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 second round of the playoffs, relying on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who have slipped interesting stuff into larger stories, blogs and tweets...plus our own reporting.
We are deep into the off-season, buried in CBA minutiae, eyes burnt out from watching grainy highlight reels of teenagers from Moscow to San Diego, counting the days to summer league (43). We are always excited by the off-season. It may be summer on the calendar, but it's springtime for draftniks and capniks, when flowers and hopes bloom!
This week, we take a look at an eclectic mix, a draft sleeper who could be the first Russian player on the Nets roster in the Prokhorov era, some math on the Bojan Bogdanovic buyout/contract, P.J.'s lament, our response to another calumny, a look at some of the TV ratings data for the Nets; and a note warning there may not be an off-season report next weekend!!
It's more homerific than usual. Deal with it! And since it's long and it's a longer weekend, we're giving you a headstart.
How much for Bogdanovic?
It seems nearly certain that Bojan Bogdanovic will make his NBA debut in November. What is less certain is how much he will be paid. There has been speculation that he will need to be paid the full mini-MLE of $3.2 million, but it's only speculation and it's more than likely that a deal between him and the Nets is nowhere near finalized.
So what are the options ... for the Nets and the team. They are sooo capped out. No surprise there. Everyone has known that since last July. The new CBA limits their options to the vets minimum, which for a rookie is around a half million dollars. The other is the mini-MLE. We don't know the current state of his buyout. In February, Bogdanovic told Savas Birdal of Euro-Step, our Istanbul correspondent, that it was 1.5 million euros or $2 million. Of that total, the Nets can pay $570,000. At that point, we threw up our hands and said, this ain't happening next season.
Then, suddenly, Billy King, a big fan of Bogdanovic's game, said it was priority to get him over here. Josh Newman and Tim Bontemps followed up by writing that there had been progress and his arrival was likely. Newman said it was between a 90 and 95 percent certain. Has the amount of the buyout changed? Bontemps has reported that he's been told it's "manageable." A buyout of $2 million doesn't sound "manageable." So maybe Fenerbache has reduced it or agreed to stretch it out. That of course is critical to how much Bogdanovic would want and how much flexibility the Nets could have in the off-season. He makes somewhere close to $2 million in Europe, at least according to reports.
Since Bogdanovic is going to be a rookie and the Nets do believe (strongly) that he would be a lottery pick in this year's draft, where does a $3.2 million contract put him on the rookie scale? The No. 4 pick in this year's draft will make a little more than $3.2 million. Is the 6'8" swingman as good as Victor Oladipo or Anthony Bennett? Don't know yet. But supposed Bogdanovic would accept a salary equal to the 14th pick in the lottery? How would that help the Nets? The 14th pick will make about $1.6 million or half the mini-MLE. If the Croatian would accept that as his salary, it would free up the other half for a free agent. Is the difference between $1.6 million and the vets minimum significant? It could be if a player is motivated to play in New York but doesn't want to accept the minimum. It would be one-third higher than what a third year player would make as a vets minimum player. You want a good example of what you can get, if you're smart, for $1.6 million? Reggie Evans makes $1.6 million.
This all may be academic. King and Marc Cornstein, Bogdanovic's agent, may have the outlines of a deal in place and Cornstein will certainly want as much as he can get for his client. So we'll see.
There was a debate on these pages about how critical P.J. Carlesimo was of the organization when late in the week he spoke with beat writers in his new job as ESPN studio analyst. Many thought it was tame. We didn't. We thought it was quite damning and here's why. It served as a less than subtle warning to whoever takes the job that there will be a LOT of pressure on him to win and that Mikhail Prokhorov's five-year plan (oh those Russians and their five year plans) was unrealistic. He used some general terms to specific effect, noting at one point, "It doesn’t make it easy to coach when you don’t feel that your general manager or your owner has your back."
He also damned the organization by faint praise, calling the team "a good group" but noting how they may not have been truthful. As for Prokhorov, he said he respected him as an owner that he doesn't just want "a nice team. He doesn't want to just sell tickets in Brooklyn and make the team competitive. He wants to win an NBA championship, and as a coach you can't ask for more that." Then, he noted, "if what comes with that is a short leash, well, so be it."
We don't know P.J.'s motivations, and so can't ascribe anything to them. But in our humble opinion, he thinks he was dissed. There will be some positive punditry about his record, 35-19, and his accomplishments, including a record number of road wins. But on the inside, a lot of people didn't think he (or his predecessor, Avery Johnson), were good at developing players, specifically mentioning Mirza Teletovic and MarShon Brooks, but also Tornike Shengelia. They found his rotations "baffling." Benching Brook Lopez for fourth quarters in mid-season was particularly annoying. There were also complaints about his "communication" with players on minutes, etc.
Does it matter much in the recruiting of the next coach? With the Nets dumping Kiki Vandeweghe, Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo over the course of three years, there would have been buzz about the "pressure" and "short leash," with or without these comments. But ownership seems ready to spend on salary, players and other amenities, like facilities. And there isn't a coach in the NBA worth hiring who doesn't want an owner who thinks his team can win it all, if not this year, then next.
Coaching notes - we got nothin'
It would be easy just to say we know nothing, but on-the-record, we don't. We can speculate with the best of them. During the season, we thought the Nets would offer Phil Jackson a basketball operations job. They offered him head coach and he turned them down. A month ago, we were sure it was Jeff Van Gundy's to lose. Now, he isn't on anyone's list. Then, we were told the Nets would make a full-court press on Doc Rivers. Danny Ainge broke the press. A couple of weeks ago, we dismissed speculation about Scott Skiles. Now, we're told he's a good candidate. Lionel Hollins? Seems like a good bet, but the Nets haven't called the Grizzlies. Not that they have to.
What do we think? At this point, does it matter?
Draft Sleeper of the Week
Sergey Karasev is a Russian basketball player and you know what the Nets' Russian ownership has always said about signing Russian basketball players: that if they are good enough, happy to have them. If not, we're not signing them just because they are Russian.
Well, according to most draftniks, Karasev is the real deal, a 6'7" left-handed streak shooter who has the potential to develop. He's only 19. Here's what Chad Ford said recently of the Triumph Moscow swingman when he projected the Nets taking him on June 27.
No, I'm not just placing Karasev here because he's Russian. Brooklyn is playing to win now, and there aren't a lot of players on the board who could step in and help the Nets right away. Karasev is putting up impressive numbers in Russia, and the Nets could use another sniper from beyond the arc.
Of course, they appear to be on the verge of signing a similar-sized European shooter in Bojan Bogdanovic. Other than different strokes, Bogdanovic is probably a more well-rounded scorer who can drive the lane as well as hit the three. He's also a good post player and passes well. Could the two of them co-exist? Sure, but with MarShon Brooks and Kris Joseph, the swing space might get a little crowded. Could the Nets take Karasev and stash him? Sure. It would save them $1.1 million guaranteed and a roster space.
He might be able to play right away, though. Karasev averaged 16.5 ppg in the three leagues Triumph played in. He shot 37.5 percent from deep, 46 percent from two-point range and 85 percent from the line. He also went to the line a little less than six times a game. Still, it's his three point shooting that makes him a prospect. His release is quick and he's not afraid to fire them up. A quarter of his shots are from three.
His defense? No surprise it's not there yet. The same goes with his physicality. He needs some strength and conditioning. But he has great BBIQ for someone who won't be 20 until just before opening night and is unselfish for such a gunner. Here's a sampling.
It might take a while for him to adjust. Russian players often need greater support, particularly younger ones. Shouldn't be a problem for the Nets!
How the oculus was born in a Manhattan bar
Every time Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP architects tells the story about how his firm got the commission for Barclays Center, there's a new wrinkle to the story.
Earlier this month, he spoke to the University of Melbourne's School of Design and again told the story of how SHoP originally turned down Bruce Ratner's offer to work on Barclays Center, that they didn't want to do a "skin job" on the much-maligned Ellery Becket design of the arena. He noted that their meeting with Ratner ended amicably with the then Nets owner promising them some work in three years when "this recession was done."
Then, he and his partners had second thoughts. Pasquarelli has spoken before about those second thoughts, but not about the venue.
"That night my partners and I went out to a bar and had way too many martinis and at end of that night, we pulled out paper and started drawing and said, 'you know, there might be an idea ... and we started sketching and the next day we called him and said, 'Today is Tuesday and we'll work until Friday and by Friday, we'll send you one image and one image only and if you like it, you can hire us but we want the whole thing, we want the inside, we want everything, redo whatever we can. We want to pull the steel apart'."
So the oculus war born in a bar!
Pasquarelli once again showed an audience two quotes from opposing players on the arena, which he described as "just so awesome."
"It's fun to play in. The floor is dope. The arena is dope. It's a cool place to play." -- Trevor Ariza.
"If they had Barclays Center open when I was free agent, I might have beocme a Net instead of a Knick." --Carmelo Anthony.
In closing, Pasquarelli had some fun with the competition, describing Madison Square Garden as "the dump of New York." The Australian audience laughed.
Yet another opportunity to trash the Nets
Can't smell that smell? The news that Barclays Center may have pumped a fresh scent, mostly described as "citrus-y", through arena vents gave some bloggers and pundits an opportunity to take some shots at the Nets, although no one used the phrase "smelling up the joint." All well in good ... despite the lack of confirmation and that at least one other NBA venue, Phillips Arena in Atlanta, also uses the services of ScentAir.
Kelly Dwyer, who runs Yahoo! Sports prolific "Ball Don't Lie" blog was typical and at the high end of the commentary, the low end occupied, literally and figuratively, by Knick fans living in their parents' basements in Queens.
But Dwyer took the smell test further. It is emblematic, he wrote, of the superficiality of the Nets. Oh dear.
"The Brooklyn Nets just about define the superficial experience. The team was put together by a billionaire owner that promised a championship in spite of a lacking basketball resume, before tossing tens of millions of dollars at a general manager in Billy King who has long made a habit of going after the biggest names available. Part-owner Jay-Z helped shape the team’s look and image, despite only owning a small percentage of the team, and not even making it out of the franchise’s first year before selling his shares. And the team’s arena, the Barclays Center, followed the latest trends with its exterior look in spite of some quizzical glances from Brooklyn natives.
"Perhaps they were reacting to the smell of the place."
We'll set aside the criticism of Barclays Center which days before Dwyer's blog won significant architectural note as "Building of the year" ... worldwide and which days after was named Sports Facility of Year. But just a couple of points in response since this is the latest in series of similar overreaches.
To suggest Mikhail Prokhorov lacks a "basketball resume" shows a real lack of knowledge, in fact ignorance.
Before buying the Nets, Prokhorov owned CSKA Moscow for a dozen years. In that time, it won 10 Russian League championships and went to the Euroleague Final Four four straight years, winning the title twice in 2006 and 2008. He also played the game in secondary school and college and annually sponsors a Russian college basketball tournament in places like Krasnoyarsk in Siberia and Moscow, where he has brought NBA players like Scottie Pippen and Robert Horry to serve as instructors. Now, he may not have had an NBA resume, although it wasn't for lack to trying. Read this about his efforts to make a deal with the NBA in 2006. And note as well that the Nets were the third NBA team he investigated buying. One was the Knicks, the other a Western Conference team.
Really? Prokhorov lacks a "basketball resume?" Robert Pera and Vivek Ranadive, new owners of the Grizzlies and Kings, lack a basketball resume. James Dolan, despite years of trying, lacks a basketball resume. In fact, what NBA owner, other than Michael Jordan, had a better basketball resume on arrival the league? (How's that worked out, MJ?) Micky Arison, owner of a smelly cruise ship line? Paul Allen, a computer geek who was a casual fan whose hands-on ownership led to the JailBlazers? The owners of the Hawks??? Please And by the way, what is so wrong with a billionaire spending money on a sports team? Isn't that a good thing if you're a fan? It sure has been a good thing for Prokhorov, considering he's tripled his investment in three years.
As for Jay-Z leaving, the Nets privately admit it's a loss and a disappointment. But have any of the celebrity owners, whose interest rival Jay-Z's 1/5th of one percent (not 1/15th), been as active in the process of building a team and arena? He made pitches to Carmelo Anthony and Lebron James; he helped design many of the interior spaces at the arena as well as the ads, the logo, the uniform, even introducing it at a live concert. But most of all, he provided credibility and continuity in the decade it took for the move from IZOD (which its own natural "scent") to Brooklyn. He didn't just walk out after a season. He's owned his stake for a decade. What have other celebrity owners, Usher with the Cavaliers or Nelly with the Bobcats done for their clubs (what has anyone done for the Bobcats)? We'll wait ot see what Justin Timberlake will do for the Grizzlies before passing judgment there. Bottom line is that Jay-Z saw a lucrative business opportunity in sports agency and took advantage of it. Owners in sports come and go. Considerably his small stake (originally 1.47 percent), Jay-Z did well by the Nets and vice-verso.
On to Billy King. Of course, he spent money, tons of it ... $345.5 million by our count last summer. It was part of a strategy, to enter Brooklyn with a winning team, a competitive force in the world's largest marketplace. As the move to Brooklyn approached, ownership and management had one big fear staring them in the face a few miles away from Barclays. Citi Field is a grand stadium in Flushing Meadows, but the first images of it on opening day in 2009 were of rows and rows of empty seats. The Nets were not going to let that happen. Yeah, King made some deals fans didn't like, and ones that could come back to haunt the franchise. But there was a strategy behind it and it worked. The Nets sold 96.9 percent of all the seats in Barclays Center this season, the exact same percentage the Knicks sold at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks won five more games than the Nets and advanced one more round in the playoffs. But the Nets created a buzz in Brooklyn and are more than competitive. Look at the merchandise sales, the black-and-white on the street. And despite King's profligacy, we'll take the Nets roster over the Knicks roster going forward. So will Phil Jackson, as he noted this week. "The Brooklyn situation is a good situation," he told Dan Patrick. He just didn't want to coach again. And by the way, we asked a respected GM what he thought of King's moves. He didn't hesitate. He said King did what he had to do considering the circumstances. He liked what he did.
As Nets fans, we're used to our team being held up to ridicule. Some realllly bad basketball will do that to you. All we ask is some proportion, some perspective and yes, some research.
In closing his blog, Dwyer wrote, "It’s their arena, their money, and their ventilation options. We’re just wondering why this ownership group even bothers, for just a first round team." As if it were about one season. The arena lease runs until 2050. Please, spare us. Do better next time.
The Brooklyn Game spotlighted some research Friday on the YES audience for Nets games. The headline was that 16.7 percent of the audience for Nets games comes from Brooklyn, but nearly twice that many, 30.7 percent still comes from New Jersey.
But like every statistical breakdown, there were other interesting data in the research. Indeed while 30.7 percent comes from the Nets former home state, 65.7 percent comes from New York State; 46.3 percent comes from New York City's five boroughs and 38.0 percent come from the four counties that make up Long Island: Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk.
Is it a bad thing that the Nets have so many more viewers from New Jersey than from Brooklyn? Or is it a good thing that despite the long and difficult move to Brooklyn so many New Jersey fans remain loyal? And we suspect there is a huge growth in Nassau and Suffolk, which the Nets see as their next frontier. The two counties represent 11 percent of the TV audience and Bruce Ratner said Long Islanders represented only 10 percent of those attending Nets games at Barclays. Associating the Islanders with the Nets through the prism of Barclays Center is likely to help. The Nets played their last preseason game there this year and under Bruce Ratner's plans for a revamped Nassau Coliseum that will become an annual event.
Already LIRR ridership at Atlantic Terminal across the street from the arena is up 334% since Barclays Center opened in September. In what could be harbinger for Islander-Ranger games, the first Nets-Knicks game back in December drew 10,500 riders on a Thursday night. Pre-arena, the average was 1,400.
Going on vacation next week. Out the country, yes. Out of touch, no. Tom Lorenzo and our crack staff will do whatever is needed to make your trek through NetsLand easier. Till then, hey mon, over here.