After a preseason game in Westchester, and contests in Illinois, Ohio and Maine, the Long Island Nets will debut in Brooklyn at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday vs. the Canton Charge. That’s six hours before the Nets take on the Boston Celtics. It’s the first of 22 “double-headers” at Barclays, all but one of them with the big club’s game following the D-Leaguers’.
What to expect? Development, development, development. Like the neighbors at the HSS Training Center, the Long Islanders want to win every game, but the priority will be development and particularly the development of the young guys on the Brooklyn roster. What do you think the “D” in D-League stands for?
“Those assignments, that’s the No. 1 reason for the D-League,” said Nored. Speaking at the L.I. Nets Media Day at Barclays earlier this month, he added, “We’re a resource for them. Also for the players to come down and get better. That’s our focus. Our guys know that. The guys in this gym, they know that. If guys were to be assigned to our team, we’re here to help those guys grow and get better. “
If a diamond-in-the-rough shows up, great. If a former NBA player comes back from an injury and shines, that’s cool, too. But the priority is getting minutes and skills development for players like Chris McCullough, Yogi Ferrell, Isaiah Whitehead and even Caris LeVert.
For example, the Nets don’t plan to send LeVert down for a rehab tour now that he’s practicing full-time. He’ll spend time with Brooklyn learning the offensive and defensive sets — and continue to be monitored by the Nets performance team.
“I think in the beginning the idea is to kind of keep him with us, and with that being said, during the year if there’s an opportunity to get him more minutes or get him in a situation where he can get more reps, we’re definitely open to that (sending him to the D League),” Kenny Atkinson said Monday.
In fact, don’t be surprised if a Nets player or two gets sent down in the morning to Long Island, then gets called up for an evening for Brooklyn. That’s only been done three times, once with Jordan Farmar, once with Coby Karl, both of whom did it with the L.A. Lakers and D-Fenders, and Cleanthony Early, who did it with the New York and Westchester Knicks last season. And in fact, that’s what’s happening with McCullough. He was assigned to Long Island on Tuesday.
Shuttling players has always been the plan, and it’s part of the Nets overall development model.
“Fortunately for us we’re in the same building. We practice in the same building, we play in the same building, we run the same system (as the Nets),” said Nored, talking about Barclays Center and the HSS Training Center. “So, if that were to happen, guys come down with a seamless transition, no confusion. They can just come and play and get better.”
Are there diamonds-in-the-rough on the roster? There might be. And an NBA player coming back from an injury? Could be.
Two players who the Nets had in training camp, Egidijus Mockevicius, the 6’10” center, and Beau Beech, the 6’9” swingman, are playing for Long Island.
In the early going, Mockevicius has looked better. He’s averaging 13.5 points a game and 6.3 rebounds. The Nets want him to invest in the three-point shot —he didn’t make a single three in four years at Evansville— but he’s had limited success.
Beech, whose specialty is the three-pointer, has been inconsistent, as he was in summer league, hitting 34.6 percent from deep. He’s averaging 11.5 and 4.8.
There are three other intriguing players on the 1-3 Nets, who are having the same issues as their parent club, defense...
—Boris “Bobo” Dallo, a 6’6” combo guard from France, who’s played three years of high level ball in Europe despite being only 22. The Nets first round pick in the D-League draft, he’s averaging 11 points and 4.3 assists and shooting much better than expected, at 35.3 percent from deep.
—Carrick Felix, a 6’6” swingman, played for Cleveland and D-League affiliates in Canton and Santa Cruz, but a horrific knee injury kept him out of basketball last season. He’s Long Island’s leading scorer, at 17.7 ppg, as well as its leading shooter, at 57.6 percent overall and 36.4 from three. He played with Anthony Bennett in Cleveland and Canton.
—Donnie McGrath, at 32 years old, is one of the D-League’s oldest players. He’s a 6’4” pass-first point guard who’s banged around the world of basketball since leaving Providence a decade ago. He ranks fifth in D-League play in assists per game, at 8.8. A native of Westchester, he’s played in Italy, Greece, France. Russia, Spain, Turkey and Lithuania. Remind you of anybody?
There are others of note as well, like Trahson Burrell, at 6’7” small forward out of Memphis who was the Nets third round pick in the draft, and Gary Forbes, the 6’7” UMass star, first round pick in the expansion draft.
Long Island also smartly took a couple of players in the expansion draft who are playing in China. Once the CBA ends in the spring, if they want join a D-League team, the Long Island Nets have their rights. One is Jamaal Franklin, the 6’5” shooting guard out of San Diego State who’s averaging 39.6 points (not a typo) for Shanxi in China. He’s already had two games of 61 and 60 points this month, the latter a triple-double with 12 rebounds and 11 assists. (Don’t get too excited. He’s making $1.4 million in China and unlikely to risk that for a D-League gig.)
It will take Nets fans a while to figure out the intricacies of the D-League. Might take Nored and the front office duo of Trajan Langdon and Matt Riccardi a while too. But there will be plenty of time and plenty of seats at reasonable prices. General admission seats start at $15, group tickets for $10 apiece and premium, courtside seats at $50. Season tickets are available.
“There’s an opportunity for schools, there’s an opportunity for colleges, there’s an opportunity for folks who may do shift work to come to a game at 1:30 or noon or 2 o’clock,” Alton Byrd, vice president of business operations, told Newsday this weekend.
Sounds like fun.