An interesting week, one in which we got our first look at Kenny Atkinson and heard him on various sports talk radio shows, being forthcoming on a number of issues. He made it clear that Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young are his core, as did Sean Marks who said he was not looking to trade either player, no doubt mystifying members of the Junior GM Club want to see them dispatched for mid-level draft picks in a weak draft.
The Nets reportedly also hired another new assistant coach, the first skills coach: Adam Harrington, former player who bills himself a shooting specialist and has testimonials not just from Kevin Durant but other future Hall of Famers.
We also learned that Marks et al will be following the Spurs model in keeping the names of draft prospects and mini-camp free agents to themselves. Unlike previous years, there will be no daily list of who's working out or post-workout media access. The HSS Training Center is locked up.
It's no surprise to those who cover the Spurs, as Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News tweeted.
Young also had the only real free agent news this week, suggesting that Thomas Robinson, who has to make a decision on a player option in three weeks, might be of interest to the Spurs. He also wrote that R.C. Buford is a fan of TRob. Hard to imagine Robinson, who's played for some awful NBA teams, not having mutual interest.
Meanwhile, despite the lid on news, we keep updating our lists. Here's the latest.
Keeping track, List I
Based on the latest announcements 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, announced March 24.
--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, announced May 16..
--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.
--Adam Harrington, 35, assistant coach, hired from Thunder, reported May 21, but not yet announced.
Also, Ryan Gisriel, 26, has been promoted from assistant to the General Manager to Director, Basketball Operations, announced on May 5.
Still a lot more announcements to come, on the coach staff and the performance team. The Nets are likely to hire six assistants. Only three have been named.
Keeping track, List II
Here's another list: those prospects the Nets have shown interest in, either by scheduling a workout or interviewing them at the Draft Combine... or both ... thanks mostly to Adam Zagoria, Moke Hamilton and Mike Scotto.
--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
--Malik Newman, the 6'4" SG out of Mississippi State
--Derrick Jones Jr., the 6'7" SF out of UNLV
--Nathan Boothe, the 6'9" PF out of Toledo
--Thomas Walkup, the 6'4" SF/SG out of Stephen F. Austin
--Robert Carter Jr., the 6'9" PF out of Maryland
--Beau Beech, the 6'9" SG out of North Florida
--Trey Lewis, the 6'2" PG out of Louisville
The list, derived from social media reports, is my no means complete.
Walkup, on his webpage described the Nets workout. He was at the HSS Training Center Thursday. Not quite the Barclays Center, where he starred in the NCAA Tournament two months ago, but close enough.
I enjoyed being back there since it holds a very special place in my heart because of the events of last March. I didn’t get a chance to see much of the city because the next day I worked out for the Brooklyn Nets.
The workouts I was a part of in Cleveland and Brooklyn featured a lot of competition drills such as more three-on-three play, some one-on-one drills and lots of shooting. Those teams want to see if you can do those things at a high level since they’re the ones who could be signing you one day.
Was that line about "signing you one day" an admission that he's not sure he'll be drafted? He did say he had a "great day" in Brooklyn. DraftExpress doesn't list Walkup in their top 100 prospects, but he has surprised before. He scored 54 points in two NCAA tournament games vs. West Virginia and Notre Dame at Barclays.
Keeping track, List III
The Nets are running mini-camp for veterans over a three day span starting Monday in Brooklyn. Names are slipping out slowly, mainly through social media. So far, it appears a number of the veterans being worked out are U.S. players who've spent a year or two overseas. Here's what we go so far, again thanks to Mike Scotto and David Pick.
--D.J. Newbill, the 6'4" Penn State PG who's played in Turkey and France.
--Will Cummings, the 6'2" Temple PG who's played in Italy as well as the D-League
--Jarrid Famous, the 6'11" South Florida PF who's played for teams in the D-League, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, China, Lebanon, Bahrain and Venezuela. A New York native.
--Victor Rudd, the 6'9" South Florida PF, who's played in Russia and the D-League.
--Josh Magette, the 6'1" Alabama-Huntsville PG, who's played for D-League as well as teams in Greece and Germany
The list of participants has to be a lot longer than that. It's a three-day event.
Dexter Henry, who's our most excellent videographer, also works for a number of outlets in Brooklyn and the metropolitan area, most recently as a reporter for News12. He's in a position to pick up a lot of news, particularly from his native South Brooklyn. Dex has been close to several generations of Lincoln High School grads. So we found his tweets from this weekend quite interesting.
Nets fans may be excited about some of the news I have to share regarding a potential draft pick for Brooklyn....— Dexter Henry (@NetsDailyVideo) May 21, 2016
I spoke with a source close to Isaiah Whitehead who told me he will make his decision about entering the NBA draft on the 23rd.— Dexter Henry (@NetsDailyVideo) May 21, 2016
According to the source close to Whitehead based on the information he has received from NBA teams he is leaning towards entering the draft— Dexter Henry (@NetsDailyVideo) May 21, 2016
The information Whitehead has received projects him being drafted anywhere from a late 1st round to early second round pick.— Dexter Henry (@NetsDailyVideo) May 21, 2016
Interview with Brooklyn went well. Nets are very interested and would take him if he is there in the 2nd round.— Dexter Henry (@NetsDailyVideo) May 21, 2016
Source told me Whitehead would love to play in BK and says it "would be a dream" to play at home.— Dexter Henry (@NetsDailyVideo) May 21, 2016
Whitehead, of course, would be the first Brooklynite to play for the hometown team, but it seems a bit of a reach that the Nets, still with only the 55th pick, could offer Whitehead anything close to a guarantee.
No doubt, it would be a big deal for him but there's a lot of division, generally, on his prospects. Listening to draftniks and other assorted pundits, you can find those who think the Seton Hall sophomore is mid first rounder while other think he is late second. (It's a long-standing joke that if an agent tells a player he's late first/early second, you shouldn't put out too big a spread for the family draft party. Agents exaggerate.)
The Nets would probably have to move up to get Whitehead and that could cost them a couple of million dollars. Is he worth it? We probably won't know until June 23, if he decides to stay in the draft. That decision comes Monday.
A second round tutorial
A lot of fans think the second round of the NBA draft is a bit of a crap shoot, that teams don't put that much into it, for the most part. Not so, writes John Wilner of the Detroit News. He takes a look at how the Warriors parlayed a second round pick they had acquired from the Nets into Draymond Green of Michigan State. It wasn't a crap shoot. It was all planned out.
On Feb. 23, 2011, then-general manager Larry Riley shipped center Dan Gadzuric and forward Brandan Wright to the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets in exchange for forward Troy Murphy, by then in the final stages of his career, and a second-round pick in the 2012 draft.
The trade was received poorly by Warriors fans, who had hoped a bevy of expiring contracts would prove valuable in the midseason trade market. But it was not to be. Within a week, Murphy was waived. The second-round pick in 2012? It seemed like a bone tossed to a junkyard dog.
But Riley believed otherwise. The Warriors had assessed New Jersey's roster and calculated that a below-average season could be in the works for the Nets in 2011-12. They also examined the list of college players likely to be eligible for the '12 draft and concluded there might be more first-round prospects than first-round slots.
"We wanted to eliminate the players who wouldn't be a factor for us," Riley said of the trade. "The likelihood of attracting a good free agent to Golden State wasn't real high, but it's not unusual for a second-round pick to become a pretty good player.
"From (picks) 45 through 60, it's tough. But we placed value on second-rounders, especially the first 15 picks of the second round."
Two weeks after the trade, Green had one of his box score blowout games in the Big 10 Tournament: 21 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots. The Warriors began to pay attention to what was going on in East Lansing. It was more than a year before the Warriors could use the pick, a a year before Green would graduate.
"We checked into Draymond's family, who he hung around with at school, who he stayed in touch with from high school," Larry Harris, a Warrior scout told Wilner. "There were no issues. Everything came back the same: He was very intense, and he hated to lose at anything. That's carried over, obviously."
Other teams became interested during Green's senior year., the Hawks and Pacers in particular, but they passed on him on Draft Night. As did the Warriors, twice, gambling at No. 30 that Festus Ezeli wouldn't make it till 35, but Green might.. They were right. At No. 35, they got who Green with the Nets pick. The Warriors celebrated. Their gamble had paid off: Green was on the board.
"He was the guy," Bob Myers, the Warriors GM told Wilner. "There was no debate."
The Nets that year didn't have a first or second rounder, having dealt it to Portland who took Damien Lillard. They did buy a couple of picks in Tyshawn Taylor, who cost them $2 million and Tornike Shengelia, who cost them $750,000, both now out of the league. Gadzuric was gone the year after they traded for him and Wright signed with Mavericks.
It's too much to suggest that if the Nets could have wound up with Lillard and Green if they had played their hands right, but for two all-stars --and maybe better than that-- be taken with your picks says a lot about your scouting, your management, your planning. There's a reason the Warriors won 73 games last season and the Nets 21.
K-Mart vs. Whiny Tim, the rematch
Ten days ago, Kenyon Martin talked to Adrian Wojnarowski about his career, one hilarious bit after another.
One of the funniest moments he recalled was the 2004 playoffs when Tim Thomas complained about him. Martin cut out the New York Post headline --"Whiny Tim"-- and taped it to his practice jersey for all the media to see. He also recounted how Thomas came to a Dallas club -- and had to be escorted out the back door. He reveled in what the Nets did to the Knicks back then -- "kicked their ass ... foot-to-ass."
Now, Thomas has responded to the Woj interview with one of his own on Scoop B Radio. He suggested the media and Martin got it wrong. Yes, he called KMart a "fugazi," which he describes a a Mafia term for fake tough guy and yes, there was an incident or two or three at some Dallas clubs and yes, he was asked to leave one but only because Martin had brought 30 or 40 people to the club and "wanted to make a scene."
Thomas, a Paterson native, said that Martin didn't talk about how he slapped $1,500 across Martin's face and challenged him to a fight. "Once again, he did absolutely nothing."
So what is Thomas' solution to this? A celebrity boxing match, maybe promoted by Floyd Mayweather!.
"Brother let’s get in the ring," he said on the podcast. "Let’s get in the ring! I know you got some charities you cans end the money to, you know I got plenty of kids to help out, plenty of organizations. We could give it to charity. Or we can get some boxing promoters. I can call Floyd and we can get this off my chest once and for all. And the world will see what type of individual he is all at one time."
And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The reason why Kenyon Martin is revered and Tim Thomas is not. One of them has a sense of humor as well as a record.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
Malik Newman is one of those players that has NBA types scratching their heads -- a top high schooler who disappoints in his freshman year (at Mississippi State) then elects to declare for the draft when his value is at its lowest. He still has a couple of days to decide whether to opt out of the draft, but it looks like he's staying in. He's got a heavy workout schedule, which included the Nets earlier this week, according to social media.
A 6'4" shooting guard out of Jackson, Mississippi, Newman was seen as one of the top backcourt prospects in last year's high school class, the next Monta Ellis, another Mississippian,. But he didn't do well for the Bulldogs. He averaged 11.9 points, shooting just over 40 percent overall, if a respectable 38.2 percent from deep. His assist to turn over ratio was 2.1 to 1.9, nearly 1-to-1. Advertised as a potential NBA point guard, he did not look the part.
How much of a drop? A year ago, as he exited high school, DraftExpress had him at No. 4 overall and why not? Not of the recruiting services had him ranked lower than No. 2 in this year's freshman class. But as the season wore on, he started to drop. As the season progressed, he went from 22 to 31 to 33 to 40 to 42 and finally to 52, barely in the Draft at all.
Here's a DraftExpress video of his big game against Kentucky and Isaiah Briscoe, another guard supposedly on the Nets radar.
We don't know what feedback he's getting from the Nets or other teams but he would seem to be a player worth taking a chance on with that low a pick, particularly since the Nets have a D-League team where he could learn the NBA game.
As we noted this week, the Nets quietly applied for trademark protection on "Brooklyn Grit" on April 13. It was pretty standard application for a phrase attached to a professional sports team, covering everything from basketball camps to television shows to coloring books.
So what are the possibilities? We're betting it's next year's marketing slogan, replacing "Represent" "Brooklyn Grit" doesn't promise much in terms of wins or titles, just hard work, competitiveness. (Remember Kenny Atkinson spoke more than once in his press conference about he "grind of the city.")
The timing of the application doesn't offer much in the way of clues. It was filed the last day of the season as the Nets were talking to Atkinson.
What do we think? Seems appropriate. No promises other than hard work, but with the possibility that grit will be rewarded. Go for it.
Slowly, but surely, there's a bit of optimism seeping its way into the corners of the Nets dark picture. It's hard to detail, but you hear bits and pieces here and there that things are looking up It's hard to argue with much of what Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson have done and maybe, just maybe, it will work out a little quicker. Fans are, so far, patient, like the moves and like the personalities.
Meanwhile, in Moscow, word is that Mikhail Prokhorov is fully on-board with the patient rebuild, the aversion to quick fixes. He blessed both the Marks and Atkinson hires (and presumably others). The big questions of course will come if one of two things happen: the Nets start off strong and there's a temptation to make a big move to push things along or the Nets start off weak and there's panic in the land. Forget the strategic plan.
We think those days are behind us. Hope so.