How close are we to training camp? Media Day is two weeks from Monday! So that means only two more Off-Season Reports. Put down your hankies. Once PRE-season starts, every day will be like an OFF-season report.
We've said it's a potpurri of information and data before. This time we mean it.
The Great Experiment
That's what we are calling the Nets plan. The "experiment" is: can an NBA team with a roster filled with players whose talent has been overlooked, underestimated, misused, under utilized or just plain lacking succeed with great player development, performance, medical and coaching staffs? Not to mention character and culture. And can an NBA team with 10 new players make up for a lack of continuity by having almost all of them in the gym, day after day, for months.
it is an article of faith among pundits that the Nets have the worst roster in the league. On paper, at least, it's pretty much true. One All-Star. The two best young players missed a total of 100 games to injury last year. Four players on the roster are recovering from ankle surgery in the last nine months (Caris LeVert, Greivis Vasquez, Joe Harris and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson). The team failed to get two of its three top free agent targets and the one who did sign has been, truth be told, inconsistent over the course of his career. The Nets are, after all, the sixth team Jeremy Lin has played four in seven years.
Do the Nets admit it's an experiment. Yep. Here's what Kenny Atkinson told Kevin Arnovitz two weeks ago in a True Hoop interview...
"I think it's exciting, I think it's a different way of thinking than maybe they've had in the past but I come from a very humble point of view that just because we have this great performance team and we have this great analytics teams and great coaching staff, there's no magic pill. It's a little bit experimental. I'm confident it's going to work. I'm confident in the process but as you know there are no guarantees."
In fact, no team in recent memory has had a staff turnover quite like the Nets have had. It's not just in the added bodies --close to 30-- but in the manner in which those bodies are organized and the tools they have been given, starting with that training center. There's been, as far as we can tell, no skimping on costs. Sure, Kenny Atkinson and Sean Marks are bargains at their current salaries, but a number of the staff additions have had other NBA opportunities before signing with the Nets. So it's not cheap.
The experiment will be interesting to watch. So will the learning curves of Marks and Atkinson, neither of whom have held the big job before. Sometimes, experiments succeed. Sometimes, they fail. We shall see.
Better than a bridge year to nowhere.
The other big man
Egidijus Mockevicius doesn't have a name that easily rolls off the tongue like, say, Beau Beech. Learning how to say it is an art as this Evansville radio station pointed out this summer...
As you can see, it isn't easy, but we're sure Ian Eagle can figure it out ... if Mockevicius makes the 15-man roster. And he thinks he can.
"I have to be confident because if I wasn’t, why would I even go?" Mockevicius told the Courier Press in Evansville, where he led the nation in rebounding last year. "So, that’s the ultimate goal and I’m going to work for that. I’ll work for the spot. If I make it, I make it. If I don’t there’s always other possibilities, other chances. But I think I’m in the right spot."
Those other chances, of course, would have to include the Long Island Nets, but as a Lithuanian, a European, the 6'10" Mockevicius would have other opportunities. He has been training off and on at the HSS Training Center, most intensely before the Las Vegas Summer League. He was impressed by his teammates' work ethics, particularly those who have it made, that is, have made an NBA roster.
"Every single day, everyone was going after each other," said Mockevicius. "When you see people that have actually made the team compete this hard, the first thing you notice is you’ve got to do it yourself and so you start pushing yourself to the limit."
Indeed, as anyone who was able to peer into the HSS courts could tell, Mockevicius, already a physical specimen at 6'10" and 237 pounds, has gotten bigger and stronger. Even his coach could tell.
"He looks incredibly fit. I thought he did when he was here, but he looks just chiseled. He’s done a terrific job getting his body ready for the next level and skill-wise, he’s worked really hard on his perimeter game. I think he’s pretty confident that he’ll have a great opportunity," said Marty Simmons of Evansville.
Mockevicius got back to Brooklyn last Tuesday after training in Miami. The aforementioned Beau Beech and the Nets other partial guarantee, Yogi Ferrell are also in Brooklyn and are telling all the folks back in Jacksonville and Bloomington about crazy life is in New York, as they did in this tweet...
Trust us, fellas, it can get wilder than a bulldozer on a highway. Wilder even than a tractor pull.
Moscow financial note
Back in March, the New York Post reported that Qatari and Chinese businesses could be interested in buying a piece of the Nets. The Chinese group was Fosun which has recently begun investing in leisure activities, taking a big position in Club Med and investing more than $100 billion in Chinese resorts. It is a private entity. The story went nowhere, but last week, we noted something that suggested that Mikhail Prokhorov might sell part of his investment banking firm, Renaissance Capital, to Fosun.
There's no current indication that Prokhorov is interested in selling a piece of the Nets ... or his burgeoning Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Nets, Barclays Center, the renovated Nassau Coliseum and Paramount Theater, among other things. But things change. So watch this space.
Brooklyn team building
A couple of weeks ago, the Nets staff was part of the Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment We Came to Play Day, a combined team-building and community support event. Not a lot of publicity about it, but BSE staffers filled 2,500 backpacks full of school supplies. (That's beyond the back packs Isaiah Whitehead and Chris McCullough distributed in Coney Island and those distributed by Greivis Vasquez.)
Here's a series of tweets with the #WeCameToPlayDay hashtag.
Another use for the HSS Training Center
We all know the advantages the Nets have with the HSS Training Center, which at the very least is the newest NBA practice facility and according to a number of Nets veterans, the best in the business.
Well, here's a new one ... marketing. The Nets have been inviting season ticket holders, sponsors, community leaders to tours of the training center that include cocktails at the outdoor players lounge one flight above the practice floor. The view at night is even more awesome than the one during the day.
Here's what one fan tweeted...
It can be a little breezy, of course. Do we know if it's been used to woo free agents and senior staffers to Brooklyn. Yes, we do. And it's worked.
Nets pitch to Chinese community begins
NTD TV, the city's Chinese language channel this week featured a story on what we believe is the first pitch to New York's burgeoning community of Chinese and Chinese-Americans, which is at least 570,000 strong, 200,000 of which reside in Brooklyn.
The Flushing Development Center is offering discount tickets for the Chinese community on three preseason games at Barclays: the Nets vs. Pistons on October 6; Nets vs. Celtics on October 13 and Nets vs. Knicks in the final warm-up game on October 20.
Note the plug for Linsanity. It hasn't died in everyone's minds. If anyone wants to help with a translation, feel free to let us know in the comments below.
Alumni Roster Update
We bring you shocking news from the world of basketball. Andrea Bargnani, who hasn't played yet for Baskonia, the Spanish League club he signed with this summer, will be out for another 10 days (at least) with a "foot injury." His teammate the last three years, Shane Larkin, is out another two weeks with a "left thigh injury."
Henry Sims worked out with the Jazz on Friday, hoping for a camp invite and as you no doubt know by now, former Nets Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson will be among five camp invites competing for a job with the Cavaliers. Good luck to all three, good guys.