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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #15

Brooklyn Nets

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 our own reporting.

If you don't like NetsDaily items that mention the Knicks, best you close this one. We spend a lot time debunking Knicks fan propaganda about the Nets off-season.  We also look at who scooped who in the off-season ... it wasn't all Woj. We explain best we can, offer what the Nets international scout said about his job and also offer skepticism on whether the Nets will wait till 2015 to welcome the Islanders. We believe they show up earlier.

What Brooklyn Do

Thanks, Raymond Felton, for the grammatically incorrect but lyrically perfect new hashtag/slogan for the off-season.  Its' not Where Brooklyn At, but it will work this week as we examine the various claims made by Knicks fans about the Nets off-season.

We tweeted some of this out last few days in 140-character spurts, but we figured we'd give it more of a permanent home: a handy-dandy response kit to the other guys rants.

"They're old" or "They're done" is the most common refrain when someone suggests the Nets had a good season.  Well, the Nets did trade for three guys who will be 35 (Jason Terry), 36 (Paul Pierce) and 37 (Kevin Garnett) by opening night. But that ignores a number of other issues like three players they got averaged twice as many points as the five players they sent to Boston, etc., etc.

Here are responses to each of the most commonly heard, tweeted criticisms of the Nets' off-season:

--They're old!. Looks like the Heat will be older.  You remember the Heat, winners of two straight NBA titles? Third oldest, it appears, will be the ... Knicks. They did lose some veterans like Kurt Thomas, Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace, but their replacements aren't exactly the youth brigade: Metta World Peace is 33, Beno Udrih is 31 and Kenyon Martin is either 36 or 37.  Back in 2001, it was revealed --and admitted-- that he was born at the end of 1976, not 1977.  The Star-Ledger wrote about it.  Andrea Bargnani is only 28, but he does have pneumonia, which is most prevalent among senior citizens.

There is a hypocrisy factor here. The Knicks were by far the oldest team in the NBA last year and still won 54 games.  So how is it that the Nets, who are younger this year than the Knicks were last year are too old to win? Moreover, the Knicks' most effective lineup at season's end and in the first round of the playoffs was Jason Kidd (40), Pablo Prigoni (35), Tyson Chandler (30) along with Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton (both 28). That's an average age of 32.2 years.  The Nets presumed starting line-up this year will average 31.8. The next three players likely off the bench will be Andrei Kirilenko (32), Andray Blatche (27) and Shaun Livingston (28). Fun fact: if Kevin Garnett was the Knick roster last season, he'd have been the fifth oldest player one the team.

--They're fragile! Closely related to both the age and hypocrisy factors. So much is made of the idea that because Paul Pierce (love him) and Garnett are 36 and 37, they will lose a lot of time to injuries, and in the case of Garnett, rest. Pierce has played in 92.3 percent of all NBA games he's been eligible for during his 15-year career. He is a remarkably durable athlete. Now maybe the transition from parquet to herringbone will give him problems, but the numbers are in his favor. Over the last two years, he has missed a total of 15 games. KG has missed 20. On the other side of the New York ledger, Carmelo Anthony has missed 26, Tyson Chandler 20 and Amare Stoudemire 72. Bargnani, (did we mention he has pneumonia?) has missed 82, a full season's worth. The claim that Bargnani is now healthy and ready to go has been somewhat discounted by news of his pulmonary difficulties. Jason Terry, FYI, has missed 11 games over the last four years, six in the last two.

--They're done! This one is a little easier to understand. Pierce did have a bad playoff series vs.the Knicks. He shot 26.8 percent from deep, 36.8 overall. He did average 19.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists, but he also averaged 5.3 turnovers, highest in the playoffs. If you only saw Pierce in the playoffs, you'd have reason to think that he's done or near done. But Pierce was playing point forward in the absence of Rajon Rondo and the inadequacies of Avery Bradley and the now departed Terrence Williams. But let's not forget this is a guy whose numbers, while off his career average, weren't horrible by a long stretch. His 43.6 percent shooting was his worst in nine years, but his 4.8 assists were his highest in nine years. His 6.3 rebounds were his highest in eight years. His three triple doubles matched his career best from 10 years ago.

--Their future is dim. The Nets gave up so much, the line goes. What most critics (and some Nets fans) mean by this is that Brooklyn gave up the three unprotected first round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018.  High price, but there are mitigating factors, starting with the strong possibility that these picks will be in the 20's, hopefully the high 20's. The Nets and Knicks are pretty much in the same position on picks because they're both following the same strategy: win now. The Knicks have one more first round pick, in 2018, and one fewer second round pick, in 2016, than the Nets.

Moreover, the Knicks don't have any players stashed overseas while the Nets have one of the top two or three Euro-Stash in Bojan Bogdanovic. The sting of losing a late pick in the loaded 2014 draft could be alleviated if Bogdanovic finally makes it over ... and fulfills his potential  And let's remember this: The Nets gave up three first round picks and the rights to swap a fourth for three players who may be old, but are proven winners and who missed a grand total of 22 games last season. The Knicks gave up one first rounder and two second rounders for one player who's played in 11 playoff games in his career and missed 47 games last season.

Oh yes, we are concerned about the 2018 first rounder. In fact, we have been scouring middle school rosters around the country to see who we missed.

--Their bench is awful! This is our favorite. One silly Knicks blog entry lamented how the Nets traded away five players in the Celtics, "creating a void on the teams bench." ... without mentioning the words, "Andrei Kirilenko" or referencing that they had re-signed their most effective bench player, Andray Blatche. All four bench players the Nets signed or re-signed this off-season -- Kirilenko, Blatche, Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson -- had their best statistical season in years in 2012-13. All but Livingston averaged double figures last season (and Anderson averaged 19.8 ppg in four games vs. the Knicks, including games of 35 and 28.) And we like Mason Plumlee.

--The bottom line: they're the Lakers! No, they're not. Dwight Howard and Steve Nash were not healthy going into the season. The Nets are.  And as Zach Lowe has written, the Lakers had four All-Stars and the rest of the roster was filled with sub-replacement level players. That would include MWP.

--They suck! The all-purpose response which indicates a sense of frustration ... and a longing for the good old days when the Nets were across the wrong river, at the wrong end of the wrong tunnel, at least in Knick fans eyes.

--They're Brooklyn, we're New York! This is the latest response and it's so weak we aren't discussing it. This isn't 1898. Look it up.

Some ask us why we care so much?  Here's why ... April 18, 2012, the last Nets-Knicks contest in New Jersey. Only 10 Nets suited up. The Knicks were bound for the playoffs, the Nets bound for the off-season and Brooklyn.

As we reported, "Knick fans booed Nets players as they attempted free throws and chanted "Let's go, Knicks" and "MVP" when Carmelo Anthony touched the ball." It was much worse than that. Knicks fans wanted to ruin things, make life miserable for Nets fans, whoever of them dared to show up.  They enjoyed themselves at our expense, continuing their party at Penn Station. Now, hopefully, we can return the favor. What Brooklyn do? Kick your ass!

Scoop summary

We went back this week to see who broke the biggest stories of the off-season since (we think) it's over other than training camp invites.

So, here's who broke what...It wasn't all Adrian Wojnarowski.

--Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry traded from Boston to Brooklyn - Woj broke both the initial story and the final confirmation.

--Mason Plumlee gets drafted at #22 by the Nets - Woj

--Nets signing Shaun Livingston to back up Deron Williams - Mark Stein (by six minutes)

--Andray Blatche resigning with the Nets - Peter Vecsey, minutes after Chris Broussard tweeted that the Clippers and Warriors were interested in him.

--The real off-season shocker: Andrei Kirilenko signing with Nets for the mini-MLE - Vecsey

--Nets signing Alan Anderson - Woj (by four minutes)

What about Jason Kidd?  It's in dispute ... and more importantly, it shows how reporting on big deals is often incremental.

On June 7th, just before midnight, Mike Lupica first reported that Kidd was meeting two days later with Billy King about the coaching vacancy, noting, "The Brooklyn Nets should at least talk to Jason Kidd, not just a great point guard for this time in basketball but for all times, about being their next coach."

It was the first time that the identity of the "mystery man" candidate, whose presence had been discussed for weeks, began to emerge from the mists of East Rutherford.

Here's what we reported on June 8th, after talking to two sources, in the Off-Season Report #5 under,  "Mystery Man? Is It No. 5?"

"Is it Ettore Messina? Dave Fizdale? Quin Synder? David Blatt? The fact that the average fan would have to go to Google to figure out who those guys are should tell you something. All qualified and all with great potential. Messina and Blatt are two of the smartest, most accomplished European coaches. Quin Snyder has been an assistant in both the NBA and Euroleague. Dave Fizdale is the Heat assistant in charge of the Big Three.

"No, our best bet until told otherwise is Jason Kidd. Oh, we know ALL the arguments about how risky it is..."

The next day, FFred Kerber wrote that Kidd was "the leading candidate" and Woj called him "a strong head coaching candidate."

Then, on June 11th, it got down to the nitty gritty, journalistic-ally. At 1:56 p.m., Woj tweeted that Kidd had emerged as "the strong front-runner."

A half-hour later, at 2:29 p.m.,  Brian Geltzeiler of Hoopscritic tweeted something more definitive

At 2:53 p.m., Woj posted an article for Yahoo! Sports that said Kidd could be hired "by the end of the week" and that "talks on a possible contract for Kidd are under way, sources said." That took it just a bit further than Geltzeiler who tweeted that Kidd had been offered the job, not that talks were underway.

Who gets the credit? We're going with Lupica? Why? Because without his initial reporting, the identity of the "mystery man" would have remained, well, a mystery, to all.  Besides, we're told he wants the credit.

Can we take credit for anything?  Sure. Why not?  NetsDaily first reported that the Nets were "moving on" without Bojan Bogdanovic and would move on to Plan B, noting Brooklyn could be pursuing Andrei Kirilenko.

Battle of the "Friendlies"

We're going to continue to cover the "friendly" games leading up to the start of Eurobasket, the FIBA Europe championship that starts September 4. Both Bosnia and Croatia will play 10 games in August, and the schedule looks a lot like the NBA, with four games in five nights. Bojan Bogdanovic is one player who's admitted he's not used to that kind of schedule. And to be quite frank, neither is Mirza Teletovic, considering the way he was used last year.

Boxscores have been hard to find sometimes, although they are supposed to be posted on the FIBA Europe Preparation Game Schedule, it's been intermittent and often days late.  Same is true of video of the games.  We hope to be able to find more as the "friendlies" go on.

Croatia, Bogdanovic's team, is more likely to medal that Bosnia. Under the rules, if a team finishes in the top three of their group ... and there are four groups of six teams each ... they get an automatic bid to the FIBA World Cup in Spain next summer. Croatia should finish in the top three of Group C, behind Spain and Slovenia. Bosnia will have a hard time getting by Lithuania, Serbia and Montenegro. Georgia, without Toko Shengelia and Zaza Pachulia, has a limited chance of making it out of Group C.

Danko talks Drazen, etc.

In an extensive interview this week with Sportski Net, a Croatian website, Danko Cvjeticanin, the Nets international scout talks about his relationship with the late Drazen Petrovic, what his travel schedule is like with the Nets and what he thinks of Dario Saric, the 6'10" Croatian star who surprisingly dropped out of this year's draft but is likely to be back next year.

First, what its like being the Nets international scout for the past three years.  It was he who pushed the Nets to draft Bojan Bogdanovic, Tornike Shengelia and Ilkan Karaman. Mirza Teletovic came recommended by Jeff Schwartz.

"An integral part of this work is traveling, watching games and writing reports. There are also plenty of interviews with coaches and people who are close to the players, you need to find out the background of players, some of the basic things that are important in setting the picture of the player. It's a job that absolutely occupies me. I'm on the road from the beginning of October until August. The family is already used to it. I don't take trips that are very long, but two, three, four days, sometimes a little longer ..."

On his teammate on Cibona, the Yugoslav and Croatian national teams, Cvjeticanin talks about the two qualities that separated Petrovic from other great players.

Drazen was incredible. There are two things I would point out. It is amazing that one was ambition, which is closely related to that internal energy he had. So he was very, very ambitious, eager to prove, eager to play, competitive, and all of these psychological traits that are most important and the starting point for someone to be a big star. He was an inexhaustible and terrific worker. So, he spent so much time not only thinking about basketball, but also practicing. He was a workaholic, and actually, I have to admit that in my career I've never met anyone like Drazen Petrovic.

The likelihood that Saric, a Nets fan growing up, will ever wear the black-and-white, is small, but Cvjeticanin has scouted him and offers high praise for him.

He has absolutely all the qualities of a great basketball player and his sport the way the way it should be. He is a leader of his generation, and even those in front of his generation, perhaps a year or two, or even three ...  There is no doubt at all that Dario has fantastic qualities to be a top basketball player. He has a lot of work, to play without the ball and has to work a lot on his body. But he has such knowledge, such a feel for the game. This way of thinking, intelligence, really is very rarely seen.

Whither the Islanders?

The winners in the competition to rehab Nassau Coliseum, Nassau Events Center, LLC (Bruce Ratner, et al), made it clear Friday that the Islanders aren't going to join the Nets in Brooklyn until 2015, as previously announced. An earlier departure from Long Island has been theorized, but no, said everyone, it's still 2015.

We remain skeptical. It makes too much sense for the 18-month rehab to get underway earlier ... and we've been told it by reliable sources.  That's the plan, as one said a few months back.  Now, it could change, but we still think the Islanders will be in Brooklyn for 2014-15.  We will have to wait and see.

Something else about the press conference Friday. Among those who spoke was Christophe Charlier, the chairman of the board of the Nets. Early on in the bid for Nassau Coliseum, Mikhail Prokhorov's name was often mentioned as part of Ratner's "dream team," then ONEXIM seemed to disappearance. Now, it seems clear that Prokhorov is a big part of the Nassau Coliseum rehab partnership. Essentially, it's a new business: rehabbing old arenas.  The competition, as always, is MSG, who's already rehabbing the LA Forum where the Lakers won all those championships before moving to Staples Center. Expect more competition for other underutilized sports arenas, perhaps like IZOD.

Final Note

We ain't saying who the Nets are targeting in the 2016 free agency, but he was distributing ice cream Saturday in Brooklyn.