The off-season is over, or will be Monday morning when the Nets players, dressed in their uniforms, walk out on to the floor at HSS Training Center to answer the media’s questions. Media Day is the beginning of training camp, that is, pre-season. So this is the last Off-Season Report for this year, the ninth year we’ve done it.
We will be doing season preview roundtables with our writers and editors soon enough but from a personal viewpoint, the off-season probably warrants a B- or C+.
There’s no disputing that they lost out on two of their big three free agent targets when Portland and Miami matched on Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson. A number of other players the Nets approached simply said no. Their top draft pick has “a long, long road” before he’s ready to play, says the GM. They couldn’t even get an interview with Kevin Durant, despite a variety of connections. That was a bit of a wake-up call.
On the other hand, Sean Marks has recast the Nets culture, making it a more professional organization, bringing in nearly 30 new staff with as Kenny Atkinson says a “diversity of thought.” They’re from places like Ireland, New Zealand, Italy, the Navy SEALS and the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis. They have experience in Major League Baseball as well as the Australian Rules Football and the Euroleague. They’ve quietly shown how serious they are, working out one free agent for weeks before committing to signing him; sending an assistant coach 5,000 miles away to work, again for weeks, with a player.
And of course, Jeremy Lin was a very solid pickup, Atkinson looks like a great coach-in-waiting. The coaching staff have good reputations. You’d also hope some of the young players —Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough, Caris LeVert, Isaiah Whitehead, Joe Harris and Anthony Bennett— will make a leap. All are on cheap, multi-year deals so if they do work out, they’ll be bargains beyond this year. (We’re never sure where to put Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Hamilton, the Nets two 26-year-olds. Are they “young players” or “veterans”).
So, now, with the first preseason game 10 days away, we wait.
Brooklyn Bound Nets
That’s Bojan Bogdanovic lounging his new Brooklyn digs. We’ve been trying to keep track of who’s moved to Brooklyn with the opening of the HSS Training Center in Industry City. In past years, players lived mostly in New Jersey, with a few in Manhattan. After all, the practice facility is where the players work. Barclays Center is where they play.
So far, we believe Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Isaiah Whitehead, Chris McCullough, Luis Scola, Caris LeVert and Bogdanovic are Brooklyn residents. It’s almost certainly an incomplete list.
It should also be noted that Kenny Atkinson now lives in Brooklyn as well ... and has encouraged his players to live there as well.
And not only do they live there. Some even take the subway.
As Sean Marks said in his terrific interview with John Schuhmann (founder of NetsDaily, all bow), the Nets performance team is a big part of his rebuild of the Nets. He noted...
“We've got two athletic trainers and three physios on staff. So they're a big group, but they're versatile. They can move from training room to strength room to on the court. It's not that "My job is solely in the training room." These guys are athletic trainers and physios and strength coaches. So they can take a player through the different spectrums of rehab or player care.
“A player can go to any one and they're all the same page.”
And they’re still hiring. The latest is Lauren Green, the new assistant strength and conditioning coach who reports to Dan Meehan, the new strength and conditioning coach. Meehan came from the North Melbourne club in the Australian Rules Football League. Green joined the Nets this month from the Dodgers where he had been Latin American Strength and Conditioning Coordinator and before that a strength and conditioning coach.
As we noted a few weeks back, the Nets have also hired Sebastien Poirier as assistant athletic trainer working under Lloyd Beckett. Poirier came from the Thunder. (He’s one of the five staffers with doctorates and Green is pursuing his.)
One more note on the performance team. It’s headed by Zach Weatherford who ran the Naval Special Warfare Command training program. NSW includes the SEALS.
In a LinkedIn posting, Navy Captain Christian Dunbar, who described himself as a “23-year SEAL Officer, responsible for basic and advanced Training and Education,” volunteered his thoughts on Weatherford...
BLUF: Zach is a BAMF. Sad to see him leave us in NSW. Only best wishes and the highest possible endorsement in the future. Thanks!
A little translation: BLUF is “Bottom Line, Up Front,” and BAMF, well, we’ll leave it to your imagination. Now, that didn’t take long, did it?
A final look at the rebuild
So here's the updated list, 27 new staffers, derived from Nets announcements and social media. We are told there might be others we’ve missed. In the order we learned of the hires...
--Sean Marks, 40, General Manager, hired from the Spurs, announced February 18.
--Trajan Langdon, 40, Assistant General Manager, hired from the Cavaliers --after three years with the Spurs, announced March 8.
--Alton Byrd, 58, Vice President of Business Operations, Long Island Nets, hired from the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA, announced March 24.
--Andrew Baker, 26, Coordinator, Strategic Planning, hired from the Spurs in March, announced May 5.
--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, announced July 5.
--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.
--Mike Batiste, 38, assistant coach, player development, hired from the Cleveland Cavaliers where he worked with the D-League Canton Charge, reported June 27, reported July 5.
--Bret Brelmaier, 28, assistant coach, hired from the Cleveland Cavaliers. reported July 3, announced July 5.
--Ryan Gomes, 32, assistant coach, Long Island Nets, retired from NBA and D-League after seven-year pro career, reported July 11, posted July 13, announced August 23.
--Sebastien Poirier, 30, assistant athletic trainer, hired from the Oklahoma City Thunder. reported August 20, not yet announced.
--Mitch Heckart, 30, manager public relations staff, hired from the University of Oklahoma. Before that, he worked for the San Antonio Spurs, reported August 21, not yet announced.
--Logan MacPhail, 29, director of coaching analytics, hired from the San Antonio Spurs. reported August 21, not yet announced.
--William "B.J." Johnson, 35, coordinator of player evaluation, hired from USA Basketball, announced August 22.
--Gianluca Pascucci, 44, director of global scouting, hired from Houston Rockets, announced August 22.
--Pat Rafferty, 57, assistant coach, Long Island Nets. hired from Central Wyoming College, where he had been head coach for three seasons. Announced August 23.
—Lauren Green, 30, assistant strength and conditioning coach, hired from Los Angeles Dodgers, reported September 25, not yet announced
We count at least seven staffers from the "Spurs tree," those who worked with Marks at San Antonio. There are also multiple staffers who worked for the Hawks and Thunder as well as two who were part of the Cavaliers championship season last year. Seven played in the NBA: Marks, Langdon, Vaughn, Williams, Harrington, Batiste and Gomes. Nine staffers have played a combined 60 seasons overseas.
There are at least five with doctorates --three in physical therapy, two in the law-- and multiple master's degrees. Another is working on his doctorate.
Among internal promotions, Ryan Gisriel, 26, has jumped from assistant to the Billy King 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. Matt Riccardi, senior manager of basketball operations, is now assistant GM of the Long Island Nets; and Aaron Harris, who had been No. 2 behind the departed Gary Sussman, has assumed the top P.R. role. Eli Pearlstein and Megan Walsh, P.R. staffers have also moved up, as was Savannah Hart, who’s Basketball Operations HR Coordinator.
Another Draft Night Blunder
Every year, the day before the Draft, we post one of our favorite recurring columns, “Draft Night Wonders and Blunders”. To be truthful, most are blunders. We update the column throughout the year whenever we find a nugget or two to add, like how the Nets used part of the $125,000 they got for Kyle Korver’s draft rights to buy a really neat fax machine/printer.
Well, we will be updating it again soon to include this blunder: how the Nets made a promise to take Kyle Lowry in the 2006 Draft, then reneged because Marcus Williams dropped and was just too hot a talent not to take.
Lowry and Jay Wright, the Villanova basketball coach then and now, talked about it on The Vertical. Setting the scene, the Nets had two picks that year, at No. 22 and 23. The 22nd pick, which had been the Clippers pick, was acquired in the Kenyon Martin trade three years before. The 23rd pick was their own. The Nets needs included a back-up point guard to Jason Kidd.
Here’s the transcript from The Vertical podcast where Lowry and Wright describe Draft Night.
JW: “One of the reasons I was so confident in telling you to go was that Ed Stefanski was president of the Nets...
KL: “...and they had back-to-back picks.”
JW: “He told me, he told me that they were going to take you...
KL: “at 22 or 23.”
JW: “and what was Memphis?”
KL: “24. But Marcus Williams was supposed to go lottery ... eighth.”
JW: “That's what scared the hell out of me.”
KL: “So Marcus Williams, great player at UConn, he didn't ...”
JW: “Supposed to be top 10...
KL: “...he ended up not being taken (in the lottery). No point guards wound up being taken until 21, which was Rajon Rondo. Then Marcus Williams was taken 22.
JW: “...by the Nets who told us they were going to take YOU.”
KL: “at 22 or 23...
JW: “So I was panicked.”
KL: “But luckily, we had Memphis on the back end. They took Josh Boone at 23. I remember ALL the picks that were before me. Then Memphis took me at 24. “
JW: “Ed Stefanski called me. 'Who would ever thought Marcus Williams would be available. We had to take him.'"
KL: “That's the process. That's the business a little bit.”
For those too young to remember that night, here’s a primer: The Nets were beyond thrilled that they had gotten Williams. But they had never worked him out, never even interviewed him. Talented, yes. But did he love the game? Why did have the highest body fat content in the entire draft? And what about that laptop thing at UConn, where it was found he was part of a ring that stole laptops, all from women students, then re-sold them?
Never you mind. He had talent. He didn’t have much of a career, however. The Nets traded him in 2008 and he was out of the league a year later. In 2013, he made history in the Chinese Basketball Association, becoming the first CBA player suspended for drug use.
As for the 23rd pick, the Nets had no need for another rookie PG. So they took Josh Boone, also from UConn. He lasted until 2010 when the Nets declined his option and he headed overseas, also winding up in China.
Kyle Lowry played a couple of years for Memphis, then after being trashed by Lionel Hollins, was traded to the Rockets, then the Raptors where he became an All-Star. He also won a gold medal at this year’s Olympics.
In another Vertical interview this week, Bryan Colangelo talked about his job interviews with the Nets before Mikhail Prokhorov decided on Sean Marks ... and he got the head job in Philadelphia.
“With the Brooklyn situation, I had mapped out a strategy with ownership there. My strategy there, arguably, was different from what Sean laid out. Again, I was happy for Sean that he got the job. It’s a great opportunity for him. But this turns out to be a much more viable situation with a clearer path to success in a much earlier fashion.
“Again, credit Sam Hinkie for what he was able to accomplish with this. He may have took things to an extreme, but now you’re starting to see some of those things play out.”
What might Colangelo have done differently that Marks? According to one source, Colangelo thought there were worst rebuilding scenarios than the the Nets with Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young as cornerstones.
Colangelo and Marks were seen as the two finalists for the GM job in Brooklyn, although Arturas Karnisovas, the assistant GM in Denver, was also seen a strong possibility.
In case you missed it, John Schuhmann also put together a graphic on which team had the worst bench last season. You might have guessed it. Your Brooklyn Nets had the worst bench.
Here’s the graphic...
What it shows is that the Net Rating of the Nets bench ranked No. 30 (while the starters ranked No. 27).
The Nets bench this year isn’t likely to be much better but at least most of them played in the NBA last season ... rookies and Justin Hamilton excepted. Of last year’s bench, only two players, Wayne Ellington and Willie Reed, have guaranteed contracts this season.
Final Final Note
We will be there Monday for Media Day to cover the day’s events ... and find out what numbers Chase Budinger and Jorge Gutierrez will sport. The two numbers they’ve worn in their previous stints in the NBA are taken, Budinger’s No. 10 has already gone to Yogi Ferrell and Gutierrez’s No. 13 has been taken by Anthony Bennett. He wore No. 12 at the end of last season in Charlotte, but that’s being worn by Joe Harris.
Now, THAT’s the level of detail you’ve come to expect. We hope you’ve enjoyed these weekly reports, hope that they’ve kept you informed during the Off-Season, also known as spring and summer.
While you wait for the season to begin, enjoy this last tidbit from us. Two rookies trying to talk like Pirates.
Lets go, Nets!