As we noted this week, we have reached the point of the off-season where names become attached to hopes. It's a long road back, as we try to remind everyone all the time, but things do appear to moving in the right direction.
Keeping track, List I
Based on the latest announcement from the Nets and published reports, here's the latest on the rebuild...
--Sean Marks, 40, General Manager, hired from the Spurs, February 18.
--Trajan Langdon, 39, Assistant General Manager, hired from the Cavaliers --after three years with the Spurs, March 8.
--Alton Byrd, 58, Vice President of Business Operations, Long Island Nets, hired from the Hawks
--Andrew Baker, 26, Coordinator, Strategic Planning, hired from the Spurs in March, announced May 5
--Kenny Atkinson, 48, Head Coach, hired from the Hawks April 17.
--Jacque Vaughn, 41, Lead assistant coach, hired from the Spurs, reported April 30, but not yet officially announced.
--Natalie Jay, 31, cap and contract specialist, hired from the 8th Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals, announced May 5.
--Shelden Williams, 32, pro scout. Last job with the Tianjin Lions of the CBA, announced May 5.
--Charles Payne, 47, pro and college scout, hired from Stanford University, announced May 5.
--Jordan Ott, 30, assistant coach, hired from Hawks, reported May 13, but not yet officially announced.
Also, Ryan Gisriel, 26, has been promoted from assistant to the General Manager to Director, Basketball Operations, announced on May 5.
Expect more announcements shortly. It's possible that the Atkinson press conference will be used to announce the hiring of his coaching staff. The Nets are likely to hire six assistants.
Keeping track, List IIre
Here's another list: those prospects the Nets have shown interest in, either by scheduling a workout or interviewing them at the Draft Combine.
--Isaiah Whitehead, the 6'5" PG out of Seton Hall (and Brooklyn)
--Cheick Diallo, the 6'9" PF out of Kansas
--Malik Beasley, the 6'5" SG out of Florida State
--A.J. English, the 6'4" SG out of Iona
--Kay Felder, the 5'9" PG out of Oakland
--Isaiah Miles, the 6'7" PF out of St. Joseph's
--Isaiah Briscoe, the 6'3" PG out of Kentucky
--Egidijus Mockevicius, the 6'7" PF out of Evansville (and Lithuania)
--Yogi Ferrell, the 6'0" PG out of Indiana.
--Elgin Cook, the 6'6" SF out of Oregon
--Tim Quarterman, the 6'6" SG out of LSU
--Malachi Richardson, the 6'6" SG out of Syracuse
--Georges Niang, the 6'9" PF out of Iowa State
The list, derived from social media reports, is my no means complete. Nets were as Moke Hamilton tweeted very active. We also took note one the language Hamilton used in one of his tweets.
It seems as if every agent in Chicago for the draft combine has at least one client whom the #Nets have inquired about. Marks very active.— Moke Hamilton (@MokeHamilton) May 13, 2016
The combine was the first chance Sean Marks et al had to meet and work with a large number of player agents. By showing a high level of interest and presumably professionalism, Marks was once again pushing his most crucial agenda: letting those agents and the players they represent know there's a new culture in Brooklyn.
Caris LeVert was a lonely figure at the Draft Combine. The Michigan junior was on crutches, recovering from a "Jones fracture" in his foot. He was taking interviews but couldn't do much else, obviously. No indication he was interviewed by the Nets but he told a story to the Detroit News that Nets fans will appreciate.
While he recovers, LeVert got a boost of confidence to keep his spirits up during the process. Kevin Durant gave him a call to let him know everything would be fine if he just stayed true to the rehab process.
"We’re with the same agency ... we went to the same doctor, Dr. (Martin) O’Malley with the Nets," LeVert said. "He said once Dr. O’Malley finishes with you, you’ll be like brand new. He said stay with the course and it’s a long process, but just stay with it; don’t get anxious."
That's Dr. Martin O'Malley, the Nets foot and ankle specialist who's become sort of a "surgeon to the stars," operating on more than 20 of the NBA and other leagues' top players ... and getting kudoes from them.
Here's a partial list of who he's "done" other than KD; Brook Lopez, Grant Hill, Joe Embiid, Dez Bryant, Deron Williams, Brandon Jennings, Kyle Korver, Tyson Chandler, Alan Anderson, Lawrence Tynes, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Vince Carter and even Juan Pablo Vaulet.
He has a wall of framed jerseys at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan from grateful athletes.
The Nets are justly proud of their association with HSS, their official hospital and sponsor of the $50 million training center. And O'Malley isn't the only miracle man on the Nets medical staff. Dr. Riley J. Williams III, the Nets medical director, is credited with saving Paul George's career when he was team physician for Team USA in 2014. George suffered a compound fracture of his leg during an exhibition game in Las Vegas. The video is one you can only watch once.
And don't rely on us. Here's what George tweeted after giving Dr. Williams his Team USA jersey at a ceremony before a Nets-Pacers game in 2015.
Paul George (@Yg_Trece) April 1, 2015
So all that's nice but what's the point?
Quietly, the Nets are marketing their medical staff as a reason for free agents to join the team, along with the other, more visible recruiting tools: the market, the arena, the training center and the owner's commitment. It's not just about the care. It's also about showing off professionalism in the treatment of athletes.
Beyond recruiting, Sean Marks has said the the "performance team" - the training staff and the strength and conditioning staff as well as the medical staff -- is a priority for him. He noted at one point in his first round of interviews that if improvement in performance means traveling, whether to the Bronx or Milan, to get "performance tips," the Nets will do that.
As Dr. Williams said at the opening of the HSS Training Center, "A close knit relationship between the team and its medical personnel is vital to injury prevention, effective treatment and ultimately the professional athlete's return to play."
So, expect more emphasis on performance, including further integration of the three units in the "performance team," again trying to let everyone know things are getting better in Brooklyn ... and maybe remind Kevin Durant who Dr. O'Malley works for.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
We could go with one of the players we know the Nets interviewed this week, but instead will go with one we hope they interviewed, although we think he'll start to rise out of the Nets range unless they can get into the first round. Thon Maker.
Maker is 7'1', just turned 19, has a great motor and a great personality and is one of best big men athletes ever measured at the Draft Combine ... as Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders notes.
Thon Maker, who measured in at 7’0.75, had the highest ever max vertical (36.5 in.) and standing vertical (32 in.) for a player over 6'11.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) May 14, 2016
Thon Maker also finished first among big men in lane agility, three-quarter sprint & shuttle run. No 5-on-5 though. https://t.co/q21VgorQny— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) May 14, 2016
And yet, he's projected all over the lot by draftniks. Draft Express has him at No. 39; NBADraft.net at No. 33; Sports Illustrated at No. 28 and Chad Ford at No. 23. So he's skinny. He's 19. So his jump shot needs work. He's 19. He's a bit a risk, but not so much that a year or two in the D-League wouldn't mitigate. And yes, the Nets are one of 22 teams who will have a D-League team next season.
The issue appears to be a two-year mixtape that now everyone realizes was a piece of hype making him appear to be Kevin Garnett and Kevin Durant rolled into one. So he hasn't met expectations from a mixtape?! It's not a sex tape with a Kardashian or a purloined video of him rolling around a field of marijuana. We're talking about mixtape he had nothing to do with, one that showed only highlights!.
"People have got to stop with mixtapes," he said this week. "That’s not me. I’ll bet you those people that put out those mixtapes never really sat through a game of mine and saw my defensive rotation, the way I communicate to my teammates, the way I pass the ball. They probably got the bad passes, the one-and passes, and didn’t get the fundamental two-handed jump shot or skip passes. They don’t get to see all that."
Twelve teams interviewed him this week. There's no indication the Nets were one of them.
40 Years On
Thursday marked the 40th anniversary of the greatest moment in Nets history, the ABA championship in 1976, the last game ever played with the red, white and blue ball. The Nets organization let the anniversary pass without any commemoration, which is a shame.
So we decided to commemorate it with this vintage video of the final game of the championship series, played at the then state-of-the-art Nassau Coliseum.
Monday's press conference is a big deal. Kenny Atkinson will get a chance to talk basketball and the Nets future, not lost picks and the past. It should be a nice break from recent press conferences stretching back to the Mikhail Prokhorov "mea culpa" presser in January, the day after the dismissal of Lionel Hollins and Billy King.
Instead, it should be the first chance for fans to hear his vision for the team. The press conference will be broadcast live on YES and streamed on both the Nets website and Facebook page.
We just hope Atkinson has better luck than the subjects of press conferences past. Lot of history, but not much success: Deron Williams in New Jersey, 2011. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson outside Brooklyn Borough Hall, 2012. Jason Kidd at Barclays, 2013. And the mother of all Nets press conferences that same summer, that same place: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry with a surprise appearance by Mikhail Prokhorov who flew in from Moscow, then flew back hours later. And last but not least, Lionel Hollins, 2014
In any case, we will be there. Team coverage!
Oh the horror.
The day after the Atkinson press conference will be the NBA Draft Lottery. Although the ping pong balls have yet to fly, we all know in our hearts that the Boston Celtics will get the overall No. 1. Call it King's Karma. (We are). It is going to be ugly.
And as we all know, there will likely be two more scenes like this played out over the next two summers. If the Nets don't make the playoffs next year, it could be another sweaty May night as Celtic fans rub their hands over what lottery pick they will get. Maybe by 2018, the Nets will be good enough so that the loss of a pick won't be such a big deal. Hope so.