A little news here --Chris Fleming is the latest assistant coach; a little news there --the Nets will hold a second mini-camp in June and pretty soon you have a week. No announcements of either piece of news, but sourcing is good. That's the pattern: the Nets front office is keeping quiet on what it's doing, but what leaks out continues the summer's step-by-step, no-quick-fit pattern.
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, 40, 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
--Ronald Nored, 26, Head Coach, Long Island Nets, hired from Northern Kentucky --after two years with Celtics, April 15.
--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/director of player development, hired from Thunder, reported May 21, but not yet announced.
--Chris Fleming, 46, assistant coach, hired from Nuggets, reported May 24, but not yet announced.
Some interesting notes on the hires so far.
Natalie Jay, the capologist, was a sports writer between Princeton undergraduate and Harvard law. Her value, said one league source, will extend beyond the cap: she's seen as an in-house, outside-the-box thinker. That's not a bad addition to a culture that in the past has been dominated by small group thinking.
Jay's one of two lawyers that Marks has hired. Andrew Baker who he brought with him from San Antonio, has a degree in sports law from Tulane. (Matt Tellem, a holdover, is also studying law).
Two of the new assistants have previous links with Atkinson. Ott was video coordinator under Atkinson at Atlanta and worked with him as well on the Dominican Republic national team. Fleming, who will be second assistant, played with Atkinson (and former Net Johnny Newman) at Richmond. Fleming, who's been the German national coach for two years, has a reputation as an offensive guru, as laid out in this 85-minute video he did for FIBA back in 2011. Enjoy!
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,
As for the two other lists we included in last week's Off-Season Report, draft prospects who the Nets have found interesting and free agents invited to free agent mini-camps (plural), we've updated them throughout the week.
How many assistant coaches?
According to various reports, the Nets have hired four assistants for Kenny Atkinson, as noted above. Jim Sann, who has been with the club off and on for years, was working at the HSS Training Center last week. So we assume he's staying. How many more? Hard to say, but probably at least two or three. Jason Kidd had eight but only seven at any one time after the Lawrence Frank debacle. Lionel Hollins had six.
Jacque Vaughn is the lead assistant. Atkinson confirmed that at his press conference. Chris Fleming will reportedly be Atkinson's second assistant and the offensive specialist. Adam Harrington will handle skills development, primarily as a "shooting specialist," which is how he describes himself. Jordan Ott, who finalized his deal with the Nets this week, come from Atlanta where he was video coordinator and will likely handle that and other duties here. Sann has been the Nets advance scout. That leaves a big man coach and a player development specialist, although Harrington and Ott will likely be involved with that as well. And no we have no names.
The Nets could also hire an assistant coach for the Long Island Nets to work with Ronald Nored. When the Nets had their affiliation with the Springfield Armor, the Armor head coach and assistant worked as Nets assistants during training camp (before D-League rosters get filled out) and after the D-League season ended.
A good week for Juan Pablo
Juan Pablo Vaulet remains a bit of a mystery. The Nets only stashed pick (but the NBA's youngest at barely 20 years old) may or may not be available for summer league. He's a possibility for the Argentine national team's quest for a last Olympic medal. If not, do the Nets even think he's ready? The old regime of Billy King and Frank Zanin had hopes for this season, once he recovered and rehabbed from a stress fracture of his right ankle.
No matter what the summer brings, JPV is enjoying a good spring ... a good week. He was selected for the Argentine national federation's 23-man South American championship team. Starting on June 9, he will join the others in training camp and on June 26 will travel to Caracas for the FIBA South American tournament ending July 2. If he's done well, he could be selected for the Olympic team whose members will include Argentina's Golden Generation led by Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola. Team USA plays Argentina in Las Vegas on July 22. If he doesn't make it, he could wind up in Vegas anyway. The Las Vegas Summer League runs July 8 - 18.
In the meantime, Bahia Blanca, his team in Argentina's national league, is on a bit of a fairy tale journey through the playoffs and Vaulet is a big part of it. Friday night, he scored 15 points to lead Bahia Blanca to a spot in the LNB's Northern Division championships. A young team (that also includes Juan Pablo's younger brother, Santiago), it's been the surprise of the playoffs. And JPV has been a big reason why.
Post-game, Vaulet sounded like he has his NBA interview game down.
"We have to keep dreaming and know that what brought us here is the character and intensity. We must not lose that," he told reporters. "I think we had many situations that tested us as a team and we showed great character. I think that's what brought us here. Now, you have to enjoy and then think of San Lorenzo (their next opponent).".
For the Nets, the big positive is that Vaulet's confidence is growing. Argentine bloggers have noted that he has seemed uncertain for most of the season. Make no mistake, though, he still needs help shooting, a lot of help. He said this week that he needs to improve his shot and his physique.
Last summer, the Nets had hoped to bring him to summer league, but he suffered the stress fracture while playing in the FIBA U19 tournament in Greece. He showed up in Vegas wearing a walking boot, got some shooting tips from Paul Westphal, then went on to New York for surgery and a four month long rehab.
As we noted, JPV is still very young, 20, and he himself has said it might take him five years to take the next step. We'll know more later this summer.
One other thing about stashed picks. The Nets have only one. The Spurs have 10. Not all of them are NBA prospects, but the picks' draft rights are trade assets. They can be used in unbalanced trades. It's another area where the Nets have slim pickings.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
We're sticking with those players who can found around No. 55, where we know the Nets have a pick. With that in mind, we take a look at the player Draft Express has at that spot, Oakland's Kay Felder, this year's version of Isaiah Thomas. He's 5'8" without sneakers, a shade under 5'10" with them. Still, he Oakland product has been one of the surprise stories of the draft workout season, starting in the Pre-Draft Combine where he startled everyone one with a 44" max vertical.
He is, like Thomas, a shoot-first PG with some easy passing skills. What's his best skill? Attack, attack, attack. Surprisingly, he played some good "D" in the combine's 5x5 scrimmages, alleviating some of the usual concerns about sub-6-footers. Would the Nets go someone so unconventional. In an era of small ball rising (and with a late second rounder, why not?
Here's the Draft Express video work-up on him...
Do we know if the Nets are interested in him? We do not.
Watching the conference finals this week, you realize just how far the Nets have to go in their rebuild. These are complete teams with at least one superstar per team. It is difficult to imagine the Nets building anything like these four teams in less than three to five years ... and even that's a stretch. Next season? The best we can hope for is respectability, some excitement. It's not a bad goal to give your fans some hope, make it so they're not embarrassed, as we were this past season.
Over the weekend, Hardwood Paroxysm ran their season farewell piece on the Nets. It was ugly, but had more than a grain of truth. The final graph...
These Nets were bad, joyless and inevitable. This season was the very, very bottom. At least a team like the 76ers had interesting players and a cheap payroll, and a team like the Lakers had Kobe’s farewell tour to hide their own awkward rebuild behind. Brooklyn’s awful play was out there for the world to behold, with no excuses or legendary goodbyes to be had. There was nothing about the Nets that was particularly exciting to watch on TV, nothing to debate about them on Twitter and nothing to draw fans to games sans the brisket mac & cheese served at the Barclays Center.
The author, Chris Manning, does note some positives, other than the food selection at Barclays, like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He writes positively of the new regime of Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson ("Markskinson?") who he calls "new-age, modern thinking and represent a new era," adding "The Nets, at least it seems, are headed towards a style of play that can eventually make Brooklyn a respectable team."
No one is putting a timetable on respectability, but we'd like to see some progress in that area next season ... and are encouraged by what we've seen so far. Ownership and management are working hard, thinking outside the box, taking chances.
We always liked the Branch Rickey (of Jackie Robinson fame)'s great line, "Luck is the residue of design" (sometimes quoted as "luck is the residue of hustle" ... either will do for the purposes of this discussion.) Lets' hope that's the case. Enjoy the Finals.