Well, another week has passed, this one without much news. So we'll engage in history and housing.
Keeping track of the rebuild
There were no announcements of hires --or even WojBombs-- this week, but we hear that the Nets will be hiring yet another assistant coach with extensive overseas experience. Nothing official yet, so we don't want to reveal anything, but if there is one trend in hiring, other than how young the staff is, it's the international experience.
That said, here's what we know about 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.
We expect most key jobs to be filled this month. Marks said he wants player agents to know things have changed in Brooklyn by the time free agency has begun.
The Nets will work out more free agents, starting Monday. We don't know if it's a mini-camp or a workout. That definition would depend on how many players would be worked out. So far, as we've reported, we know four names, thanks mainly to David Pick, the European hoops blogger, and the Dominican Republic press. Here are the names...
--Rigoberto Mendoza, 23 ,a 6'3" shooting guard who has played in the D.R., Spain and Puerto Rico. Known for his explosive scoring, Mendoza has played with the Dominican Republic national team the past three years. Just last week, Mendoza scored 50 points in a Puerto Rican league game. He was 12-for-12 from two point range and 6-of-12 from three.
--Juan Jose Garcia, 27, a 6'7" power forward has played the last six years in Spain, most recently for CAI Zaragoza and Basquet Manresa. More of a rebounder than a scorer, Garcia has been mostly a bench player the last several years in Spain, but a contributor to Atkinson's D.R. national team that has featured Al Horford and Charlie Villanueva.
--Kwame Vaughn, a 6'3" Fullerton State product, can play both guard positions. Like many of those who participated in this week's mini-camp, he's an American who has played significant time overseas. He's done well in Israel, Belgium and Italy, averaging 16.5 points in Belgium and 17.8 points in Israel this season. He's known as a three point shooter and has had previous summer league stints with the Warriors and Wizards.
--McKenzie Moore, a 6'6" UTEP product, played for two New Zealand NBL teams last two seasons sandwiched around a tour in Belgium. On Sunday, it was announced that he was MVP of the league down under. He averaged better than 20 points for both teams, shooting better than 40 percent from deep. He had a summer league stint with the Bucks last year, but no other NBA experience.
-- Aaron Thomas, a 6'6" shooting guard who played for Florida State before going undrafted and heading overseas to Germany, where he played eight games. He worked out for the Nets after his senior year at FSU. He can shoot the three, averaging 40 percent from deep in Germany.
And since we're keeping track, add Levi Randolph to the list of players who attended last month's mini-camp. The 6'5" Alabama shooting guard played last season for the Maine Red Claws after being cut in the Celtics training camp. Before that, he played for the Thunder and Jazz summer league teams last July.
One thing you do sense from all the free agent workouts: the Nets are bringing in a lot of shooters.
Working out the undrafted
CBS Sports mock draft is serious. It not only ranks the top 60 prospects, those they think will get drafted. It goes all the say down the line to 150. Running their list against our list of draft prospects who the Nets have worked out, scheduled workouts or interviewed at the Pre-Draft Combine, we came up with some interesting data.
Of the players ranked between 61 and 100, 15 of them have interested the Nets. Another five of interest to the Nets fall between 101 and 150. Kinda depressing, you would think. It suggests that player agents don't want to set up time-consuming trips to New York so a team with one second round pick, at No. 55, can examine their top clients. They're willing to bring in those players with limited chances of getting drafted, of course. You never know when some scout will see a spark of something.
But on the other hand, there may be a method to the Nets madness. After all, the Nets are looking at players for two teams that will play at Barclays Center next year, the Brooklyn AND Long Island Nets. So, it makes sense for both sides --the player agents and the Nets-- to set up workouts. The D-League draft is the first week of November, by the way.
Who's the top prospect the Nets have looked at... or we should say who's the top prospect we know has made the trek to Brooklyn? That would probably be DeAndre' Bembry of St. Joseph's in Philadelphia. The 6'6" small forward has been moving up mock draft boards based on his workouts.
Revisiting Shaun Livingston's departure
Shaun Livingston proved, once again, his value to the Warriors this week with a 20-point performance in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. It was vintage Livingston, a game based on guile and a mid-range game that never seems to fail. On a team of three-point masters, Livingston at 30 added another element.
The Nets role in Livingston's career is well-known to Brooklyn fans. After a devastating injury in 2007 that sapped his athleticism, Livingston bounced around the league (and D-League). In 2012-13, he had a more or less stable season, playing 66 games with Washington and Cleveland. That summer, the Nets were in the market for a back-up point guard, the final piece in their star-studded (and ultimately star-crossed) off-season.
Billy King wanted Jamaal Tinsley, a journeyman who was, it turned out, at the end of his NBA journey. New coach Jason Kidd and Lawrence Frank wanted Livingston. King relented and the Nets signed Livingston to a one-year, vets minimum deal. (Tinsley played eight games for the Jazz, scored nine points, then hung it up.)
King --and others on the Nets staff-- feared that Livingston was too fragile for such a critical role. There was no team or player option. That turned out to be a mistake. After Brook Lopez broke his foot early in the season, Kidd went small with Livingston playing alongside Deron Williams and ultimately, the team figured it out, getting to the second round. Livingston played 76 games, started 54 and played a career-high 1,974 minutes. The signing looked like a stroke of genius.
But come June, the Nets realized they wouldn't be able to re-sign Livingston. So capped out after the Boston trade, all they could offer him was the mini-MLE, $10 million over three years. The Warriors offered three years and $16 million, the final season (next season) was only partially guaranteed, $3 million on $5.8 million.
"It's just free agency, it is what it is," King stated. "And I respect the face that guys have the ability as free agents to try to make as much money as possible."
Of course, there was another issue, the Kidd - King debacle. Livingston had lost his champion in Kidd. The Nets coaching situation was again unstable. But truth be told, Livingston had no choice. At the time, it looked like this would be his last, best chance for a big contract. (That may no longer be true.)
Livingston tweeted out his thanks to the Nets organization and fans.
King then used the mini-MLE to sign Bojan Bogdanovic and traded Marcus Thornton for Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time. Like a lot of things in that time period, it was. Of course, Livingston's arrival in Golden State was a bigger deal than his departure from Brooklyn. But still, if the Nets and Livingston had agreed to a team option in that second year --which is more or less standard practice-- the Nets could have kept him at a bargain rate AND use the mini-MLE on Bogdanovic.
For all the gory details, read Anthony Puccio's coverage from July 2014. We'd say "enjoy," but we can't.
Brooklyn, here we come
Led by Kenny Atkinson and Thaddeus Young, Nets staff and players are slowly making their way from New Jersey to Brooklyn. As we've noted, Thaddeus Young completed the move last year and Brook Lopez has a pad in Brooklyn in addition to the condo he's long rented along the Hudson in New Jersey. (Not to mention the house he's building on the DisneyWorld property.)
While the Nets were in East Rutherford, N.J., living in North Jersey was the smart thing, but living in New Jersey and working in Brooklyn is not for the faint of heart. It's a haul that can take hours to complete. And the alternative, moving to Brooklyn, has the element of sticker shock, especially for the younger, lower-paid staff.
Even mass transit options take time from New Jersey. You can ride a train or a bus into Penn Station or Port Authority, then switch to the D, N or R subway lines and get off at the 36th Street stop in Brooklyn. From there, it's a four-block walk. Door-to-door, if you're lucky, takes at least an hour.
Two transit improvements could help give staff a broader range of commuting and housing options, helping them get beyond a choice of fighting their way through New York traffic or sacrificing square footage for convenience. But they're years away.
--The owners of Industry City, the complex housing the HSS Training Center, are lobbying for a new ferry stop on 39th Street, a few hundred feet away from the practice facility. Actually, there was a ferry stop there for decades, but as things fell into disrepair, it was abandoned. Nets employees would have a pleasant commute and a greater range of neighborhoods, from New Jersey to Queens, to choose from.
--The city has already laid out a plan for a Brooklyn-Queens Connector, a light rail system that would snake along the East River for 16 miles, much of it along 3rd Avenue, below the BQE. It would include a stop near the practice facility . Here's an architect's rendering of what it would look like as it moves past Industry City...
And a video laying out how it fits into the city transit system.
But this being New York, don't expect anything soon. The best scenario of the BQX, as the light-rail system is being called, would have it open in 2024 and cost $2.5 billion. And so far, the city has resisted the ferry stop at 36th Street.
Would it matter to players? Not likely. You're not going to see guys making $10 million hop on the light rail (or ferry). But if you want to attract the best staff by giving them a full-range of options, a new ferry slip and/or a light-rail would help.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
The Nets took a chance last June on a player with lottery potential ... and a torn ACL. The spin at the time was that Chris McCullough would be the Nets 2016 first round equivalent once he recovered. Well, so far, so good. The 6'11" stretch 4 may have missed 50 games rehabbing and recovering but as he progressed late in the season, he looked like a smart choice.
So, let's do it again! Caris Levert is a 6'7" combo guard forward with injury issues that make McCullough's look minor. First the good news, as Draft Express writes...
LeVert's height, measured at 6'7", is his best physical asset and one of the main reasons NBA teams are excited about him. He has the potential to play anywhere from the point guard spot to the small forward position, but looks to fit best as a combo guard at the next level. His size allows him to shoot or pass over smaller defenders as he can easily see the floor.
The rest of his physical profile doesn't have any single overly impressive feature, but his overall package puts him on par with many NBA guards.
Now, the bad, also from Draft Express...
For the second straight season, Michigan's Caris LeVert had his season cut short by an injury. Last year, a broken left foot caused him to miss the final 14 games of his junior season, the same foot he had already had surgery on due to a stress fracture. Now as a senior, LeVert was diagnosed with a lower left leg injury (which Michigan claims is "unrelated" to his previous foot problems) that saw him play just 19 of his team's final 20 games, bringing his total games played in the past two seasons to 31, just 45% of possible games.
Ah, but wait, before you consign LeVert to the dustbin of injury, let us remind you that his foot surgeon is Dr. Martin O'Malley, the Nets foot and ankle specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery and a certified miracle worker. Ask Brook Lopez, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Juan Pablo Vaulet ... or Kevin Durant. Here's what KD told the Michigan product a couple of weeks ago at the Draft Combine...
"He just said 'Once Doc finishes with you, you'll be like brand new,'" LeVert said recalling Durant's advice. "He told me just to stay with the course, it's a long process, but just stay with it, don't get anxious."
Here's Mike Schmitz's typically terrific video assessment of LeVert's game...
Of course, the Nets would have to move up. LeVert is now No. 46 on Draft Express' latest mock draft, No 43 on Chad Ford's Top 100 and No. 33 on NBADraft.net. Getting to No. 33 (where the Nets would've been if it wasn't for the Clipper swap) would be difficult. The others are within the range of possibility.
Nets fans opinion of Anthony Bennett's prospects range from "why not?" to "no way!" The prototypical draft bust from the 2013 Draft is polarizing. Some recall Billy King's series of rescue projects last July and wonder what's the difference between this AB and last year's AB (Andrea Bargnani) other than $3 million of course. Others like the idea of finding a diamond-in-the-rough. We tend to side with the latter. He's 23 and a summer league invite costs nothing.
He played well at last month's mini-camp, according to what another camp participant told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Well, suppose the Nets do like him enough to invite him to camp. And suppose he does well. Where's he fit?
As Andres_B, one of our favorite posters -- and another AB, noted on an ND forum, the power forward position is already kind of busy, with Thaddeus Young and Chris McCullough. Not to mention Thomas Robinson, who has a player option next season. Is it worth it for either side to sign Bennett ... and not play him that much?
Well, here's our take (again). If you're trying to make up for lost picks, maybe you should go the BPA route, just as you would in the Draft. If he is the best player available in mini-camp, why not take a chance? It's not as if a lot of teams will be knocking down the door of Jeff Schwartz's offices. Besides, we could use the story line.
We're torn between who to root for in the NBA Finals, based purely on which former Net we'd like to see holding up the O'Brien Trophy. We've already written this week about Shaun Livingston, but he has a ring. So, we're rooting for RJ, Richard Jefferson, who gave us such thrills when a Net in the Jason Kidd era.
RJ spoke to Harvey Araton of the Times this week about playing on those teams, teams that were constrained by Bruce Ratner's penny-pinching way and a lack of support. (The last time a Finals game failed to sell out was Game 4 at the Continental Airlines Arena.)
"I’ll tell you this, J-Kidd was the most fun to play with," Jefferson told Araton, who noted that Jefferson might have believed after his first two years in the NBA that a trip to the Finals "might be an annual occurrence, just like his birthday."
Now, he's back, for the first time in 13 years, tying a record for the longest stretch between Finals appearances. Jefferson has had a 15-year career, which he describes as "humbling," playing with some of the greats -- and earning $110 million in salary alone. At 35, this could be his last chance. So, we wish him well and hope to see that million dollar smile of his at series end.