The Nets will start working out draft prospects at the PNY Center on June 11 but before that the front office is preparing for the annual Adidas EuroCamp outside Venice next weekend. With as many as seven international prospects slated to be drafted in the first round, the camp is the main showcase for top European and other international prospects.
Don't be surprised to hear that the Nets are interested in European coaching candidates as well.
The Nets have been remarkably close-mouthed about both the draft and the coaching search the last few weeks, but as decisions approach on both, their preferences are bound to leak.
The key front office personnel on the draft's international aspect starts with Danko Cvjeticanin, a 6'9" Croatian who played with Drazen Petrovic both at Cibona and on the Yugoslav and Croatian national teams. It was Cvjeticanin who strongly recommended both Bojan Bogdanovic and Tornike Shengelia. Cvjeticanin told European hoops writers, and presumably Billy King, in 2011 that Bogdanovic could be a combination of Peja Stojakovic and Carlos Delfino.
This year's international crop is mixed with the Nets reportedly intrigued by Dario Saric, the polished Croatian point forward; Rudy Gobert, the raw but 7'2" French shot-blocker; and Sergei Karasev, a 6'7" shooter with a high basketball IQ despite his age, 19. Adidas EuroCamp roster hasn't been posted yet so it's uncertain who will attend but as one insider notes, "Danko has seen everyone."
On the possibility of a history-making choice for coach, there's been a surprising amount of speculation in the Italian and Russian press that CSKA Moscow coach Ettore Messina is on the Nets list. Over the last decade, Messina has won four Euroleague championships, including two with CSKA in 2006 and 2008, when Mikhail Prokhorov owned the team and his sports adviser (and now Nets board member) Sergei Kushchenko was GM. He also served as an assistant coach with the Lakers under Mike Brown in 2011-12 so he knows the NBA. Prokhorov and Messina have great mutual respect and although the coach is under contract to CSKA for two more years, reports indicate the Russian team wouldn't be unhappy if he left. There's also a Billy King connection: Messina's assistant at CSKA and colleague in L.A. is Quin Snyder, King's teammate at Duke. Snyder has a wealth of NBA experience.
Much of the speculation re: Messina began with a May 17 article in Corriere di Bologna, a prominent newspaper in the city where Messina, now 53, got his start. Titled, "Messina to the Brooklyn Nets: more than a suggestion," the author, hoops writer Daniele Labanti, wrote that Prokhorov himself had approached Messina in Moscow. "Prokhorov approached the Italian coach before the Final Four (in early May), insiders told us yesterday. The Russian tycoon wanted to find out if Messina is available for the Nba despite the contract he still has with Cska Moscow." That doesn't sound like Prokhorov, but there's been a lot of worse speculation out there lately.
Of course, there's never been a European or international coach in the NBA but with one out of every five NBA players from overseas and one out of every 10 owners international, an international coach is the next step.