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NetsDaily Off-Season Report No. 11

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Doug Bearak

Not going to sugar coat it. Nope. Nets are in a tough spot.  Jeff Goodman of ESPN in an solicited tweet  Friday morning said of Brooklyn...

An overreaction in late July when the Nets only have seven players under contract? Andy Vasquez, the veteran Nets beat writer, thought so.

Still, it's hard to argue with Goodman right now. The Nets are coming off a 21-win season, have no draft picks, no starting point guard, one center, one power forward and four guys under the age off 22. They just traded their second best player for a Draft pick.

It's hard to imagine it getting worse. They do have as much as $55 million in salary cap space, but Sean Marks is not in the business of suggesting it will get better fast.  He continues to say no "quick fixes," which we assume translates into not overpaying marginal free agents. He and Kenny Atkinson have also emphasized that the Nets will seek out international talent. So the rumors of interest in Sergio Rodriguez and Jan Vesely shouldn't be a surprise.  It's a very different world than Nets fans are used to. No grand pronouncements, no leaks of free agent targets.

Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead are "building blocks," nothing more, said Marks Thursday night, but this reconstruction is going to be a long process ... and make one mistake and it could be very long.  Let's hope for the best, but understand it's going to take a lot of patience.

The Big Reach

No team made as big a reach on Draft Night as the Nets did. In fact, it's hard to recall any team in recent memory making as big a reach.

Caris LeVert was seen as a second rounder, a deep second rounder on some boards, as deep as No. 50 on one.  The Nets took him at No. 20.  That 30-spot jump is extraordinary, maybe less so in this strange draft, but historically teams don't do that.  It's not just 30 spots. It's the difference between handing out a guaranteed two year (with another two year option) contract and offering a non-guaranteed deal.

None of the big mock drafts had LeVert in the first round .. the highest being who had him at No. 32. But Chad Ford said post-draft that he loved the pick and gave the Nets an A- grade for the overall Draft, same as he did last June..

I'm a big LeVert fan. Had he not been stalled by injuries the past two seasons, he would've likely been a late lottery pick. Wings that can defend three positions, play the point and shoot the 3 are about as valuable as you can get.

And if the Nets made the right move and he stays healthy, he would be a huge bargain. No rookie is expensive in this TV rights-infused salary cap, but at most, LeVert will cost the Nets $3,194,760 over the first two years.  A late lottery pick, say No. 13, would have cost 50 percent more.

We doubt the Nets will have to wait as long as they did last year for Chris McCullough --late February-- to join the club. He will miss summer league but we expect he will be ready for the start of the season if not soon after.  However, we ain't no orthopedist.

Summer League filling out

We've reported on each of the additions to the summer league roster: Josh Magette, the assist and steals leader in the D-League last season; and the three so far undrafted players signed: Yogi Ferrell, the Indiana point guard; Beau Beech, the North Florida swingman and Egidius Mockevicius, the Evansville center.

A few things to note about all of them:

1) the Nets worked out each of them, Magette at one of the free agent mini-camps; and the three others during Draft workouts. They also spoke to both Beech and Mockevicius at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament back in April.

2) It appears at least three of them have some sort of partial guarantee, meaning they signed NBA contracts with the team. In the past, when the Nets were way over not just the salary cap, but the luxury tax, offering partial guarantees could be costly. For example, if in 2013, the Nets offered $75,000 guarantee, it would have cost them $300,000 in salary and taxes.

3) They could wind up on the Long Island Nets. If the three undrafted players make it to training camp and then get cut, the Long Island club will automatically get their D-League rights. The guarantee will soften the blow of accepting a D-League salary (in the low five figures).  Of course, this year, the L.I. Nets will play at Barclays and practice at HSS Training Center. So that's a benefit: having the parent team front office and coaching staff scout you daily.

The one big hole in everyone's coverage of the Nets planing is what do they intend to do overseas come July 1.  We've written repeatedly about how the new front office has more than 50 years playing experience overseas, from GM Sean Marks one year in Poland to L.I. Nets SVP Alton Byrd's 16 years in British basketball. Kenny Atkinson and two of his assistants, Chris Fleming and Jordan Ott, all have FIBA experience as head coaches or assistants.  What we don't know is what they're planning, who've they've targeted in free agency.

International Watch 1

In the hours before the Draft, there was a hint about the Nets having interest in Jan Vesely, the 6'11" Czech big who went from Wizard lottery bust to a revived career in both Euroleague and FIBA play.  The Nets, Pelicans and Mavericks are all interested in Vesely, Turkish writer Ismail Senol reported.  Vesely played this season for Fenerbahce in Istanbul and there have been reports he wants back on the big stage of the NBA.

What would the Nets get in Vesely?  A hyper athletic 26-year-old who's at the top of his game. After three miserable years with Washington and Denver, Vesely returned to Europe and made the most of it.  Here's what wrote about him last month...

This season, before he was sidelined with an injury three weeks before the playoffs, Vesely ranked first among Fenerbahce's players in rebounds and minutes played, second in performance index rating and third in scoring. His two seasons with Fenerbahce have been the best of Vesely's Euroleague career, but more important than his stellar numbers has been his overall effect on the team's confidence. When big plays are needed, his teammates and coaches know that Vesely is ready to provide them. A vocal and emotional leader on and off the court, Vesely played a major role in helping Fenerbahce change its fortunes and reach the Euroleague Final Four in consecutive seasons.

That doesn't sound like the player who after being drafted sixth overall proceeded to average 3.6 points and 3.5 rebounds in 162 NBA games.  The Wizards liked his game in 2011, including his ability to hit from deep.  But there was a lot of criticism of Washington's development -- or lack of same--  with Vesely.

He might be costly. Senol, who is well wired on the Turkish and European hoops scenes, hinted the asking price for Vesely miight be as high as $30 million over three yeas.  Before you blanch and gag, note that $10 million in this cap environment is the equivalent of $7.4 million this past season.  Is he worth it? Take a look at this Euroleague compilation of his highlights in January, when he was MVP for the month.

A couple of other notes from overseas.  We noted over the weekend that Woj (all heads bow) talked with Alessandro Gentile, the 6'7" future of Italian basketball who wants to join the NBA next season.  Woj, the Italians call "guru della stampa online USA, reports that Gentile's rights, held by the Rockets, were almost traded to the Knicks on Draft Night, but the deal didn't go down.

Woj also says there are three other teams interested in the hot shooting small forward's rights. He didn't name them. Of course, signing Gentile is complicated by the rights issue.  The Nets or any other team would have to first acquire the rights from Houston, then make a deal.  Do we have any idea the Nets are interested in Gentile?  We do not.

And of course, David Pick (the European Woj) reported that the Nets are in the lead position on Sergio Rodriguez, the Spanish point guard who IS among the world's best passers. He played 285 games in four NBA seasons, but had trouble with turnovers and getting shuttled around. So in 2011, he turned down the Knicks offer and went back to Madrid.

Nets fans don't seem to get how big the international aspect of free agency is going to be.  Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson keep talking about it and the team keeps hiring people with LONG records of playing and coaching in Europe and China. Yet, it doesn't seem to sink in.

Pick notes that former Euroleague star and Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon scouted Rodriguez back in April and we wonder what else Chris Fleming, Nets assistant and German national team coach, was up to on his European trip earlier this month ... besides talking to and watching Bojan Bogdanovic.  Seems like a long way to go for one visit.

Speaking of internationals, we still haven't heard anything definitive on Anthony Bennett who is playing for Team Canada for the rest of the summer.  But the departure of Thaddeus Young and the likelihood that Willie Reed and Thomas Robinson won't return could open up minutes for him.

Draft Sleeper of the Month

The Draft is over, you might say. Why a Draft Sleeper segment?  Wellll, it's time for some chest thumping!  For the first time since we started up the NetsDaily Off-Season Report nine LONG years ago, we can say, we told you so on the Draft.  We suggested Caris LeVert as a Nets Draft Sleeper in Off-Season Report No. 8 and Isaiah Whitehead in Off-Season Report No. 4.

We liked taking a chance on an injured player in LeVert, citing the example of Chris McCullough, and on the Brooklyn homeboy (and Seton Hall product ... oh yes) with his toughness.

Congratulations to us.  Well deserved.  Clap, clap.

Juan Pablo tries out for the Olympics

Nets stash Juan Pablo Vaulet sat out the FIBA South American tournament this month, agreeing with the Argentine national coach that he should rest following a tough season that ended just before practice began for the national team. There were two other considerations, one reported, one not.  The reported one was that Vaulet wanted to rest his surgically repaired ankle. The unreported was that he wanted to visit the Nets in New York.  It's unknown if those meetings, including a medical review of his ankle, took place.

Whatever happened, or didn't, Vaulet is now back on the Argentine national team and will try out for the Olympics, one of 20 players named this weekend to the preliminary squad.  He will join the team, including Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni on July 4.  On July 12, as long as he is still on the squad, he will travel to Las Vegas (where the Nets summer league team will be playing) for three "friendlies," two against Nigeria on July 18 and 20, then Team USA on July 22.  That game will be televised on NBA TV.  Team Argentina will then head home, play two friendly tournaments at the end of the month before heading to Rio de Janiero for the Summer Olympics.

Will he make it? It will be tough. The Olympics are seen as Ginobili's last shot at medaling.  He led Argentina's "Golden Generation" to the gold medal in 2004. Expect coach Sergio Hernandez to give him, Scola and Nocioni as much time as they can handle in Rio. It won't be about development as much as it will be about winning.

Unless the Nets sign an international player in free agency, Vaulet has the best chance of any Net, if he survives the cuts, of playing in Rio.  Bojan Bogdanovic's Croatian team faces a tough time qualifying for the Olympics.  Will Weaver, special assistant to Kenny Atkinson, is an assistant coach with Team Australia, which is guaranteed a spot.

King Redux and Revised

You may have missed a story we did Thursday morning before Woj bombed the Nets with the Thaddeus Young rumor.  It was about Billy King, in another radio interview, subtly trying to shift responsibility from him to ownership for the series of blunders that led the Nets to where Jeff Goodman thinks they are today.

King is talking a lot lately about his relationship with ownership, particularly Mikhail Prokhorov and Dmitry Razumov. He seems to suggest that ownership had final word.  That's not quite the case, as we reported...

The relationship between King and ownership was always a bit murky as to who had ultimate responsibility, but Prokhorov did give his CEO, Dmitry Razumov, much of the control in basketball operations and he worked directly with King.  In some instances, Razumov pushed King, in others it was the reverse, according to multiple team insiders. In any event, the process was driven by a small group ethos, with few outside the inner circle having a say in the biggest decisions.

Razumov may have wanted, as King said, to "win now," but there was certainly instances where King would not go along. Razumov --and Brett Yormark-- for example wanted the Nets to acquire Brooklyn's Lance Stephenson last year, but King steadfastly refused, seeing Stephenson as a bad fit for the team culture. Also, King reportedly hired Lionel Hollins without a face-to-face meeting with Prokhorov or Razumov. It was essentially King's call.

King also joked to season ticket-holders at a March 2015 dinner in Brooklyn that Razumov "had an ESPN trade machine account" and would call him with proposed trades which he would gently reject. He said Razumov would also suggest names of free agents the Nets could pursue but would not press it when King would say No.

On the other hand, ownership did push the Boston trade on Draft Day three years ago, pressing King to get it done that day.  And of course, it did.  There was, however, no disagreement between management and owenrship on the idea behind trade. Few inside beyond King, Razumov and a small group of insiders were familiar with all the details until the deal was done, according to various sources. King has said there was.

It's important to remember all this as revisionist history gets written, with its requisite finger-pointing.  There's plenty of blame to go around.  Plenty.

The rebuild so far...

We moved this section down this week since there were no new hires or promotions we know of and the news for once was about players, not staff.  Still, we want to post it so those who are just dropping by get a sense of where the Nets are.

--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, 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.

We expect the Nets to announce the complete coaching staff very soon, like maybe this week.

Final Note

Doug Bearak, Nets fan extraordinaire, has some Photoshop skills.  The image that headlines this report is his work. He makes it appear that Caris LeVert was drafted by the Nets outright, rather than having his rights traded from Indiana to Brooklyn.

He's also pushing the idea that isaiah Whitehead, taken 42nd in the draft, adopt 42 as his uniform number, both to make sure he recalls how far he dropped in the Draft and to honor Jackie Robinson, the pioneering Brooklyn Dodger who wore than number.  (Jerry Stackhouse was the last Brooklyn Net to wear that number.)

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