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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 6

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And we’re back, for our 11th 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 28-54.

Los Angeles Clippers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In Portugal. On vacation. So be grateful for what you get!

The Next Frontier

In a couple of weeks, Jeremy Lin will be in Asia again on his annual “sharing tour.” This year’s theme is “Never Done,” an almost angry retort to “I’m Done,” the words Lin screamed in pain after rupturing his patella tendon on Opening Night ...

On June 2, he’ll start his tour in Taiwan, then by June 7, he’ll be in Hong Kong, home of Joe Tsai, the Nets new minority owner for a few days. It will be the first of two tours this year, rather than a stressful longer tour. In breaking things up, he’s following the advice of his rehab specialists who think two trips will be less stressful.

Lin, as he always does, will mix basketball, evangelicalism, and business as he talks with tens of thousands of fans, many of whom will be dressed in Nets gear. Despite two disappointing seasons in Brooklyn, missing more than 125 games, he’s still a rock star in Asia and in particular, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. In fact, he’s the third most popular player in the world’s most populous country behind LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

With both Lin and Tsai of Chinese heritage — and Brett Yormark ever ready to market things— there is a great opportunity for the Nets ... and the NBA. Expect Brooklyn to once again attempt to create a global brand. Mikhail Prokhorov believed he could do that, but it didn’t happen. The Nets are popular in Russia, but the NBA and basketball are not. By some standards, basketball is the sixth most popular sport in Russia. In China, it’s top two, with 300 million people playing the game.

Lin may or may not be around for a long time, but Tsai will be. And even before Lin or Tsai, the Nets were popular in Asia. The Phillipines have long been the Nets — and NetsDaily’s — second biggest fanbase as measured by page views.

As Yormark has said, the rise of gambling in the US, abetted by last week’s Supreme Court decision on sports books, will add to marketing opportunities for the Nets in the form of sponsorships and advertising. And with gambling crazed China, those opportunities increase, particularly in the long term. Lots of synergies there.

Of course, any team revenues outside a home market goes to the league. But the new owners, like Tsai, understand that they’re not just buying a local franchise, they’re buying a 1/30th stake in the NBA, a GLOBAL brand. As the league grows in popularity, its TV and digital rights et cetera become more valuable, not just in North America, but Asia, will bring in bigger revenues. Shared, yes, but big.

Bottom line is that the Nets are in a good place business-wise with Tsai’s investment and the Supreme Court’s decision to permit sports book gambling.

You can say what does all this have to do with basketball? A lot.

”We know we have a group,“ said Sean Marks at his end-of-the-season press conference. “We already know we have an ownership group that is ready to fork out the big money when that timing is right.“

Stash time?

In recent interviews, both Kenny Atkinson and Gregg Polinsky, essentially the chief scout as Director of Player Personnel, have hinted the Nets may very well draft a young European player and stash him as they did last year, with Aleksandar Vezenkov, the 6’9” Bulgarian small forward.

Polinsky was more direct in his hint.

“When they’re young and you have multiple picks like we have — we have three picks this year — or Philadelphia who has God knows, maybe five (actually six) ... you don’t necessarily want another young player,” he told Wimp Sanderson, the former college coach on Alabama radio. “So what you do ... you ‘stash’, you ‘draft and stash’ overseas. There will be a bunch of that this year. There’s some intriguing young guys over there.”

Who might that be?

Here’s a couple of names...

Issuf Sanon, a 6’4”, 18-year-old shooting guard. Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon scouted Sanon last month in Slovenia. Sanon is Ukrainian by citizenship, but his father is from the Central African republic of Burkina Faso.

He’s athletic and ambitious... and heavily scouted. Here’s what Mike Schmitz of ESPN wrote of him last month.

As a player, Sanon is a defensive-minded slashing guard who does most of his damage in transition and at the rim, while also flashing a fairly natural feel for the game given his lack of high-level experience. “I play drive and I play defense,” Sanon told ESPN during a private, hourlong workout in Ljubljana on March 31.

And here’s some video from last summer with additional Schmitz comments...

He’s ranked No. 64 on ESPN’s big board.

Another name on the list could be a Serbian who Marks scouted back in March on his European tour.

Vanja Marinkovic is a 6’7” Serbian shooting guard from Partizan, then ranked No. 98 out of 100 top prospects by ESPN. At 21, he is a little older, but the Nets have or had some interest. According to NBADraft.net...

The Serbian prospect started the season strong but as the games were progressing, he slowed down. His ability to shoot from everywhere on the floor still makes him intriguing, but the fact that he wasn’t able to show a lot of improvement in other areas of his game has hurt his stock.

That Sanon is working on his shot and Markinovic is working on everything else should come as no surprise. That’s why you stash a player, to develop those skills. And Marks hinted the new, expanded G League could play a role.

“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,“ said the Nets GM. “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.”

Also, we have to wonder if the Nets will buy a late pick to use for stashing a player like Sanon or Markinovic. Number 45 seems a bit high.

Finally, in stashing players, the Nets are again following the Spurs model. San Antonio has always been patient with stashed players starting with Manu Ginobili, who was taken at No. 58. Spurs waited three years for him.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

Told ya!

We (okay, ME) have have been obsessed with Grayson Allen of Duke for two years. We (okay, ME) believe that he should be a Net. To those who asked us (okay, ME) why would I want such an a-hole on the Nets, we (okay, ME) would answer, it’s precisely because he is an a-hole, because he wants to win and will do anything to do so. He’s stabilized in the last year (a hip check is not a trip), then blew away the Draft Combine this week with his surprising athleticism.

His lane agility drill number is the fifth best ever. As SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell reported Friday, he was one of the big winners at the combine.

He also posted a 40.5-inch vertical, which was tied for sixth best among players who tested Thursday. What makes that even more impressive is that Allen did it as a one-footed leaper...

Scouts always look for one-footed leapers because they can get off the ground quicker. That’s a pretty ridiculous number for Allen off one foot.

And this...

And just to prove he’s still a bit of an arrogant punk, which we (okay, I) love, here’s how he responded when he was asked to compare himself with J.J. Redick, a Duke alumnus and his mentor.

”I don’t think J.J. jumped 40 inches.”

Yeah, we (okay, ME) are obsessed.

Courtside for Prokhorov?

Mikhail Prokhorov sat courtside at the Euroleague Final Four in Belgrade, Serbia, this weekend. He watched the Russian champion and his former team, CSKA Moscow, lose to Real Madrid and its wunderkind, Luka Doncic.

Courtside? Prokhorov? The Nets owner has NEVER sat courtside at Barclays. NEVER. He’s always sat in the ONEXIM suite high above the court.

We noticed back in 2009 that Prokhorov sat courtside — and in CSKA colors — at Euroleague championship games, even joining the fans in chants.

As YES directors have shown us over the last six years, Prokhorov has expressed excitement at Nets successes. But always in the confines of his well-appointed suite.

So we say, “Mikhail, come on down.”

One more thing: Prokhorov sat between Nets director and Russian basketball commissioner Sergei Kushchenko and former commissioner Sergei Ivanov. Ivanov also happens to be a former KGB general and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff. He won’t be sitting with Prokhorov in Brooklyn. Ivanov is under U.S. sanctions.

Final Note

We (okay, ME) are in Europe where we (ME) saw two people wearing Nets gear. The only other NBA team gear we saw were the Lakers. Natch.

So, there’s some hope for the global ambitions.