Lots of news this week with the naming of the performance team and the report, confirmed by NetsDaily, that Will Weaver will serve as Kenny Atkinson's special assistant. He worked as a special assistant to Brett Brown in Philly,
The rebuild so far
Busy week for Sean Marks with additions to the coaching staff and the performance team, four more new faces, some from faraway places.
Here's what we know about the rebuild... and we updated some of the data.
--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
--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, 33, 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, 50, pro and college scout, hired from Stanford University, announced May 5.
--Jordan Ott, 31, 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.
--Will Weaver, 31, special assistant to the head coach, hired from the 76ers, reported June 7, but not yet announced.
--Zach Weatherford, 45, director of player performance, hired from the Naval Special Warfare Command, announced June 9.
--Dan Meehan, 34, head strength and conditioning coach/sport scientist, hired from the North Melbourne Football Club, announced June 9.
--Aisling Toolan, 31, director of physical therapy, hired from the Hospital for Special Surgery, announced June 9.
Also, Ryan Gisriel, 26, has been promoted from assistant to the General Manager to Director, Basketball Administration, announced on May 5, and Lloyd Beckett, 31, has been promoted from assistant trainer to trainer/physical therapist for the Nets. Aaron Harris, who had been No. 2 behind the departed Gary Sussman, has assumed the top P.R. role.
Lot of outside the box thinking here, particularly Natalie Jay and Zach Weatherford, who come from very different jobs in the federal government. Jay will handle all basketball operations contracts in addition to capology. How often does an NBA team hire a Harvard-educated lawyer --and clerk to one of the leading federal appellate court judges-- to be their capologist? (Okay, it's never happened before.) Weatheford was in charge of not just the SEAL teams physical performance in Coronado, CA, but also other spooky Navy teams like the Underwater Demolition Teams. We're told other NBA teams had pursued him in recent years.
Some other interesting notes. Lloyd Beckett, who's replacing Tim Walsh, has a Ph.D in physical training and worked with Marine Special Forces. Aisling Toolan has a Ph.D as well. She also played international soccer with the Irish national team before emigrating to the U.S. Will Weaver has a masters degree in kinesiology, the study of the mechanics of body movements. That sports science background was one reason the technologically savvy Sam Hinkie hired him two years ago. There are two lawyers: Natalie Jay and Andrew Baker, the coordinator for strategic planning.
Also, there is a serious appreciation for international basketball background. If you count Alton Byrd, the Long Island Nets' vice-president for business operations, there's nearly 50 years of combined overseas experience. Byrd, who dominated British basketball and still holds some national records, played 16 years in the U.K. Kenny Atkinson played 14 years all around the continent. Trajan Langdon played eight, mostly in Russia. Chris Fleming played six in Germany. Shelden Williams played three in France and China. Even Marks played a year in Poland. Expect another assistant coach with international experience to be hired soon.
Atkinson and Fleming also have been head coaches of the national teams in the Dominican Republic and Germany while Jordan Ott and Will Weaver have been assistant coaches of the D.R. and Australian teams. Lots of talent on those rosters.
And now, some skepticism...
As we've noted before, this is a very inexperienced group, if you look at the big jobs they've assumed. Marks and Atkinson both held the No. 2 jobs, but not the No. 1. Langdon's experience is limited for an assistant GM . Some them are making huge transitions. It will be interesting to see how Weatherford makes the switch from tending to men willing to sacrifice their lives for their country to mutli-millionaire professional athletes. Meehan is going from Australian rules football to the NBA, Jay from the somewhat cloistered environment of the law to the wide open world of the NBA. Some --and we've heard this-- wonder if they are putting too much of a premium on international experience. The same people wonder who will have the personal touch, the relationships needed for making deals with teams, with agents.
Will it work? We certainly hope so. Hope is our biggest asset here at NetsDaily. It always has been.
Jeremy Lin was in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, this week, for an adidas event. Taiwan, the island nation off the Chinese coast, is his family's ancestral home. More than 200 fans greeted him as well as reporters, including the Taipei Times, which quoted him on free agency.
"To me, the most important thing as a free agent is that I am happy when I play basketball or show up for work. I was happy last year, but I was not particularly happy for the first five years [as an NBA player]," he said at a press conference in Taipei. "To be happy, I need to consider a few things. Of course I am going to consider who is coaching the team, the team’s style, the players on the team and their chance of winning, as well as the on-court time I have and if I have a chance to start."
As to his future, Lin said his agent would talk to him after the NBA Draft. He'll want to see who got traded. The 27-year-old had a productive season, averaging 11.7 points, 3 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game. His average score went up to 12.4 points in the playoffs and was quite higher when he filled in for starter Kemba Walker.
Lin, of course, is a big fan of Kenny Atkinson and the feeling is mutual. It was Atkinson who worked with him before the breakout of LinSanity in 2012. New York, of course, would bring back memories of those heady days in the Garden when Lin held the city in the palm of his hand. Does he want the pressure of that again? Would he rather be close to his family's West Coast home? Does he want a long-term contract, having played for six teams in six years? On the other side of the issue, how much do the Nets like Lin?
He is expected to officially opt out of his contract this week. He has 11 days to do so. As much as he likes life in Charlotte and his teammates --he organized the team Bible study class-- the Hornets have higher priorities this summer, like re-signing Nicolas Batum and three other free agents. The others are Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams and Courtney Lee.
.Juan Pablo needs a rest
The Argentina team met Thursday to begin practice for the FIBA South American championships in Venezuela and the Stankovic Cup, an international tournament held annually in China. But Juan Pablo Vaulet was not on the roster. He had been invited, but the coaching staff of the national team decided after talking to him, that it was best he not participate. Specifically, according to Argentine media, he needed to rest his surgically repaired right ankle after a season that ended the day before with a loss in the conference finals.
As one blogger pointed out, Vaulet was replaced by one of his teammates on Bahia Blanca. So, he says, it was all about the ankle.
"After a talk with Juan Pablo where I asked how he was and how he felt after the season, and despite the good will of him joining the concentration, we have decided with the rest of the coaching staff prioritize the rest of the player. Especially to take care of him, "said coach Sergio Hernandez.
There is still a possibility that JPV will get a tryout with the national team before the Olympic team is selected, but that's a remote possibility. In the meantime, expect he and the Nets to figure out the next step. It's unlikely he's going to be on the Brooklyn roster. He has too many issues, even beyond the injury. His shooting is inconsistent and he is very young, having just turned 20 in March. He'd be the fifth youngest player in Nets history.
One Argentine writer suggested that it might be wise for him to head to Europe where the competition is a lot better ... and there are easier ways for the Nets to monitor his development. Stay tuned.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
We don't have a complete list of all the draft prospects who've been through the HSS Training Center. The Nets don't release the names. Still, from what we can tell, the prospect who's ranked highest on Draft Express mock draft is Isaia Cordinier, the 6'5" shooting guard from France who's projected as a mid-30's pick. (DeAndre Bembry, who's now as high as No. 20 in mock drafts worked out when he was seen as a second rounder).
Cordinier, who was in this week, is hyper-athletic, 19 years old. Draft Express' Jonathan Givony wrote this about him in February...
Cordinier has developed into one of the division’s best players, averaging 19.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.3 steals and one block per 40 minutes. He had one of his best games of the season with a number of NBA scouts in attendance, posting nine points, six rebounds, nine assists in 34 minutes in a win.
Head coach Jean-Christophe Prat raves about Cordinier’s work ethic and intangibles, and believes he has a significant future ahead of him at the highest levels of basketball. In a country that hasn’t always done a great job providing its young prospects with minutes, opportunity and support, it is refreshing to find a situation like this.
The problem is that the "division" is the second level of the French league.Still, Givony talked about how Cordinier's potential as a combo guard, highlighting his "quick first step" and "extremely unselfish," noting as well his improved jumper and range.
Here's his strengths...
And there is somewhat of a Nets connection. He plays for Denain in southern France. Denain was the hometown club of Herve Dubuisson, the first French player to be invited to try out for an NBA team (the New Jersey Nets in the 1980s).
The theft of Jonathon Simmons
In August, young men will gather at Basketball City in Manhattan to try out for D-League teams. They will have paid a $350 registration fee to show off their talents to D-League scouts. Everyone of them hope they can become Jonathon Simmons, who took the same route and now is a rotation player on the Spurs.
That's the focus of recent national stories on Simmons, the rags-to-riches journey of a Houston kid who refused to give up on his dream. But that's not the story we're going to tell. We want to review, in some depth, how the Nets were smart enough to see his talent, but not aggressive enough to move to sign him. As the Nets look for diamonds in the rough and espouse development as the way out of their current mess, it's a cautionary tale.
A year ago, Simmons looked like a good guy to sign to a summer league deal. He had averaged 15 and 6 for the Austin Spurs the season before. He was both hyper athletic and a good shooter out to the three-point line. Simmons hadn't gotten much attention from San Antonio at that point and joined the Nets. He was a bit older, 25.
The first game of the Orlando summer league, on July 4, against, the Grizzlies, Simmons didn't play. He was a DNP-CD. The Nets two assistants who ran the team, Jay Humphries and Joe Wolf, apparently didn't know enough about him and their focus was on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and to a lesser degree, Cliff Alexander, who had gone from a projected overall No. 1 after high school to undrafted.
So, in the second game, they decided to use Simmons, who played with abandon, supplying needed energy ... and offense. He getting slammed repeatedly as he went to the rim but kept going. On defense, he stood his ground underneath. The 6'6" swingman finished with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists.
In Game 3, it was more of the same. Simmons once again played a tough game, finishing with 11 points, on 4-of-10 shooting, including 1-of-3 from deep. Fans started to notice. As we wrote back then, "the 6'6" swingman may be playing his way into a training camp invite."
Again in the third of five games, Simmons scored 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting and grabbed four rebounds. There was a thunderous dunk. But still, the Nets didn't move. The Spurs, realizing their mistake, did.
He was on the Nets team bus, preparing for the final summer league game in Orlando, when he received a phone call offering him a two-year contract with the Spurs! He quickly agreed and ultimately signed a guaranteed deal with San Antonio, $515,000 in year one, $874,000 non-guaranteed in the second. He got off the bus and joined the Spurs summer league team in Las Vegas, where he led the Becky Hammon-led team to a 5-0 record. It was Simmons who quoted about how Hammon was a great coach.
He played 55 games with the Spurs, averaged six points in 15 minutes, shooting 50.3/38.3/75.0 for the season. The Spurs have until July 1 to guarantee that second year but considering that they want to go more athletic, he will probably get that done soon.
Bad karma or bad decision-making. Take your choice, but we know if it was karma, who made the call from San Antonio.
We found it interesting that Chris Fleming, one of the Nets new assistant coaches, flew to Zagreb, Croatia, for a few days to meet with Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic told a reporter in Croatia it impressed him...
"It’s important for me that Chris came to Zagreb, that Nets sent him there. That’s proof for me that Nets have big plans for me in next season. We talked a lot what I should improve in my game. He said me how to be more consistent in spot up shooting coming from screens. Also, I should post up more, because I did that a lot in Europe, but not in NBA."
Sending staff overseas is not that rare. The Nets did it when Billy King went to Turkey during the 2011 lockout to watch and support Deron Williams. Frank Zanin went to Argentina earlier this season to talk with Juan Pablo Vaulet. But Fleming isn't just a Nets staffer. He's an assistant coach, a new assistant coach ... and a FIBA head coach. Fleming is the head coach of the German national team. He knows Bogdanovic's strengths and weaknesses.
There are a lot of advantages to having a diverse staff. This has to one of them.
Here's another: the leading overseas draft prospect at this week's adidas Eurocamp -- the international equivalent of the Pre-Draft combine -- is Paul Zipser, a 6'8" swingman ... who plays for Fleming on the German national team.