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Mystery in Malaga: Who are Nets spying?


It’s one of the truisms of trying to track who an NBA team is interested in when it sends scouts to a game. Is someone on the home team, the visitors, a draft prospect or a free agent, all of the above? And what if they go twice??

That’s the quandary Enrique Miranda, a Spanish journalist from Malaga, finds himself in. The Nets have twice sent delegations to Malaga, home of Unicaja, a European basketball institution. Sean Marks (trying to go incognito in a t-shirt and leather vest?) visited Malaga in March. It was the first stop on his nine-day European trip.

Then, this past weekend, Gregg Polinsky, director of player personnel (aka chief scout) was there. Not only did he watch a game. Polinsky and international scouting coordinator Danko Cvjeticanin, who accompanied Marks to Malaga in March, also attended a practice. A photographer for Miranda’s Diario Sur spotted them in the otherwise empty stands.

So Miranda writes, “What is not so common is that a franchise make repeat visits to the Palace of Sport in just a couple of weeks. Or that they were even present in a practice for the first team ... What are the Nets looking for in Malaga?”

Of course, the Nets have sent waves of personnel to Europe in recent weeks looking at a number of players. From the Nets side, the interest in Unicaja’s players is just the latest indication of how intense Brooklyn’s scouting regimen has become.

Miranda speculates who might interest the Nets that they’ve come all this way twice. Miranda’s first choice is Viny Okouo, a (barely) 20-year-old seven-footer from Brazzaville in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ... and Serge Ibaka’s cousin. Miranda notes that Okouo has declared for the draft and although he was expected to withdraw, maybe he won’t.

The Unicaja center has at 20 just begun his career as an elite player. The normal thing is that he withdraws his name from the Draft this season, as he still has two campaigns left before he arrives at his natural year of selection. But the Nets already know him firsthand and he is a player who, because of his physical characteristics, is very interesting for the NBA.

He IS very raw and wouldn’t at this point warrant more than a second round pick.

The other candidates are Nemanja Nedovic, yet another European point guard. He was a first round pick of the Suns but didn’t make it in Phoenix or with the Warriors. He wants another chance, writes Miranda. He’s 25.

Then there’s Jamar Smith, his backcourt mate who’s 6’3” and looking for a summer league invitation. He had a D-League tryout with the Celtics a few years back. He’s 30, though.

Bottom line, he thinks its Okouo and Nedovic the Nets have the eye on. Does it mean Okouo will be drafted or Nedovic offered a summer league contract? Not at all. The real impact of the mystery is that even European sports writers are intrigued by what the Nets are doing. That’s a good thing.