The Nets didn't play a game last week but it sure felt as if they were on a losing streak, with all the negative analysis on their prospects for this season. The word of the week was "putrid," one writer's assessment of the roster.
As it turned out, they were 0-0 and still nearly two months from training camp. The three youngest Nets --Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough and Sergey Karasev-- hosted a basketball camp for kids and seemed to have a great time, as did the boys and girls they instructed. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15 points in a "friendly" warm-up game to the FIBA European championships a month from now. And it was reported early in the week that Earl Clark would be waived, but it still hasn't happened. Maybe they're waiting for Billy King to get back from vacation.
We take a sample of the pundits track record just to show that they, like fans, can be wrong, and offer our thoughts on the franchise's future and a few of the Nets younger players.
Is there anything left to say or do, now that ESPN --and NBA.com-- have consigned the Nets to the NBA's outer darkness (somewhere east of Philadelphia, we believe). The numbers have been crunched and have spoken. The Nets will be "putrid," "out of the lottery" and worse, gazing up from the bottom of the East, fighting with the 76ers and maybe the Magic to stay out of the cellar. The Knicks will be better.
We are not saying that's not happening ... a deliberate double negative ... but let's note this: In August 2013, after the Nets traded for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, ESPN's Bradford Doolittle said the Nets would likely win the East ... with a 64-18 record, based on analytics. Here's his optimistic analysis...
Given their financial prospectus entering the offseason and the willingness of owner Mikhail Prokhorov to spend his fortune as though a comet were about to strike the Barclays Center, going for it was the only real option for Billy King this summer. That he was able land a pair of future Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett is a greater outcome than any Nets fan could have reasonably expected.
He explained how he got to 64 wins (22 more than the Nets actually won): "I employed the ATH-based projection system of NBAPET, my collection of integrated spreadsheets that serves as a projection, evaluation and tracking model." Okay, then. How can you argue with that?
This week, it was Doolittle, apparently using a different model --"roster reconstruction"-- who came to the following conclusion about this year's Nets...
The more I look at it, the more I think the Nets will be truly putrid this season. But they do have Brook Lopez.
So, sports fans, before you cast your favorite team into the abyss with its compulsory weeping and gnashing of teeth (no mouth guards!), do realize they have to play the games. It ain't video games or fantasy basketball. See you in November.
One other point: It's great to have a complete 11-year archive.
Are they selling?
Mikhail Prokhorov's video message to fans seemed to be yet another indication that he is still heavily involved in the team's fates and Dmitry Razumov has told people that he is "excited" about this season's prospects. The $45 million HSS Training Center is moving along nicely. Overall, the continuing mantra is that Prokhorov is willing to sell a minority share to monetize the huge gains he's made the past five year, but that he wants to hold on to control.
But with this week's deadline for resolving Forest City's not insignificant debt approaching, and Forest City CEO suggesting they won't have to pay Prokhorov the $31.3 million the company owes, one has to wonder if the two sides are deep in negotiations on a grander plan, one in which Prokhorov takes full control of the team and arena. There is NO doubt that that's everyone's preference, as long as the numbers are right, but getting there won't be easy. The ownership and debt structures are complicated, for example.
What would it mean if by the end of the week or next month Mikhail Prokhorov owns the team and arena lock, stock and barrel? It would mean that a significant impediment to selling the team would be eliminated. The NBA has reportedly told ownership that it will not permit a sale unless the Nets' lease is adjusted. It was deliberately constructed to give Bruce Ratner, Forest City etc., who control the arena, a nice profit. For the Nets, however, the lease is not a good deal. New owners would be stuck with an onerous expense. The NBA would not countenance that If one person or entity owns both the team and arena, then it's not an issue.
Consolidating ownership is just one of the usual markers for an ownership looking to sell any asset. Another one is cost-cutting, particularly dumping, even at a loss, those operations that are non-performing or under-performing. (Have we ever heard a better description of Deron Williams?) Here's another. The Nets recently did their own internal estimate of the team's valuation and we understand it came in at $1.3 billion. Forbes then confirmed that number ... and raised it, saying the Nets, which had a value of around $200 million five years ago, was now worth $1.5 billion. Add another billion for Barclays Center.
Do we expect the Big Russian to sell if and when they resolve their debt issues with Ratner? Not immediately. And everything they are doing would make a minority share of the team more attractive as well. But if there is some big news on the franchise's ownership this week, don't be surprised to hear new speculation that the team is for sale.
Big Shot Bojan
One thing we've noticed about most of the August analytics and punditry is that there's no mention of Bojan Bogdanovic. It's been all about about the off-season signings with an occasional reference to Joe Johnson and serious laments about Jarrett Jack and Andrea Bargnani.
We can assure you that the Nets think differently. Ian Eagle, asked by Chris Shearn if the the Nets could have "some success" this year, Eagle said yes, and added an element not often considered...
"They could and remember Bojan Bogdanovic is part of this conversation. They expect improvement. They don't expect the Bojan Bogdanovic who was tentative at times last year, that was trying to figure out what his role was, trying to develop a niche in the NBA. It's a hard transition. We know that. By teh playoffs you saw the capabilities and the way he can take over games offensively. "
The stats of course bear out Eagle's optimism. In April, when was the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, the 6'8" Croatian averaged 14.4 points on 52.6 percent shooting overall and a torrid 48.8 percent from deep. In the last game of the season, in THE must-win game vs. Orlando, he went for a career-high 28 on 12-of-17 shooting including 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. One of his teammates said no Net wanted the playoffs more than he did.
And that goes to what else the Nets expect from him: leadership. He is the acknowledged leader on the Croatian national team, not Dario Saric, the highly touted point forward taken by the 76ers a year ago in the lottery, not Mario Hezonja, the dynamic wingman who the Magic took in the lottery this year. If Croatia is going anywhere, it's on his back.
As we pointed out when he was still in Turkey, "With a hand in his face and the clock clicking down, the moment is often his." He is Big Shot Bojan. Maybe he simply leads by example on the Nets rather than pushing people, but we expect --and the Nets expect-- more from him.
As for the Draft Night rumor that he was being offered around to help the Nets move up, we were told firmly that wasn't the case. Eagle had something to say on that as well earlier in the summer when talking to WFAN.
"I know his name was mentioned in trade rumors. I think the Nets were curious to see what the market value was but they were never quite serious about trading Bogdanovic."
The Nets of course traded Mason Plumlee to move up and get Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Don't be surprised to see Bogie and RHJ spending a lot of time together on the wings this season. By the way, we heard that one reason the Nets were willing to move Plumlee, beyond how crazy they are about RHJ, is that with Lopez committed to a long term deal, they wanted to get value for the Dukie now. They believe that when his rookie deal is up, he will get big bucks offers that will be far too high for a back-up center.
A lot of people seem to be down on Sergey Karasev. After starting 16 games, he fractured his patella (knee cap) and tore some ligaments. Down for the season. But since the injury, he seems a more serious guy. His instagram is filled with some real shooting prowess:
Like 100 out of 101 at the foul line before he was permitted to shoot jumpers...
Then, when he could, a lot of three pointers without a miss...
A trick shot or two to top things off...
And a lot of this...
He's also gotten married to someone who can help him with his shooting...
During the 2013 Draft, the Nets' Russian ownership hoped the then 19-year-old would fall to Brooklyn. It didn't happen. He went at No. 19 to Cleveland, three spots ahead of where the Nets picked Mason Plumlee. Privately, Nets insiders believed that adding Karasev back then to a team looking to win now wouldn't have been a smart move. They figured it would take him till year three before he could become a solid NBA player. This is year three.
The Nets have a big decision to make on the 6'7" Russian by October 31. That's the day they have to decide whether to pick up his fourth year option, at $2.5 million, a big jump from his current third year salary of $1.6 million.
We'll see what they do, but remember, that $2.46 million is a lot less intimidating now that the Nets are under the luxury tax threshold and $40 million under the salary CAP, not the threshold next year. Moreover, he is only a little more than a year older than Chris McCullough.
Short note on Chris McCullough
We asked someone this week how was Chris McCullough progressing. We got a one-word reply, "great." After the Nets took the 6'10" 20-year-old --their youngest player since they traded away Derrick Favors-- Chad Ford said he was unlikely to play this season. He's still recovering from a devastating ACL tear he suffered last January while playing at Syracuse.
McCullough himself said that he hoped to be physically ready by November and his agent said he was ahead of schedule. That's not NBA-ready, of course. He hasn't played competitive basketball in eight months. It's going to take some time, but at least now there seems to be a good possibility that we'll see McCullough in a Nets uniform this coming season. When (and if) he can contribute this season, he could help the Nets' front court depth as a stretch 4. If not, we can wait. The Nets have him through 2018-19, when he will be 23 on opening night.
And as we noted 10 days ago, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim called the Nets taking him at No. 29 an "enlightened pick," predicting "In 2 to 3 years, he is going to be a front line player in the NBA."
We plan a profile of the Brooklyn Nets' first New York-born player soon.
So who among the new Nets have played with whom on the current roster or with each other? Did anyone of them ever play for Lionel Hollins? With so many players playing for so many teams, you'd think a number of the Nets have played together before ... and you'd be right.
Jarrett Jack played with Andrea Bargnani in Toronto....
Shane Larkin played with Andrea Bargnani in New York...
Shane Larkin played with Wayne Elllington in Dallas.
Lionel Hollins coached both Wayne Ellington and Willie Reed at different times in Memphis.
Jack and Bargnani were close when they played in Toronto in 2009-10. They started 42 games together with Bargnani averaging 17.2 and 6.2 rebounds and Jack 11.4 and 5.2 assists. They had a bit of on-court chemistry. Larkin, of course, congratulated Bargnani on joining the Nets. Hollins has said nice things about Ellington and Reed.
Chris Carrino Foundation at 5
It doesn't seem like it's been five seasons since Chris Carrino went public with his diagnosis of his FSHD, a form of muscular dystrophy medically known as facioscapulohumeral. Or that he'll be entering his 15th year as the Nets radio guy soon.
Carrino's voice is the Brooklyn Nets on radio. His chemistry with Tim Capstraw is --and has been-- so natural that it's like a conversation we're being let in on. And we appreciate it.
And that voice has another deeper role, promoting a cure for FSHD. Late last month, he was once again hosting his Chris Carrino Foundation's annual dinner which has now grown to 400 guests. As a rare disease, FSHD research takes a lot of fund-raising. The market for it is not as great as other diseases that affect many more people. That's why Carrino's voice is so important and the Nets support of him and his foundation so important.
This is what admirable people do.
Going back to the statistical measures of the Nets prospects, we wanted to remind you that it's hard to put a number on leadership. Slightly paraphrasing John Schuhmann, an advocate of analytics (and the founder of this website), Jarrett Jack may never be the point guard that Deron Williams is, but Williams will never be the leader Jack is.
It's hard to pin a number of chemistry, too, but there is NO fan of the Brooklyn Nets who didn't know it was in short supply last season. Again, Ian Eagle from his WFAN interview before Deron Williams was bought out and stretched...
"With this Nets team, all you had to do is watch last year's team It didn't click. There was something missing. There was a part missing. And unfortunately, Deron getting paid all that money and the investment that was made in him, it wasn't just what he does on the basketball court. It's what you do behind the scenes, the kind of leadership qualities you bring. When you pay someone that kind of money, it isn't just what he does at 7:30 at night, it's all encompassing and I think the concern could be based on a lot of what's happening behind the scenes and whether they could ever truly be a winner "
And from his YES interview afterwards...
"I think Jarrett Jack is a leader even when he wasn't a prime time player is a leader. Guys respect him, guys respect his effort, not just on the court but off the court, the way you bond with your teammates, the way you handle adversity, the way you handle the media. It's all part of the process."
Will it work? Don't know, but it will be a case study of addition-by-subtraction over analytics. It will also be interesting to watch play out.