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NetsDaily Off-Season Report No. 1

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And we’re back, for our 10th big year! Every weekend, we’ll be updating the Nets’ off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help take the edge off 20-62, relying on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who have slipped interesting data into larger stories and blogs.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

First things first

As we note above, we’ve been doing this for 10 years, through thick and (mostly) thin. Some editions will be long, some will be short. Some will be better than others. Some will come out on Saturday, some on Sunday. The Off-Season Report will follow the off-season, right up to October 1, which is the start of the pre-season.

This one is pretty basic.

Markinson meet the press

On Monday morning, Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson, aka Markinson, will meet the media at the HSS Training Center in Brooklyn. The event starts at 11 a.m. No indication that it will be streamed, but expect a tweet storm.

It’s hard to imagine either discussing specifics as to draft picks or free agent prospects. League rules prohibit teams from talking about underclassmen until after the deadline for withdrawal from the draft which is still a couple of weeks away. And talking about specific free agents under contract with other teams is prima facie tampering.

What they can talk about, of course, is needs, which Atkinson spoke about in the team’s exit interviews as did Jeremy Lin. As Brian Lewis noted in his story Sunday, Lin said the Nets need help in rim protection, three point shooting and passing, which Lin admitted is on him. As Lewis noted...

Defending the rim? The Nets contested the most shots in the league (71.3), but were 18th in blocks (4.7). Better shooters? They attempted the fourth-most 3-pointers (31.6), but had the fifth-worst percentage (33.8). Better passing? They were second-worst in both turnovers (16.5) and assists-per-turnover (1.29)..

Ugh. It’s a long way from 11-13 at the end of the season to anything resembling respectability next season.

The two team leaders can also talk about travel plans. Almost in passing, Atkinson said this week that “travel to Europe” is on his to-do list and European hoops writer David Pick, who seems to enjoy tracking Marks travel, tweeted this week that the GM is headed back to Moscow to presumably take another look at Milos Teodosic. Pick says that Marks is expected to watch CSKA Moscow, Teodosic’s team, play Spanish powerhouse Baskonia in the first round of the Euroleague playoffs Tuesday and Thursday.

Could it be that Marks is interested in someone on the Baskonia roster? Well, considering how many of their players are former Nets, it seems doubtful. There’s Andrea Bargnani, Shane Larkin, Toko Shengelia and Chase Budinger, who was in training camp last year. There are a couple of long-term prospects, but it seems obvious, once again, that the Nets are interested in Teodosic. If Atkinson is going to Moscow, that would also be another indicator. No doubt any trip to Moscow would include a drop-by at ONEXIM headquarters to meet the big guy. (When Marks was there in March, Prokhorov was in Brooklyn.)

Alas, Monday’s media availability is unlikely to produce the fireworks that took place when Phil Jackson took the podium Friday at the Knicks practice facility and after a one-minute mea culpa spent the rest of the 49 minutes excoriating his roster.

He suggested his franchise player might want to void his no-trade clause and head elsewhere, disparaged three point shooting as cheap and even opined that Kristaps Porzingis isn’t “the Man” yet and could be traded! Then, it came out that the 7’3” Latvian 1) blew off his exit interview with Phil and 2) plans to spend the summer in Latvia. Yikes.

A little less that two months ago, we tweeted this...

We still hold these truths to be self-evident.

Summer League makes me feel fine (apologies to Seals & Croft)

There are no roster limits on summer league rosters. Thank God, because it would appear that the Nets will have a lot of possibilities. Now, it is possible that by July 7, opening day in Las Vegas, the roster will have changed. Maybe not all six players with team options will see those options exercised. Maybe someone will be traded, etc., etc.

But the Nets have so many players you would think are summer league players. Not just Brooklyn Nets but Long Island Nets, draft picks, a smattering of undrafted guys. (Stashed players, like Juan Pablo Vaulet, will likely play in international tournaments.)

Maybe the two players the Nets signed to quickie 10-day deals, Cliff Alexander and Prince Ibeh, will be on the roster. After all, the Nets had enough interest to acquire their D-League rights, promise them a 10-day deal then when roster math prevented them from bringing them up to the big club, they massaged the CBA and got them contracts if not uniforms.

NBA teams start thinking about SL rosters about now. Last week, front office types traveled to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament to look at college seniors, who they can talk about and talk to. According to Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony, this was a particularly strong PIT as it’s a strong draft. We would assume the Nets unsettled roster, reputation for taking chances on lesser lights and emphasis on development would appeal to the best of them.

FIBA Tournaments

If it’s an odd numbered year, that means international players may be headed home to play for their national teams in FIBA’s bi-annual tournaments like FIBA Europe, FIBA Americas, FIBA Asia, etc. From those tournaments will emerge the final teams for the FIBA Worlds in 2019, to held at various venues in China.

As of now, two Nets players will get invites, Canada’s Andrew Nicholson and Justin Hamilton, whose mother is Croatian and gained dual citizenship in 2016. Also, Juan Pablo Vaulet is likely to play for Argentina for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one is that the finals of FIBA Americas will be played in his hometown of Cordoba, Argentina.

FIBA Americas runs from August 25 to September 3, with the championship round in Cordoba. Nicholson has played for Canada since 2013 and you’d assume with Canada quickly developing into a continental basketball power, he’d want to play again this summer. He plays the stretch 4 for Team Canada. Two years ago, he averaged 7.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and shot 47.6 percent from the international three-point line.

FIBA Eurobasket will be held from August 31 to September 17, with the championship round in Istanbul. Hamilton has been non-committal about whether he will participate. Considering the wealth of young Croatian bigs, he might not start, but Croatia has to be considered a top contender. He could stay home in Brooklyn and work on his game. He has another year on his Nets contract.

And two of the Nets coaching staff have commitments as well. Chris Fleming will be coaching Team Germany with Denis Schroder and a number of young prospects. This is his last year coaching the national team. Will Weaver, who is an assistant to Kenny Atkinson, has been an assistant coach for Team Australia which will play in the FIBA Asia Cup, which takes place in Beirut, Lebanon, from August 10 to August 20.

Is it possible for a player to participate both in summer league and a FIBA tournament. It’s difficult since national teams start their training around the time summer league is underway in Las Vegas.

FYI, Team USA will not be playing this year. They get a pass to the FIBA Worlds because they won the Olympic gold medal.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

We did pretty good last year. We featured both Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead as sleepers. And in 2015, we nailed Chris McCullough, too. (Before that, you’d have to go back to 2008 when we nominated Ryan Anderson as one of our sleepers.)

So, we start this week with Rodions Kurucs, a 6’9” swingman all of 19 years old. A Latvian, he is no unicorn, but he looks like a good long term bet. In fact, Chad Ford believes he’s likely to be stashed next season and become a rookie in 2018. In other words, he could become the Nets 2008 draft equivalent.

He currently plays for F.C. Barcelona’s second division club, being elevated a couple of weeks ago, hours before Sean Marks arrived in the Catalan capital. He played a little bit and Marks got a look. There was some speculation in the Spanish press that the Barcelona GM called him up just so he’d be available for a Nets look-see. Marks did do a meet-and-greet with his Barcelona counterpart, Rodrigo de la Fuente.

What kind of player is he or better yet, what kind of player could he become? He’s more a swingman than a traditional 4, with a good shot —he hit 39 percent from three— and has excellent court vision for a big. He is not a spectacular athlete but has some nascent BBIQ. Here’s some highlights from this year.

As you can tell from the lack of crowds in so many of these shots, Kurucs hasn’t played at a high level. Not yet. Said one European blogger, “the pro level he’s played at so far is way too weak for him to get any NBA playing time next year. It’s D-League or Europe probably.”

Chad Ford agrees assigning Kurucs the No. 24 spot, noting he’s probably a “draft and stash” player right now Ford does add, “He's an athletic wing with range. In a few years, he could end up being a steal at this point in the draft,” meaning early to mid-20’s, where the Nets pick ... twice.

Draft Express has the Nets taking Kurucs at No. 22 in their latest mock draft. Do NOT dismiss DX’s picks as random. They often know something about team’s discussions with agents. Not saying that happened here, but two years ago, DX never wavered in its belief that McCullough would be taken by Brooklyn. As it turned out, McCullough had a “soft” promise at the end of the first round. Ya never know.

Coming to Long Island

You may have already noticed, but there’s been a lot of social media activity related to the Long Island Nets as well as community outreach. It began with grand opening, a Billy Joel concert on April 5. The Long Island club, so far the only pro sports team who’s committed to the arena, has posted pictures of the Long Island Nets court.

Ronald Nored, the L.I. Nets coach, tweeted out a picture of a practice laydown of the new court.

Excited to call this place home. #nycblive #newcoliseum

A post shared by Ronald Nored (@ronaldnored5) on

It’s not a new arena, but it’s as close to one as possible. Mikhail Prokhorov and Bruce Ratner have pumped more than $150 million into the renovation project. Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment hopes to make the young Nets Long Island’s home team and hopefully steal a few fans for the parent club as well. The big club will also play a preseason game or two at the arena in Uniondale.

Fans remember Irina Pavlova’s kindnesses

A few fans came forward with recollections of the soon-to-depart Irina Pavlova after it was leaked that she would be stepping down as president of ONEXIM Sports & Entertainment Holdings, Mikhail Prokhorov’s holding company.

Here’s a few...

Matt Encarnacion, fan from Sydney who Irina helped get to Game One in Brooklyn

“There is no story in my life I enjoy recalling to friends and family more than the day Irina Pavlova's number flashed on my phone on my first day in Los Angeles during my first ever trip to America in 2012.

“Let me set the scene (again) for the ND faithful: Superstorm Sandy had just cancelled my connecting flight from Honolulu to New York for the Nets' first game in Brooklyn, so I ditched my friends (who didn't think the Nets were worth the extra flight) and booked red-eye trips to LA, then Philly, and finally a bus to Manhattan. But while killing time in LA, I got hustled out of my cash money at Venice beach and then, with the five per cent battery I had left, checked ND to find out that the opener was postponed.

“Alone and disconnected in LA, I cut a dejected figure on my one-day tour bus.

“But then came a stunning string of bizarre emails from the great NI himself and Ms. Pavlova, who called me as soon as I sent her my contact number and invited me and my friends to the delayed opening night win against Toronto, when we were met at the VIP door by Irina herself and ushered to close to courtside seats.

“She was warm, good-natured, and showed interest in the fandom that led me on an extraordinary trip across the world to watch them play. She genuinely cared for this single fan on a night when I was sure there was countless other duties to attend to. Game one at the world's first billion-dollar basketball stadium had long been anticipated.

“At halftime, she came back down to escort me to Mr Prokhorov's lavish suite, where I brushed shoulders with Jay-Z and Beyonce on the way to shaking hands and posing for photos with our towering owner. I was too stunned to breathe. It was a fan-experience you can only dream of.

“Still, the best moment of my sojourn actually occured when, 48 hours after leaving my friends, I dragged my tired self to the front doors of a closed Barclays Centre on what should've been opening night to signal the accomplishment of a life dream. Hello Brooklyn, I made it from Sydney.

“But that call from Irina cemented what I've known since the days when I followed results through box scores on dial-up internet modems and watched games on DVDs friends bought and sent over from Germany: that I made the right call following the Nets.”

Eliot Harrison, season ticket-holder

“I once ‘anonymously’ received a Brooklyn Nets blanket so that my wife and I’s dog, Butter, would no longer have to pose in Instagram pictures in a Raiders blanket. I knew it was Irina. This is who she was, both in private and in public: a passionate supporter of a fan base desperate for someone who “gets it”.

“What Irina brought to the Nets organization cannot be measured the way most franchise executives are judged on their performance. Irina brought a hunger for understanding a limited, but diehard, fan base that existed in New Jersey when the Russians first arrived on the scene.

“As any long-time Nets fan can tell you: scattered throughout the Meadowlands and Prudential Center were incredibly loyal fans – who usually were surrounded by people that were apathetic, disinterested or often opposing team supporters. To improve the energy on game nights, I tried forming the “Loud & Proud section” as well as “Dwight Night” to harness a collective power of these scattered fans, but this was only casually supported by the Nets organization and mainly seen as an opportunity to sell us season ticket packages. Until Irina came along.

“It was obvious by Irina’s participation on NetsDaily that she wanted to engage with real fans in ways nobody in the organization had ever tried. She wanted to understand what could be done to improve the atmosphere and how she could help. Most of all, she showed she cared about organically growing this fan base without the gimmicks of the past (e.g. reverse jersey night). With her partnership, she turned “Loud & Proud” into the now well-respected Brooklyn Brigade, which continues to make a significant impact on the culture and vibe of games in Brooklyn.

“So, thank you Irina. Thank you for leaving your courtside seats to visit us fans in the arena. Thank you for being a friend “beyond the hardwood”. Most of all, thank you for engaging with the real fans of this team and planting the seeds for new ones – your work will be felt for decades of Nets basketball to come.

“Your forum husband of one-day, @eLonePB”

Dawn Risueno, Brooklyn STH who’s annually followed the team out west.

“The first time I met Irina was at the BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) for the team meet-and-greet. She was friendly, joking, and honestly straight forward.

“As I got to know her I loved her for her blind dedication to the team and to the fans. She is always looking for fan involvement and options. Being one of the few ladies at the top level, she always wants her voice too be heard, her ideas to matter cuz she's standing up for Nets fans everywhere.

“She's a beautiful woman inside and out and I'm glad that I can call her a friend.”

Anthony Puccio, NetsDaily writer.

“Before meeting her, I only ‘knew’ Irina through twitter before meeting her. She was very gracious with fans and she had this witty sense of humor that always made me crack a smile.

“Then, I got to know the real Irina Pavlova and it wasn’t far off from what I imagined her to be. I had the pleasure of meeting her in the summer of 2015 and asked for advice for my future and how I could stay close to the game. We spoke on occasion and she always greeted me with this infectious smile that could light up a room. It was refreshing.

“She gave me advice for my future and talked me through some of the toughest days of my personal life. I write this wishing I had the words to express how grateful I am to call Irina a friend, but I simply cannot. Here’s the President of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment and here’s me, a blogger and college student from Long Island, with really no business being in the same room as her. She didn’t need to take the time out of her busy schedule to speak with me. But she did. She always did. And she always did it with a smile and the same infectious positive energy that could get someone through a tough day. “

There will be more.

Final Note

There may not have been as crucial an off-season for the Nets since 2012 when they moved to Brooklyn. The next summer wasn’t so much crucial as disastrous.

Like last summer, there will be surprises (Thaddeus Young being traded), some positives (signing Jeremy Lin), some negatives (Portland matching on Allen Crabbe, Miami matching on Tyler Johnson) and some subtle moves with long-term benefits (putting together a new front office and performance team).

We expect this year’s moves will surprise us in different ways and even though Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson were around last summer, this time will be different. They’re no longer rookies. So watch this space!