Hello, South America?
One overlooked part of the Nets hiring Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach and Tiago Splitter as a scout (and a sometimes big man coach) is that both are among the best players to come out of South America, Prigioni from Argentina and Splitter from Brazil.
Does this mean that the Nets have a new interest in the continent? The Spurs, when Sean Marks played in San Antonio, then was in the front office, valued South America, starting, of course, with Manu Ginobili. But the Spurs also had several other South Americans on their roster during their championship years, Fabricio Oberto, Tim Duncan’s back-up, is also from Argentina’s “Golden Generation.” And Splitter himself played on the 2014 NBA champs. There have been a few others over the years who’ve had a cup of coffee in San Antonio, including another Argentine Nicolas Laprovittola two
The hirings were big news across Latin America, particularly in Argentina and Brazil. The Nets didn’t make a big deal out of the two players’ South American heritage, but the locals sure did. Prigioni, it was noted, is the first Argentine to sit on an NBA bench as an assistant coach.
We had one of our most loyal posters, GNYR, ask one of Argentina’s most active basketball bloggers, Francisco Pedernera, whether he thought Prigioni’s hiring would raise the profile of Argentine players.
Sin dudas, creo que puede abrir un puente para los mejores talentos de aquí. Eso sí, Pablo no se deja llevar por la nacionalidad sino por el talento.— Francisco Pedernera (@franciscopedern) April 29, 2018
Translation: “Undoubtedly, I think it can open a bridge for the best talents here. Of course, Pablo does not let himself be led by nationality but by talent.”
Of course, one of the Nets two stashes, Juan Pablo Vaulet, plays in Argentina and having a good, if not great, year. It’s uncertain what the Nets plan for the 22-year-old forward. They brought him up to Brooklyn a little more than a year ago to get his troublesome ankles examined and spend some time with the organization. He even traveled with the team on two road trips. Since then, nothing publc. And it should be noted that the Nets didn’t even confirm his visit. Vaulet talked about to Argentine media.
The Nets are quite proud of their breadth and depth of their scouting. Not only do they have three scouts in Europe. Assistant coaches have had gigs with the national teams of Germany, Australia and the Dominican Republic. Sergei Kushchenko, a member of the Nets board of directors, is president of the Russian basketball League.
At the end-of-season press conference, Marks was asked specifically if the Nets were scouting in Africa. Marks responded generally, but quite enthusiastically.
“We scout everywhere and you’re right, you have to find those hidden gems. They can be in any part of the world. To me, that’s the part of the business that’s really enticing – the curiosity of where’s the next player [coming from]. It could be from the G League. The fact that the G League has taken those steps now, where you’ll potentially have draft eligible candidates or players coming into the G League. You’ll have foreign guys coming into the G League early, that’s a terrific – I give the NBA a lot of credit for they are trying to develop and tweak how we all use the G League.
“But to your point, we’re scouting everywhere – all around the world – if not, we’re not doing our job.”
No doubt, Marks was thinking of the hires he was about to make. (And we found the point about G-League going international more than a bit intriguing.)
Draft Sleeper of the Week
Exactly a year ago, this weekend, we identified Hamidou Diallo, the 6’5” guard then a “none-and-done” prospect at Kentucky, as our Draft Sleeper of the Week. The Nets were interested and Jonathan Givony wrote recently that the Nets had him penciled in at the 27th pick before he dropped out and reclassified to this year’s draft ... and before the Nets traded the pick to L.A. as part of the D’Angelo Russell/Brook Lopez deal.
But this year, Diallo is committed to stay in the draft after a year at Kentucky that was admittedly disappointing. Are the Nets still interested? One has to assume they are. If they were so enthralled by his potential a year ago —before he played a single college game— why would they be uninterested a year later? He’s still only 19. He still has a 44.5” max vertical (not a typo) and a 7’0” wingspan (also not a typo), giving him a max reach of 12 feet.
As Givony noted after last year’s Combine, “Diallo also posted a 3.11 in the three-quarter court sprint (third overall) and a 2.79 in the shuttle run (second overall). To compare, Zach Lavine posted a 41.5 max vertical jump and 3.19 sprint time at the 2014 Combine.”
And yes, he is a local product as well. As we noted last year, Diallo grew up in Lefrak City, Queens, not that much farther away from Barclays Center than Coney Island where Isaiah Whitehead lived.
He did disappoint this year at Lexington, considering that in 2017, he was the top rated shooting guard in high school and the eighth-rated prospect overall. He averaged 10 points a game, shot 42.8 percent overall, 33.8 percent from three and was a mediocre 61.6 percent from the stripe. He was also very inconsistent. Witness his last two games under John Calipari: 22 points and eight rebounds in the win over Buffalo that got the Wildcats into the Sweet 16. But then, he put up only two points and four boards in the loss to Kansas State. He was in foul trouble all game.
Then, there’s this... the effortless athleticism.
You can’t teach that. As for those of you out throwing up your hands that Diallo would be yet another guard, two points: 1) if the Nets consider him the best player available when they pick at 29, 40, 45 or wherever, they will take him; and 2) the distance between LeFrak City and the Long Island Nets practice facility in New Cassel is only 19.5 miles, twice what it is from LeFrak City and HSS Training Center.
The Celtics Trade: Another View
Another member of the 2013-14 Nets has been heard from. In an interview this week with Russian media, Andrei Kirilenko, now head of the Russian basketball federation, offered his view on the over-rated, click-baited, salary-sated 2013-14 Nets team.
The Nets signed AK-47, then 32, not long after they traded their future for Paul Pierce, 35; Kevin Garnett, 37; and Jason Terry, 35. Kirilenko thinks it could have worked and seems to diss those who criticized the Nets thinking at the time.
Kirilenko says that trading all the picks in 2013 was a risk but if Nets had won, “Everyone would’ve said it all worked and the next four years would be unimportant.” Of course, it didn’t and one of the reasons it didn’t was Kirilenko.
He showed up at Nets training camp proudly noting that the he hadn’t picked up a basketball the entire summer (which he spent on the French Riviera at the family home in St. Tropez.) It was his first summer since his teens when he didn’t have to play for the Russian National Team. He wanted to be refreshed.
But two weeks into the season, he went down with back spasms and missed 24 straight games. He only played 45 games that season and averaged a career-low 5.0 points and 3.2 rebounds. The next season, he played seven games before Lionel Hollins exiled him to the bench, saying he didn’t see the former All-Star as a rotation player with the Nets. Those were the last games he played in the NBA. Billy King shipped him off to Philadelphia in salary dump, which is why the Nets don’t have a second round pick this year.
Another fun fact about that trade: If Terry retires as expected this summer, there will only be one player left from that trade still in the league: MarShon Brooks of the Grizzlies, who returned to the NBA in March after four years overseas, the last three in China.
Of course, there are the draft picks: James Young (who had short stint with the 76ers in March); Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum (both with the Celtics) and whoever the Cavs take this June. The Nets did get two picks from the 2017 swap of draft choice: the 27th pick which they included in the D’Angelo Russell/Brook Lopez trade and the 57th pick which turned into Bulgarian stash, Aleksandar Vezenkov.
‘Nuff said? Yeah.
Jeremy Lin’s Summer Plans
Details of Lin’s annual “sharing tour” of China and Taiwan are slowly emerging. The Nets guard will be in Hong Kong on June 7 and 8. Both events are free and are sold out.
Check out @JLin7's Sharing 2018 - Never Done「林書豪分享會2018 永不止息」in Hong Kong.— infinity88 (@linfinity88) April 29, 2018
1️⃣ June 7 (4:30 PM – 6:00 PM) at Lingnan University Chan Tak Tai Auditorium https://t.co/BvNNYOtXGM
2️⃣ June 8 (4:30 PM – 6:00 PM) at Wanchai Southern Stadium https://t.co/QwZFYWwjlC pic.twitter.com/mtic450Eva
The tour is a combination of basketball camp, evangelical experience and attempt at building good will among cultures. (Lin talked recently about how his unique position as the first Chinese-American in the NBA gives him an opportunity to bring China and the United States closer calling it, “my off-the-court job.”)
The other cities on the tour have yet to be publicized, but we would expect that we’ll see new minority owner, Joe Tsai, at one of the Hong Kong events. After all, it’s his hometown.
The tour is titled, “Never Done,” the theme of his rehab and return. (Remember, as he was lying on the floor on Opening Night, Lin cried out, “I’m done, I’m done,” knowing the extent of his injury.)
Lin will continue his rehab in Brooklyn for headed out to Asia and left no doubt that he expects to play a big role for the Nets next season. Remember what he said on “baggie day,” the day after season’s end.
“I see myself just being a beast out there. Not just bing a starter, being a guy, main, main guy. That’s what I came here (Brooklyn) to do, that’s what they want me to do. As long as my body holds up and I’m healthy, I think next year is going to be a big year.”
Lin has been in Taiwan for the last week watching his brother, Joe, play in the Taiwan league. It’s been a family outing, their first time watching Joe, a 6’1” guard, play professionally.
Lin’s fame, of course, transcends basketball in Taiwan. But when he arrived at one of his brother’s games last week, there was at least one Nets fan in the crowd.
There is no more compelling story in the off-season than Lin’s recovery. None.
Back to Barclays
There’s been no official announcement but for the sixth straight year, the NBA Draft will be held at Barclays Center. It will also be the eighth straight year the Nets will host the annual event. Before they moved to Brooklyn, the Nets hosted the 2011 and 2012 Drafts at Prudential Center. The Draft is June 21.