scout for both the Clippers and Team USA, played high school and college ball together, the latter at West Chester University. He joined the Sixers as an intern, then rose quickly under King to become an assistant coach and advance scout at age 25 in 2003, leaving in 2008 when Ed Stefanski replaced King.
Zanin, Marks and Milton Lee are all under-40, all with solid resume's and ambition. King, of course, is going nowhere, but having a solid bench works in the front office as well as the locker room.
We've visited the arena three times in eight days as we've mentioned, and we hope to be at Media Day on Monday. We love it more each time we're there. It feels more like home each time. We also hear reliably that the Nets are planning to run their Open Practice at Barclays later in October. How cool will that be?
Actually, how cool is this whole experience? How cool are the Nets? Wait a minute! Stop right there! THE NETS ARE COOL? WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN? We're not so sure, but probably April 30 when they became the Brooklyn Nets. How cool now becomes the question. We're going to say they they are thisclose to being cooler than the Knicks. November 1 becomes the most crucial game since May 18, 2007, when LeBron James and the Cavaliers closed out the Nets, led by the "Big Three", in six games to move onto the Eastern Conference Finals.
We never thought the Nets could own this town. Never. Now, it looks possible. The enormity of Brooklyn and the sheer incompetence and arrogance of the Knicks ownership could, in those immortal words of the Prophet Prokhorov, "turn Knicks fans into Nets fans." Believe.