The six months between the end of one season in April and the beginning of another in October have been filled with some of the biggest moves in team history. The moves have given birth to some optimism, if not for the playoffs, then for development and excitement.
To sum up...
The Nets added five significant players: Jarrett Allen, D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov, DeMarre Carroll, and Allen Crabbe, along with a couple of draft picks: one a first, the other a second. The Nets will have two and possibly three picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. That would be three more than when Sean Marks took over. The Nets also added a journeyman in Tyler Zeller and a slew of undrafted players looking to make the club. They found a young player to stash overseas, Aleksandar Vezenkov, who’s unlikely to be in the NBA for another two years.
The big loss was Brook Lopez. That goes without saying. Of the five players traded away or let go by the Nets, he’s also the only one with a guaranteed spot in the NBA this season. After being traded, Andrew Nicholson and Justin Hamilton were bought out, waived, stretched and signed to deals in China. K.J. McDaniels is trying to make the Raptors, Archie Goodwin the Trail Blazers.
The Nets will have nine holdovers from the end of last year when they gather this week, first at Media Day on Monday at HSS Training Center, then at training camp the next day at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. A year ago, the Nets brought only five players back.
The first preseason game is only 10 days away, a week from Tuesday, vs. the Knicks at MSG.
A city rivalry changed...
“Who owns New York? We own New York!” is the Columbia fight song. Knicks fans used to throw it around as well. No more, and particularly not after Saturday’s big trade. New York sent Carmelo Anthony, the face of the franchise for seven years, to Oklahoma City for Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott, two 25-year-olds, as well as the Bulls’ second round draft pick in the upcoming draft.
The Knicks are finally in full rebuild mode. The notion that you can’t rebuild in New York has now been tossed aside by the Nets, Jets, and Knicks.
The Nets are a little further along in their rebuild than the Knicks. Yes, the Knicks do have their 2018 draft pick and the Nets don’t but in the meantime, it’s even harder to project a starting line-up for the Knicks than it is for the Nets.
Yes, you have Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. After that, it gets confusing. Who’s the starting point guard? Jarrett Jack, Ramon Sessions, Ron Baker, or rookie Frank Ntilikina? Does Kanter supplant Willy Hernangomez at the 5? Is Joakim Noah capable of playing any minutes? What to make of McDermott’s game? Will he get minutes or do they go to better defender Lance Thomas? Michael Beasley can claim he’s Melo “on the other side of the court,” as he did just before the trade, but he isn’t. Courtney Lee is still a solid defender, but he’s a journeyman on offense.
Also, while pundits say the Knicks are now Porzingis’ team — and he had a great Eurobasket— the lack of perimeter scoring is going to make things difficult for him offensively. Porzingis’ game regressed in his second year. Teams began to guard him tight, push him around a bit. They’ll be able to do more of that next season with Melo gone. Hardaway will be asked to do more than he did in Atlanta. Can he?
Their defense promises to be atrocious, particularly up front, especially on pick-and-roll defense. Kanter and McDermott couldn’t get big minutes in OKC because of their poor defense.
The Nets do have continuity and their backcourt offers more options than their Knicks counterparts do. Up front, the Knicks have the advantage over the Nets, but most NBA teams do. In many ways, the two teams are opposites. The Knicks have probably the worse point guard rotation in the NBA, but some bigs with potential. The Nets have probably the worst center rotation in the NBA, but have a slew of good guards.
One other thing about this year’s Knicks. They, not the team owned by the NBA’s first European owner, have a big international contingent, with Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia), Enes Kanter (Turkey), Willy Hernangomez (Spain), Frank Ntilikina (France), Joakim Noah (also France) and Mindaugas Kuzminskas (Lithuania). If they’re really bad, they might have a shot at Luka Doncic (Slovenia). The Nets have Timofey Mozgov (Russia) and Yakuba Ouattara (France and Ghana).
So who will own New York? It will take some time to work out. The two teams will play against each other six times, including preseason. Plenty of time to figure it out. We’re banking on Brooklyn.
Is Jarrett Allen Long Island-bound? Maybe not!
In his barbershop interview with Pooch last weekend, Jarrett Allen said the Nets had not talked to him (yet) about going to the G League.
Should we be surprised? Yes and No. Allen is the second youngest Net ever and played only one year in college on a very bad Texas team. He needs work and strength. But the Nets do love him and they’re thinking long-term. He’s been featured prominently on the Nets website and at this week’s press conference, Kenny Atkinson showed what a big fan he is of the big guy.
“Give Sean and his group the credit. We haven’t started the season yet, but I get excited about young players. They did all the hard work. Coaches, we kinda come in in the last couple months and start looking at it. It popped right away to me on film and then just seeing him in the gym. I think you’re seeing a guy his athletic ability is pretty impressive. How fast he is up and down the court, how quick he is off his feet. How well he moves. We’re talking about a modern 5 man in this league. He kind of fits the bill.
“I’d been bothering Sean like, ‘Hey can we get a guy, that kind of player, in our system.’ Listen, I don’t wanna make the guy Kareem Abdul-Jabbar right off the bat, but definitely excited about him. The last thing about him, I just like his demeanor. He’s a quiet, competitive guy and we’re excited to see him get on the court.” (Emphasis added.)
At another point in the press conference, Atkinson talked about Timofey Mozgov and Allen sharing minutes on the court.
“We’re excited about our rookie, I think he’s gonna be really good. I think we’ll have to do it by committee at the big guy position.”
No mention of Tyler Zeller. Maybe they’re planning on using him at the 4 after shooting specialist Adam Harrington gets through with him.
The very natty Nets
Remember last month when we reported that Jeremy Lin was going to pay for custom made suits designed by Abe Ndoye, a popular mens’ designer from Texas?
Well, it’s happening next week, apparently in Annapolis. NDoye posted an announcement about the fittings on social media.
And Lin’s generosity extends beyond his teammates. Ndoye says he’s making suits for “players, coaches, video coordinators, physical therapists, and security guards.”
That’s nearly 40 people by our count. Yikes.
In addition to being Lin’s haberdasher, the Senegal-born Ndoye has designed menswear for Chandler Parsons, Tracy McGrady, Shaun Livingston, Jeff Van Gundy, Kevin Hart, Ernest Pugh, and a number of other NBA and NFL players.
Veteran players have provided their teammates with top-of-the-line clothing in the past. Kevin Garnett would provide his teams’ rookies with suits, for example.
But this seems like an extraordinary move. Good for JLin.
The Billy King podcast
Congratulations again to The Glue Guys on their great “get,” an interview with Billy King. It’s been a great year for Mike Smeltz and Brian Egan. In addition to King, they’ve garnered Irina Pavlova (her exit interview); Spencer Dinwiddie (podcast veteran); David Pick (the EuroWoj); Bobby Marks (the other Marks); Ian Eagle (the YES man); and the editor of this website (NI). You find them all here.
They’ve also done emergency podcasts after the Nets big moves and debated each other on where the Nets will end up this season.
We’ve already annotated the King podcast, but overall we note that there was a lot left unsaid about his tenure in Brooklyn. It’s not surprising that any interview subject try to paint the most glowing portrait of themselves. But to his credit, King talked about the nitty-gritty of “The Trade,” as he called it and some other trades as well.
Like the pros they are, Mike and Brian got him to sit —it was his first interview since he was dumped by ownership — and asked the right questions.
Where they stand?
HispanosNBA has a neat tool, called NBA Data Comparison where you can compare teams on some basic level. Who’s the tallest, the oldest, the most experienced, etc.
We took a look at the Nets.
—they’re the 10th youngest team, but are 28th in experience with only 3.1 years on average.
—they’re the 29th tallest team overall in the league at a tad more than 6’5”, just behind the Celtics.
—they’re 26th in weight, partly a factor of their lack of height.
—they’re 28th in salary and tied with the Pelicans at 30th and last in average length of players’ contract, 2.1 years.
Mark Porcaro, who tracks player movement around the world, has other interesting data.
—The Nets have only two players from 2015-16, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Sean Kilpatrick. Only three teams have that few, the Celtics and Kings are the others. RHJ is the Nets’ most senior player.
—The Nets rank 15th in continuity, the number of players returning from their previous season. A year ago, they were last.
What that says is they’re young and relatively small, with a lot of flexibility. We suspected that. Good to have the data to back it up.
Drazen Petrovic lives on
You don’t need to understand Serbo-Croatian or Slovenian or any other language to understand the immense importance of Drazen Petrovic to Europe, and particularly basketball in the seven small republics that made up Yugoslavia.
Just after he led the Slovenian national team to the Eurobasket championship, Goran Dragic, was given Petrovic’s No. 3 Nets jersey, courtesy of Petrovic’s mother. Dragic, who plays for the Heat, burst into tears.
Dragic had just turned seven years old when Petrovic was killed in a car crash on a German Autobahn in 1993. Still, he remembers the Net’s impact on him and his fellow ballers across Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro.
Here’s how Eurohoops described the emotional scene, carried live on Slovenian TV...
Before leaving for the USA to join the Miami Heat for the preparation ahead of the new season, Dragic received a truly special gift from the mother of legendary Drazen Petrovic.
Biserka Petrovic wanted to give the captain of the Slovenian national team a New Jersey Nets jersey with the number “3”. It’s the jersey that the late Drazen wore with the Nets and the same number that Dragic sports with the Slovenian national team.
Slovenian channel Planet TV fulfilled Mrs. Petrovic’s wish and handed Goran the jersey.
“It’s one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received in my life. I admired him. He was my idol. We know what he did for Yugoslavian and world basketball. It was a great honor for me to carry the number 3,” said a tearful Dragic.
Dragic was MVP of Eurobasket after dominating the gold medal game.
And here’s a Nets footnote: If Deron Williams had decided not to take the Nets $100 million offer in 2012, the back-up plan was to “throw a lot of money” at Dragic, then a free agent, as one team insider put it back then. Too bad.
So, here we go, the most anticipated Nets season since “The Trade” brought Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry to Brooklyn. Not because the Nets have championship ambitions, like that team. Instead, fans are looking for hope, looking for excitement and not just because of the addition of D’Angelo Russell and the return to health by Jeremy Lin.
There is a sense that the Nets turned a corner this summer, broke with the past. Now, we’ll get daily reports on how things are going, who looks good, who’s surprising, etc., etc.
We of course share in that excitement and here’s our take on the offseason: the night of June 22, when the Nets took Jarrett Allen in the Draft and finalized the Lopez-Russell trade, will go down as a milestone in the history of this franchise. Allen and Russell are 19 and 21, they are truly the first building blocks in the long-term rebuild.
We will see how it works out. Thanks for reading these tomes over the last six months!