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NetsDaily Off-Season Report No. 18

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It's slow. And it will likely get slower as players and executives take vacations.  No people, no news.  But the Olympics are still going on.  So here's this week's mishmash. Preseason is only six weeks away.

Bojan as MVP

It is not a stretch, at all, to say Bojan Bogdanovic is the most valuable player in mens' basketball at the Rio Olympics.  No player has meant more to his team's success than Bogdanovic has to Croatia's.  He's averaging better than 25 points a game, more than one-third of his team's points, just as he did in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

On Saturday night, Croatia's coach Aco Petrovic, basically turned the offense over to the Bogdanovic after the team went down big against Nigeria. The team's two other NBA players -- Mario Hezonja and Dario Saric -- are both talented, but neither can score in the ways Bogdanovic can. They.wound up with a combined 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting.  Bogdanovic hit three's from deep, sometimes in the face of double teams. He scored from the high and low posts, and drove the lane, using his strength to finish.

As many have noted, Bogdanovic plays a confidence game. When he's confident, he can use his many talents. At least on offense.  His defense, uh, still needs work, even in the Olympics.

Synergy and Lin-ergy in eSports

Okay, we are no experts on eSports, but when Jeremy Lin traveled to the Pacific Northwest this weekend, in part, to promote the Dota2 tournament at Seattle's Key Arena, it caught our eye. Dota or DOTA or "Defense of the Ancients" or the "multi-player battle arena subgenre." attracted thousands of fans over five days.

Lin even compared NBA players to Dota players.

Lin was a star attraction in Seattle, but no bigger than the celebrity gamers who came to play. He said he often plays online games, even while on the road. He gets it and his support for the tournament, with a $9 million grand prize, got a lot of attention from gamers.

Arash Markazi of ESPN spoke at length to Lin at the tournament.

"There was a basketball tournament this year that had a $2 million cash prize, and people were saying how crazy that was, and this is 10 times that," Lin said. "It just shows that gaming is so much further along than people understand. If you look globally, gaming is huge, and it just shows there's significant interest and it's accessible. Anybody can play anytime, anywhere, as long as you have good internet."

So much so that Lin is thinking of investing in eSports.

"I'm looking into these opportunities, and it's authentic, because I play the game three to four times a week and I have since I was 16 years old," Lin said. "I've been playing for the last 11 years, every week, several times, so it's something I love doing. So I'm definitely trying to get into this space as much as I can.

"We're still talking about endorsements. I'm an NBA player, and I'm taken care of very well. When I endorse a team, I'll take care of the team very well. I hope to [take] my experience from the NBA and bring it to eSports."

Interesting and so is this ... our story from May on how Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, Mikhail Prokhorov's "mother ship", is interested in investing in eSports too! Brett Yormark, CEO of BSE, specifically said a year ago that the Prokhorov et al were also interested in taking an equity interest in eSports.

A few weeks before the Nets open at Barclays Center, you'll see the first step. ESL, the world’s largest esports company, will bring the East Coast’s largest eSports tournament to Barclays Center, the $250,000 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competition.

Expect to see big promotions soon, like this one on the Barclays Center website.

Would Lin and Prokhorov find common ground in eSports? Could eSports synergy become Lin-Ergy   (Forgive us) No idea, but we think it's worth watching.

Mitch and Larry

This is a story about the latest Nets staff hire (as far as we can tell), Mitch Heckart, who recently joined the Nets P..R. staff.

Before 2015, the Larry O'Brien Trophy, the one the commissioner hands out amidst the confetti at the end of the NBA Finals, wouldn't travel  "Larry," as he is known to his closest friends, would wind up in a case. But that year, Matt Bonner of the Spurs asked if he could bring the trophy to his hometown in New Hampshire, maybe to a small town concert.

The San Antonio front office, who held the deed to the trophy agreed, and this being the Spurs decided to let every member of the team, all 15 of them, show it off in their hometowns.  And this being the Spurs, with its international roster, that meant 1) it would travel the world and 2) it needed an escort.

Enter Heckart, then of the Spurs P.R. staff.  R.C. Buford, the Spurs G.M., assigned Heckart to take "Larry" wherever "he" needed to go. That meant a lot of travel.

As he told the Daily Oklahoman last October, "Whatever they wanted to do with it, we were OK with it. We weren't doing it for the publicity. We were just really trying to reward the players."

Heckart was gone for three months. He didn't even have a passport before starting the Tour of Larry." By the end, he had stamps from six countries on four different continents.

There were issues, like with TSA. "what's in the box?" they would ask. Sometimes, he had check the trophy as luggage!  And at one point, "Larry" got dented, but Tiffany, the New York jeweler who provides the trophy, repaired it.

His favorite moment came in New Hampshire when Bonner, with no warning, brought the trophy to a playground.

"There were kids out there playing pick-up basketball," Heckart said, "and here Matt Bonner shows up with the Larry O'Brien Trophy, and the kids go crazy." he told The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson. "I think those were the moments that really, from my perspective, that were the coolest to see."

Fun story, sure. But it also says everything you need to know about the Spurs culture that Sean Marks is trying to replicate in Brooklyn.

Ott's take

Jordan Ott is one of the Nets new assistant coaches, specifically assistant coach and director of advance scouting,a 31-year-old who worked with Kenny Atkinson in Atlanta and on the Dominican Republic national team.  In a recent interview with his hometown newspaper, the McConnellsburg Public Opinion, Ott talked about  the "whirlwind" nature of the Nets off-season, his development as a coach under Atkinson and free agency, which surprised him.

"Free agency is a lot harder than I imagined," Ott said. "It's not fantasy football or fantasy basketball. There are so many moving parts. And there are a lot more to players than just their stats. We want to create a culture here. We don't want to sacrifice a bad character person for a few wins. There is definitely a lot of thought in every decision."

But he has faith in Atklnson.

"I always wanted to coach, and coaching the Dominican Republic team last summer was a blessing," Ott said. "I was able to do more with the team and Kenny got to see me in a different light. Eventually coaching with him led me to becoming an assistant at a higher level."

Good for Scola

The long-time rivalry between Portuguese-speaking Brazil and Spanish-speaking Argentina was evident Saturday night when the two nations faced off in Rio's Carioca Arena.

Before the game, Marcelo Huertas of Brazil (and the Lakers) and Luis Scola of Argentina (and of course the Nets) spoke to the fans about sportsmanship, asking them, as AP's Brian Mahoney wrote, to cheer In a respectful manner and not engage in the violence that sometimes mars their soccer matches.

Initially, fans didn't want to hear about it and drowned out the two captains, but ultimately they got their say.  After the game, Scola told Mahoney that keeping things sane includes avoiding analogies between sports and the horrors of war.  And it's not just fans.

He pointed at athletes using terms like "war," "battle" and "do or die," saying that makes the games something they really aren’t.

"Nobody died today and nobody will die the next game," Scola said. "It's just a game. Next time Brazil will win and nobody will die then, either."

Final Note

Last week, we noted who among the Nets players and staff were in Rio.  We forgot one. Team Hype.  As they tweeted out Saturday, they're part of the NBA House at he Olympics.