As the Nets begin training camp at Duke University this week, their roster is set.with 15 players. However, the team has taken 19 players to North Carolina. The four extra guys on non-guaranteed deals include a bench player from Memphis, a former international star trying for a comeback, another international who just won a gold medal in FIBA Americas and a Brooklyn high school star who has bounced around the European circuit. One thing they do have in common, though, is that they all have interesting personal stories. And three of them have starred for their homeland's national team.
Marko Jaric is the the only Net who's won a gold medal in the FIBA World Cup (2002) and one of two to win the FIBA Eurobasket ... Andrei Kirilenko is the other. He came to the NBA as the last pick in the 2000 draft and did well enough to make a total of $43.7 million over nine years. The 34-year-old Serbian is a bulky 6'7" shoot-first point guard who started 221 games in the mid-2000's for the Clippers and T'Wolves before being bought out by the Grizzlies in 2009. He could at least back then post-up and hit the three. He was a late cut in Bulls' training camp last season, but he hasn't played anywhere after that. He lives in Manhattan, so he's making the commute in hopes of one last go at the league. Jaric is married to Adriana Lima, the Brazilian supermodel.
Gary Forbes has had the most recent success of those trying to impress Nets' brass ... and is a Brooklyn native. He was a top 20 prospect going into college after starring at Benjamin Banneker Academy in Brooklyn. As a senior, Forbes posted averages of 31 points and 13 rebounds, becoming a New York celebrity in the process. He spent time at Virginia and UMass but went undrafted in 2008. Since then, he's played in the D-League and six international clubs in five leagues as well as on short stints with the Nuggets and Raptors.He's played for the Panmanian national team. He's 28.
Jorge Gutierrez was a standout at Cal, winning the PAC-10 Player of the Year, but he too went undrafted. He received one training camp invite last year to the Nuggets, but since has played for the Canton Charge in the D-League and then this summer, was the starting point guard on Team Mexico, which surprised Argentina and Puerto Rico to win the gold medal at FIBA Americas last month. Gutierrez has some upside defensively. He was the Pac-12 defensive player of the year as well as player of the year in 2012 and All Defensive First Team in the D-League last season. In the locker room, Gutierrez has a reputation as a "glue guy." The challenge of making the Nets is nothing compared to his trials growing up in Denver.
Chris Johnson has NBA size for a shooting guard, at 6'6" and can shoot from deep. But like Gutierrez and Forbes, he went undrafted out of Dayton in 2012. He wound up with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the D-League before receiving a 10-day contract from the Grizzlies. In his short stint in Memphis, Johnson scored a career high 10 points against his current team in the Grizzlies 24-point win over the Nets. He's the youngest of the four at 23.
Three of these four players could wind up in Springfield. Normally, a team's D-League affiliate gets the exclusive D-League rights to the final three players cut from the parent club. But this year, things are different. The D-League rights to Gutierrez and Johnson are still held by the team they played for last season. The Armor could trade for them, but it would almost certainly cost them draft picks. Forbes could play in Springfield, but he'd be losing money since international clubs pay multiple times what the D-League does. Is it possible one of the four could make the Nets? Yes but not likely. Unless a spot opened up via a trade, waiving a player already on the roster in favor of one of these four would cost the Nets $10 million dollars in luxury tax.