Every weekend, we update the Nets' off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, analysis, etc. to help take the edge off not winning the NBA championship. We rely on our own reports as well as what the Nets’ beat reporters and others have slipped into larger stories, blogs and tweets...
Where do we go from here?
The pundits have spoken with many suggesting the Nets will not make the playoffs, which would be as we've noted a disaster on so many levels. The oddsmakers have spoken as well. After the Nets passed on Paul Pierce, they dropped the Nets championship odds from 40-to-1 down to 66-to-1.
With the off-season winding down, where do we stand? Pretty much where we have for a while. "If healthy" remains our mantra. IF Brook Lopez's foot reconstruction works --and we re told by people close to him and the Nets that he's ahead of schedule. IF Deron Williams returns to his 2011-12 level or even his 2013 level. IF Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko avoid losing 50+ games between them to back spasms ... or other, nagging, old guy injuries. Beyond injuries, of course, there are other "ifs", like IF Bojan Bogdanovic can be a reliable rotation player. IF Lionel Hollins can handle the pressures of New York.
IF all or most of those are dealt with, we expect a competitive team, a playoff team. Maybe more.
A few things help our confidence level. In particular, we like what we've seen and heard from Hollins. He is refreshing in his openness and humbled by the opportunity. We also like the mix of continuity, with 10 players back, and youth, with eight players under 30 -- the reverse of last season. (Zach Lowe points out that that Nets continuity was more a function of their lack of flexibility.) We also hear that Kirilenko and Garnett have gotten into off-season training regimens earlier and more intensely. Maybe the two of them realize they are getting into legacy territory ... and don't want to end their careers with years like they had last season.
Alan Anderson is back
The return of Alan Anderson was greeted by people in the organization as a big deal, bigger than the signing of a vets minimum guy would generate. Two reasons: Anderson is a bargain compared to what a lot of similarly sized and talented swingmen are getting, and his multiple talents at both ends of the court gives them additional flexibility in the swing positions, where indeed they have a large number of player with skills.
In fact, with Anderson back, don't expect the 15th player on the roster to be a small, but rather a big. The Nets would like to add a defensive specialist upfront, but haven't decided at least as of now whether to go with Cory Jefferson or a veteran on a minimum contract, a player like Epke Udoh, perhaps or Emeka Okafor or Elton Brand, all of whom are available.There's also Willie Reed, who played well in the summer league after two years at Springfield.
The Nets do have some wiggle room on the roster: Jorge Gutierrez has a non-guaranteed deal and the Nets can bring in up to 20 players for training camp. In other words, we think they're mostly done, but not completely.
Assistant coaching hires
The Nets have not made any official announcement on the assistant coaching hires, but Lionel Hollins let Lenn Robbins know in an interview last week that Paul Westphal, Joe Wolf, John Welch, and Tony Brown had been hired and that he was still looking for a player development coach and two video coordinators. Then two days ago, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Jay Humphries had been hired, presumably for the player development job.
The Boulder Daily Camera in Colorado spoke to Humphries who confirmed the hire and the responsibilities.
"When I was in China, (Hollins) was in Memphis and I've known him over the years," Humphries said. "Every year I'd come back and work with NBA teams and do summer leagues and training camps, for the last six or seven years. He respected my work ethic and he wanted to give me a shot."
After heading the Foshan Longlions of the CBA during the 2011-12 season, Humphries returned stateside to work with the Grizzlies' summer league team in 2012. Hollins must have liked what he saw. Humphries replaces Eric Hughes, who left with Jason Kidd, and to a certain extent,pDoug Overton who was head coach at Springfield last year. overton had handled player development with the Nets going back to the Lawrence Frank days.
One thing we've noted in the hires is that along with Hollins, most of the assistants haven't been in the NBA for a year or more. Humphries last coached in the league during 2007-08 season when he was with the Suns as player development coach under Mike Dantoni. Wolf, the new big man coach, has spent the last three years working outside the NBA. Westphal was canned by the Kings as head coach two years ago. Welch and Brown were in the league last season, Welch helping Jason Kidd on offense and Brown working with Rick Carlisle in Dallas, where he earned reputation as a coach with an ability to "break down" an opponent's offense.
The group is also older, with 51-year-old Humphries and Welch the youngest and the 63-year-old Westphal the oldest. Hollins described the group as good guys. His job, "I'll be the tough guy," he told Robbins with a smile.
Andy Miller, Sergey Karasev's agent tweeted this week that his Russian client does not have a Twitter account and indeed an account with his name is unverified. That brings to four the number of Nets players without Twitter: Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, Jorge Gutierrez and Karasev. Pretty high number for an NBA team.
Karasev does have a VK account, which is the Russian equivalent of Facebook. That account, we're told, is maintained for him, but whoever runs it keeps it up to date, if in Russian, with videos and images.
The latest videos are from the Nets, in which Karasev answers rapid fire questions about his favorite things, from candy and vacation spots to singer and Florida theme park.
Karasev moved to New Jersey with his fiancee this week but will soon be headed back to Russia where he will begin training with Team Russia. "We are waiting on the imminent arrival of Sergei Karasev, who is now getting into shape in the United States. I'm sure he will quickly adapt," said his coach, Evgeni Pashutin.
Barclays Center still thriving
In the latest Pollstar Magazine numbers, for the first half of 2014, Barclays Center remains the leading U.S. venue for concerts and family shows, with 302,726 tickets sold. This is the first count since Madison Square Garden's renovation has been completed.
John Brennan of The Record also notes that Barclays also placed 11th worldwide with the top 10 venues in Europe or Mexico. The Nets former home, IZOD Center, placed second in the U.S. with 237,420 tickets sold in events reported to the magazine, The Garden placed sixth in the U.S. with 207,482 tickets sold. Prudential Center in Newark ranked 13th in the U.S. with 154,844.
Tickets purchased for NBA, NHL, and other professional sporting events of major leagues are not counted in this poll.
A couple of weeks back, we surmised that Sergey Kushchenko, Mikhail Prokhorov's chief sports adviser, would have to step down from the Nets board of directors. He will be named head of the Russian basketball league as early as Sunday. But it's been determined that there is no conflict of interest and he will retain his role with the Nets. The Russian job is ceremonial and unpaid
If he had left, it would have been a big loss for Prokhorov and the Nets. Kushchenko is one of the world's great basketball minds. He won two Euroleague championships as GM of CSKA Moscow and ten Russian league championships, not all of them fueled by Prokhorov's money. He had been diverted from hoops by Prokhorov who put him in charge of the Russian biathlon team in preparation for the Olympics. Now, he's all about about hoops again. One other footnote about Kushchenko. He is a HUGE fan of Sergey Karasev and was very disappointed when Cleveland took him three places above Mason Plumlee last year.