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.
Off-Season is half over! So for the next TWO MONTHS, what do we have to look forward to, other than endless ESPN breakdowns of players and teams, using increasingly arcane metrics? FIBA Europe "friendly" games start this week. There will be an occasional trade rumor ... maybe a trade. There will be rehab reports on Brook Lopez's foot (still in a walking boot in Malawi) and Toko Shengelia (just getting started).
We're taking a few days off down the Jersey Shore and offer a lesser version of the Off-Season Report, but we suspect a number of you are doing the same at places between Montauk and Cape May Point. So between beers and a dip in the ocean, bay or pool, take a look.
AK-47 and the Russian conspiracy theory
We've dwelled on this before, but after Andrei Kirilenko's press conference, the conspiracy theories haven't died. So let's offer a quick summary of the timeline that led Kirilenko into the open arms of Mikhail Prokhorov. Here it is: he misjudged the market. He thought he was worth more than the league's GM's. When he signed with the Nets, he apparently had no better offers. If he had, we surely would have heard about them. End of story. Thank you.
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming, a video entitled "Mr. Everthing," which highlights AK-47's various skills. The interior passing alone is enough to make a basketball purist cry. Imagine as you watch this: AK to KG.
At one point earlier this off-season, we thought that as many as five Nets or Nets Euro-Stash would be playing in either the FIBA Europe or FIBA Americas championships.
Kris Joseph (Canada) would be repping the Nets at the FIBA Americas tournament in Venezuela while Mirza Teletovic (Bosnia), Toko Shengelia (Georgia), Bojan Bogdanovic (Croatia) and Ilkan Karaman (Turkey) would all get follows in Slovenia, home of the FIBA Europe championships. Joseph was traded to the Celtics, then cut, and both Shengelia and Karaman are out because of injury. That leaves just Teletovic and Bogdanovic but that ain't bad. The two are expected to among the top scorers at FIBA Europe.
Teletovic dominated the Eurobasket Qualifying Round last year, averaging 24.3 points, second in the tournament, finishing in the top 10 in six offensive categories. Bogdanovic averaged 15.8 points per game in qualifying round and led Croatia to an undefeated record. He finished in the top 10 in three categories and top 20 in three others.
Teletovic just joined the Bosnian national team this week. NBA rules limit players to no more than 35 days of training so it's uncertain whether he will play in next weekend's "friendly" or exhibition games vs. a Toko-less Georgia. Bogdanovic, on the the other hand, has two games Wednesday and Thursday vs. Macedonia. Bosnia is expected to play 10 "friendlies", Croatia 12. FIBA play begins on September 4 and runs for 18 days, depending how far teams advance. If Bosnia makes the top eight, Teletoivc will have only a week off between the final day of Eurobasket and the first day of Nets training camp.
Teletovic made rousing comments on Thursday, promising more success than the Bosnians have had in 20 years. He was clear in his resolve. "As captain, I guarantee that we will fight for every ball and carry out every attack. It's been a long wait for the European championships and I think finally the time has come. We've all known each other well. We have a good atmosphere and a group that first rate. There will be no relaxation, but fight, fight and only fight."
Speaking of Karaman, he's had a bad off-season. In addition to getting cut by the Turkish national team, Fenerbahce is stocking up on other bigs, including Luka Zoric, a 6'11" C/PF whos's played big minutes in Europe, and Linas Kleiza, the 6'8" ex-NBA player. Also now on board: Boki Nachbar. All can play upfront. It's bound to hurt Karaman's development.
Lost in translation?
A couple of days ago, we reported that Bojan Bogdanovic told a Croatian site that he wasn't sorry about having to stay in Turkey and miss out on an opportunity to play in the NBA. Well, it turns out he gave a second interview to another site and the Nets pick is quoted as saying he WAS disappointed.
"Look, certainly I'm sorry, I certainly would have liked to have been part of such a squad of players half of whom will be in the Hall of Fame, but I say - there's still time. I'm only 24 years so there is still time to go to the NBA and prove myself."
That's better. If a Croatian speaker wants to give us a more nuanced translation, you can find the original here.
And no, we haven't heard anything on the status of Bogdanovic's contract extension with Fener, other than he wants more reasonable buyouts if he's going to sign an extension. Lets hope it all works out and he is rookie in 2014. The Nets gave up their first round pick in the 2014 draft, supposedly the best in a decade, and it sure would be nice if Bogdanovic, even at 25, was a first round equivalent. It's possible.
Springfield Armor, long-term and short-term
The Nets' three year deal with the ownership of the Springfield Armor ends after this season and expectations are that the Nets want to continue running a D-League operation, either in Springfield or elsewhere, in 2014 and beyond. Back in 2010, the Nets were among a handful of teams to have a one-on-one relationship with a D-League club and one of two to have a hybrid relationship Now, 14 of the 30 teams either own their D-League club outright or have a hybrid relationship with an NBA team. In a hybrid relationship, now shared by seven teams, an NBA club runs basketball operations but the team is owned by others. The cost is minimal, about $250,000 or half the salary of a rookie minimum deal.
The value of having a D-League team has led to kind of a crisis of success. There are 17 D-League teams, and 14 of them have one-to-one relationships with NBA teams. That means there will be just three D-League teams for the 16 remaining NBA clubs to share. That's not going to work so expect a D-League expansion.
Could the Nets buy their own team? After all, we're talking Mikhail Prokhorov here. Back in 2010, before the Nets made their deal with Michael Savitt, owner of the Armor, they considered buying a team. One thing not expected: a Nets D-League team at Nassau Coliseum, should the Forest City Ratner/Barclays Center partnership win the right to rehab the Long Island arena. The Knicks have said they would move their D-League operation to Nassau if MSG wins the contract. FCR/BC plans a minor league hockey team.
What to expect this year in Springfield? A new coach for starters. Bob MacKinnon appears ready to accept the Los Angeles D-Fenders job. One possible replacement is Chris Carrawell, who has been MacKinnon's assistant for the past two years. The former ACC Player of the Year at Duke, Carrawell was recommended highly by Mike Krzyzewski and has gotten high marks for development, particularly with Willie Reed> Reed, a 6'11" big, got called up by the Grizzlies.
Expect another Dukie, Mason Plumlee, to be driving the New York State Thruway to the Mass Pike. With the logjam upfront, the only way he's likely to get minutes is at Springfield. Will Toko Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor spend more time on the Armor roster? The Nets roster math looks daunting and some thought the Nets waited too long to send the two rookies north last season.
Although the Nets have filled 15 roster spots, expect them to invite two or three prospects to camp, in large part to fill out the Armor roster. Michael Snaer, the Florida State sharpshooter, has reportedly accepted an camp invitation. Under the CBA, the Armor gets exclusive D-League rights to the last three players cut from the training camp roster. Those cut can go overseas (where the pay can be 10 times greater), but if they want to play in the D-League, they will have to play with the Armor.
Following Blatche's lead
This didn't get a lot of attention (how about any?) this week, but we find it interesting. Last year, Andray Blatche's career was in shambles. His reputation was shot. Only 25 years old, Blatche had been amnestied by the Wizards who were willing to eat $23 million just to get rid of him. No one wanted him despite his undeniable talent. His first stop was Houston, where he started working out with John Lucas, who has made a career out of trying to rehab reputations. There was a lot of tough love and workouts, better nutrition and better work habits.
A couple of teams were interested. The Heat considered him. The Rockets had heard good things about what was happening in their city and discussed it but thought with such a young team, he wouldn't work out. The Nets took Blatche on after Avery Johnson worked him out and gave his blessing. The risk wasn't much: essentially a camp invite, a non-guaranteed deal that could be ended for any reason.
Tyrus Thomas, with circumstances almost identical to Blatche's, is following the same path. He's only 26, five days older than Blatche. The Bobcats dumped him with $18 million left on his contract so they could sign Al Jefferson. No one came calling. Although his reputation was not at the rock-bottom level Blatche had achieved, he is seen as a chronic underachiever despite, again, undeniable potential. So this week, he started working out this week at Lucas camp, just as Blatche did last year. Lucas is tweeting about Thomas' progress.
Tyrus Thomas first lab day included some tough love but we got trough good day— Coach John Lucas (@CoachJohnLucas1) August 1, 2013
Day two in the books with TT work work work— Coach John Lucas (@CoachJohnLucas1) August 2, 2013
Are we suggesting the Nets have interest in Thomas? After all, they did in 2010 when he first accepted a five-year, $40 million offer from Rod Thorn, then changed his mind overnight. NO, we are not. Not at all. But it's interesting that Blatche's personal rehabilitation is becoming a model for amnestied NBA players.
We thought the pictures of Brook Lopez in Africa with President Clinton were interesting for more than the peek at his walking boot. This is a guy who was so shy in his rookie year that the Nets PR staff had to push him towards the cameras. Now, he's hanging out, in East Africa, with the former president of the United States! Lopez is that classic case of a player evolving in a lot of ways, not just athletically as he moves along his career path (And by the way, Mason Plumlee noted in a tweet Friday that he was about to see his first Broadway show, "Newsies.")