The Long Island Nets didn’t make the playoffs this season and only one of their players, Yogi Ferrell, got called up to the big team ... but that’s a whole other story. The Nets did provide quickie 10-day deals to Cliff Alexander and Prince Ibeh at season’s end as a way of satisfying a promise made to their agents.
But for the first time, the Nets had a wholly owned D-League team and they got experience operating it. Their previous agreement with the Springfield Armor was a hybrid arrangement. The team was owned by an investor and the Nets ran basketball operations. When the owner decided to sell out, he offered the franchise to the Nets for $4 million. They declined and for two years, Brooklyn had no D-League affiliate.
Last season was typical for D-League teams with a fluid roster, some positive experiments like Alexander, Ibeh, R.J. Hunter and Trahson Burrell and some disappointments. The Nets major D-League development project, Chris McCullough, bounced back and forth a record 21 times, then wound up being shipped off to the Wizards in the Bojan Bogdanovic deal. Washington also assigned him to the D-League.
The front office did get a look at several players on other D-League clubs who they later called up: Spencer Dinwiddie of the Windy City Bulls, Quincy Acy of the Texas Legends and Archie Goodwin of the Greensboro Swarm. And Ronald Nored, the 26-year-old head coach, gained a reputation as a rising star in coaching ranks.
What was unique in league annals was that the Brooklyn and Long Island Nets shared the same arena, Barclays Center, and practice facility, the HSS Training Center ... although the arena arrangement proved disappointing. Only a handful of home games were open to the public (although season ticket holders could attend.) It costs a lot to keep an arena open and with the Nets having only a one-year tenure in Brooklyn, the organization decided to close most games.
Sean Marks, talking last week about the experience, said he was satisfied overall.
“I really like what’s happened in Long Island with the Nets,. But what’s happened with the Nets on Long Island —they were here this year but obviously, they will move down to Long Island,” Marks said at last week’s end-of-season press conference “But again, they’re developing the culture, they’re developing a rhythm and a routine, the things that are very similar to what Kenny and his staff will be doing up here. So the coaching staff and all the personnel involved with the Long Island Nets did a nice job here.”
So, what changes next year for the Long Island Nets? A lot.
First of all, they will play in the “G-League” after the NBA sold sponsor rights to Gatorade. Then, the team is moving 25 miles to the east and the renovated Nassau Coliseum, easily the most audacious D-League venue ... and games will be open to the public. The arena seats 13,500 for basketball but with “curtaining technology,” more “intimate” configurations of 4,000 and 8,000 are possible. Whether the Long Island club will have its own training site remains undisclosed. When Billy King announced the formation of the Long Island Nets back in 2015, he said the Nets would find a practice facility closer to the Coliseum.
But the biggest change. other than the arena, will be the provision in the new CBA permitting NBA teams to sign two two-way players who will shuttle, with a number of limitations, between the NBA club and G-League (get used to it) team. It’s the biggest fundamental change ever in D-League’s relationship with the NBA.
Larry Coon, the CBA guru, wrote about the two-way players —and the limitations— for ESPN. The list of limitations is long, but Coon boiled it down to one overriding theme...
A two-way player is the converse of an NBA player on a D-League assignment, who is, by definition, an NBA player. A two-way player is primarily a D-League player but can be called up by the parent NBA team on temporary assignments.
While the new CBA offers teams more flexibility with their minor league clubs, there are also protections for the players. Here are a few of the new rules, per Coon...
—A two-way player's time on an NBA roster is limited. He can be with the NBA team for training camp and for up to 45 days of the regular season. Once the 45-day limit is reached, the player cannot play on the NBA team for the remainder of that season unless his contract is converted from a two-way contract to a full NBA contract.
—Two-way players also receive higher salaries —up to $75,000, which makes the D-League more competitive with international leagues when recruiting talent. (That’s more than double what the most experienced D-Leaguer got last year.) The player receives an NBA salary —the rookie minimum— when he's on assignment with the parent team.
—As with NBA players on D-League assignment, the parent team retains full rights to its two-way players. Poaching, at least for the two-way players, is no longer a worry for NBA GM’s.
—Players are eligible to sign a two-way contract if they have fewer than four seasons of NBA experience. However, an NBA team can't have the same player on two-way contracts for any part of three seasons -- the maximum is two seasons.
—Two-way contracts don't count against the NBA team's salary cap, and teams do not need to have cap room or a salary-cap exception to sign two-way players. Teams are not allowed to pay an international team buyout when signing a player to a two-way contract.
—Players accrue Bird rights (toward free agency) while on two-way contracts, and they are subject to restricted free agency at the end of their contracts if they were called up by the parent NBA team for at least 15 days of the previous season.
—Two-way players can be traded. However, they can't be traded for 30 days after they are signed, and trades of two-way players don't generate trade exceptions for the parent team.
—Two-way players are not eligible for NBA playoff rosters, so a team must convert any two-way players it wants to use in the playoffs.
What does that mean for a team like the Nets who are in a rebuild? Expect a lot of shuffling along the Belt Parkway, maybe even more than even this season with McCullough’s quick changes. There will be opportunities but there will be a learning curve, too.
Still, that’s better than what happened with Ferrell’s contract. As Coon points out, if there had been a two-way player rule this past season and the Nets chose to use a two-way on Ferrell, the Mavericks couldn’t have called him up. The Nets called Ferrell up in November even before he could play for Long Island, then after a few assignments, waived him in favor of Dinwiddie. He returned to Long Island as a free agent, did well, then the Mavs moved.
Marks also thinks it’s possible that the Nets could use Long Island as training ground for international players who the team picks up in the Draft, adding that he has great faith in the system.
“I think its circumstantial. It will depend on the player. It will depend on where we are at with our roster,” said Marks, who was once GM of the Austin Toros, the Spurs D-League team.
“So I have no problem having a player — whether it’s a two-way guy, whether our guy is assigned down there, could be a rehab, whatever the situation may be— I have absolutely no problem with it. It could be a European guy, it could be one of our draft picks playing with Long Island or us, doesn’t matter.”
Other things are changing off-court. The Long Island Nets have a big community outreach underway, hoping to create a buzz —and sell season tickets — for the team.
After all, they are the anchor sports tenant at the newly refurbished Coliseum.
The Nets and Islanders may play preseason games at the arena (the NHL has yet to approve the Islander games), but the Long Island Nets have 24 home dates at Nassau plus a preseason game with the Westchester Knicks and possibly the playoffs.
At least for the Nets, it will become Barclays East.