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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 11

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.

Brooklyn Nets

That was the week that wasn’t?

Like we said a few weeks back, that by 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, we’d all be scratching our heads and asking, What just happened? Of course, the draft wasn’t the big news. The big news was Wednesday’s trade of Timofey Mozgov, the 45th pick (Hamidou Diallo) in this year’s draft, a second rounder in 2021 and cash to the Hornets for Dwight Howard (Dwightmare VI) who the Nets agreed to buyout on Thursday (Dwightmare VII).

The sequence of events 1) was all about 2019 since a) the Nets will now have somewhere between 50 million and a gazillion dollars available for free agency and b) the Nets took two European players who are truly development pieces. Highly promising but still development pieces.

Starting July 6 —the first day that free agent signings and trades can be official, it will be about this year.

That’s the day the Howard trade and buyout should become official. We’ll know how much of Howard’s $23.8 million will remain on the books and whether the buyout will be stretched. The cap numbers could be vastly different, depending on what the Nets want to do. If Howard takes between 65 and 70 percent of what’s owed him, around $16 million, the Nets will basically be where they were before the trade in terms of this year’s space, around $15 million or so, depending on holds, etc. If they stretched the buyout, the amount of cap space available this summer jumps to about $25 million. Howard would be on the books for three years at around $5.3 million. Would the Nets stretch Howard when they already have $5.5 million in dead money from the Deron Williams buyout through June 2020? That would seem to depend on what the Nets have in mind. If they want to make a big deal, they might need to do that.

That’s also the day trades happen, sign-and-trades, salary dumps, etc. Half the league still is staring at the luxury tax. The teams that were rumored to be ready to move picks for bad contracts are still staring. Memphis, Cleveland, Denver, Washington and Milwaukee all used their own picks. In fact, there were no salary dumps of vets for picks anywhere in the Draft. So much for speculation. That means the cap situation for those teams and others actually got worse because the rookie salaries will get added to their cap once picks gets signed. Sean Marks on FAN hinted that something may be up. In fact, he said it ... “And for us, there are some things out there, whether it’s pending. We’ll just have to wait and see in July.” Marks also said he was tempted into some trades but “We like our solid vets on the team.” That would suggest there were offers for vets like DeMarre Carroll or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or Jeremy Lin or ???

And speculation is beginning about what the Nets plan. Here’s Zach Lowe Friday on the possibility of the Suns trading for Lin!!

“The most obvious trade in the whole league is Phoenix trading some of its young stash for a point guard. I don’t know who that point guard is going to be but I would bet a good amount of money that one of these guys ends up on Phoenix. I don’t think ... Dennis Schroder will be available. That’s not very exciting. I don’t think they can get Kyle Lowry for many, many reasons, but that’s interesting. Everyone will want to link Kemba Walker to them which is kinda interesting. If I were the Nets, I would call them and say, ‘We have Jeremy Lin, perfect placeholder point guard. Give us Dragan Bender and salary filler.”

Bender, of course, is the 20-year-old Croatian center who the Suns took with the fourth pick in the 2016 Draft, only to be disappointed by his production. He averaged 6.5 points and 4.4 rebounds in 25 minutes per game over the full 82 game schedule. He shot 36.6 percent from 3-point range, but only 38.6 percent overall. Those numbers aren’t as good as the Suns’ other young (25) seven-footer —and unrestricted free agent— Alex Len. Still, Bender is only 20 years old.

Is that the kind of deal the Nets would want if they plan on being “competitive” this year ... or is another “development” move? In both public and private conversations, Marks keeps using that word to describe what he wants to see out of the Nets next year.

In any event, it seems that this week may only have been the prelude to the big news of the off-season.! (Woj, too)

Musa’s Moment

As we wrote today —and as the other reports in attendance will assert— Dzanan Musa has one impressive personally. We won’t know for a while how he will do in a competitive NBA environment, but Musa gives good media. At first, we were amazed at his self-confidence and intelligence for someone so young. Then we realized this kid has been around ... and recalled his defining moment, as a 16-year-old

That moment had its roots when he was a child, age 11. Musa left his hometown of Bihac, Bosnia, (population 50,000) for Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, scene of the 1984 Winter Olympics and some of the most horrific war crimes of the Bosnian civil war in the early 1990’s. It was a trying experience.

“It was strange, but you have to sacrifice to become a professional basketball player. … When you want to become a legend you have to give all to basketball. It was hard. I struggled a lot,” Musa told Indiana media when he worked out for the Pacers. “Two or three times I packed my stuff and wanted to go home, but I realized I gave so much love to this sport I couldn’t do it.”

But it paid off as he began to play at a higher and higher level. By 16, Musa was the leader of the Bosnia U16 (16 and under) team in the 2015 FIBA Europe championships. They weren’t given much if any chance in the competition which included traditional power houses like Spain, France and Lithuania, where the tournament was held. There was little financial support. The coach was 28 years old.

But Musa and his teammates caught fire and turned it into magic. They raced through the tournament, beating seven of their eight opponents on the way to championship game vs. Lithuania. By that time, the boys had become the darlings of their war-torn and still very much divided nation. After they beat mighty Spain in the semi-finals, every Bosnian —Serb, Croat or Bosniak— seemed united in their fandom. National TV decided to pre-empt normal programming and air the Finals live ... a FIBA Europe U16 championship game!

Then, the impossible happened. They won. Musa sank the final free throw with 0.01 left to seal an 85-83 victory over Lithuania , collapsing on the floor in tears. He finished with 33 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks ... and was named MVP of the tournament.

Meanwhile, back home, Bosnia exploded. A celebration was scheduled for the next night when the team arrived back in Sarajevo ... with Musa carrying the championship trophy. An estimated 50,000 residents flocked to the center of the city for an emotional impromptu celebration. The celebration was described as the biggest party the city had ever witnessed.

Everyone was a basketball fan and Musa was their hero, the toast of an entire nation, front and center on the podium.

“I cannot believe what we have done,” an emotional Musa told the crowd. ”It was only when I saw you gathered here that I became aware of our success.

”That is why we will never stop, this is only the beginning of great times for this generation,” the young star promised.

The celebration wasn’t just about basketball. It was seen as a symbol of unity for the Bosnia people, a turning point in their history. And a 16-year-old was its exemplar. Whoosh! It’s doubtful that any Nets player, now or ever, has ever experienced anything like it.

Musa is emotional, he plays with a chip on his shoulder. He incites the crowd. He cried Thursday night when he was selected by the Nets. Rooting for him, whenever he makes it, will be easy. There is something very special here.

How Young is Musa?

Dzanan Musa was one of the youngest players in the Draft. He turned 19 last month, making him 19 years, one month, one week and six days old the night of the the Draft. That makes him the second youngest Nets player ... ever. Derrick Favors was 18 years, 11 months, and three weeks old. So pretty close. Jarrett Allen? 19 years, two months. one day.

National Teams ... Beware

Speaking of national teams, it looks like a number of the Nets summer leaguers will have to choose between playing for their country’s team or focusing on doing well in Vegas. The qualifiers —two games for each team— will take place June 28 through July 1. The NBA summer league starts July 6 and teams begin practicing out in Vegas around July 2. So players would have play the Qualifying game and then the next day hop on a plane for at least one international flight.

Already, Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis, a member of the Puerto Rican national team, has decided to forego his commitment to country to focus on summer league. The 6’10” big has a shot at making the training camp roster.

When NetsDaily asked Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs if they were planning to play for Bosnia and Latvia, they were non-committal. “I don’t know yet,” said Musa. “We’ll see.” said Kurucs.

In addition to Davis, Musa and Kurucs, the Nets also have Shawn Dawson, a member of Israel’s national team, on the summer league roster. Meanwhile, in Argentina, Juan Pablo Vaulet has left the national team to rest his sore ankle. Is the ankle so bad that they’ll have to miss the summer league or is he just resting it before heading to Vegas?

Chris Fleming to Greece?

Chris Fleming, the Nets assistant coach and its offensive coordinator for want of a better title, was at HSS Training Center Friday, working out players, catching a glimpse of the two Nets picks in the draft as they posed for publicity photos on the main practice court.

Might he headed elsewhere? Sportando, the European hoops site, wrote Friday that Fleming, until this year the head coach of Germany’s national team, might be in line for a big job in Greece.

Olympiacos is still looking for a new head coach after their decision to part ways with Ioannis Sfairopoulos. One of the names they’re looking at is Chris Fleming, a source told Sportando. Fleming, former head coach of German NT, is currently working with the Brooklyn Nets as an assistant coach.

Olympiacos, of course, is an iconic team in Europe, well-financed and with good facilities. It has a veteran, if aging core. Would Fleming leave? Assistant coaches always like to move into the big chair, but Fleming is an old friend of Kenny Atkinson. The New Jersey native played college ball with Atkinson at the University of Richmond.

With the Nets front office and coaching staff getting a rep as a top flight organization, expect more of their number to get interviews and offers. Ronald Nored, the G-League coach, has already by poached by Charlotte to be an assistant for development.

Along those lines, it appears that assistant GM Trajan Langdon won’t be headed to Detroit. It looks like Spurs executive Malik Rose has been offered the general managers job and Langdon’s name has faded in recent media speculation. Moreover, the GM job in Detroit will be the No. 2 position in the front office. Ed Stefanski, Rod Thorn’s No. 2 during the Kidd era, will likely be named president of basketball operations.

Who dumped who?

No, we really don’t know whether it was the Nets or Dwight Howard who initiated buyout talks. It may have even been mutual. The Nets were well aware of Howard’s locker room issues. So are most janitors around NBA offices. It’s a given. And Howard says he wants to play for a contender. The difference is that the Nets can’t talk about the buyout. Howard can... and of course, did... to Chris Haynes of ESPN who originally broke the story.

“I want to be in a situation where I have an opportunity to help a team win,” Howard said Thursday during a phone interview. “That’s my only goal. All I need is a real chance and a clean slate where it’s not people talking about my past.”

Howard told Haynes he was blindsided by the trade...

”I was just really in total shock because I wasn’t expecting it to happen,” he said. “I thought this season was really good. For one, this is the healthiest I’ve been and two, my stats this season has been one of the best since I’ve been in the NBA.”

“Everything happens for a reason,” Howard said. “I’m not going to allow this to distract me from what my goal is, which is to continue to get better as a player.”

Maybe Howard did initiate the talks, maybe he didn’t. Point is that the guy isn’t exactly trustworthy when it comes to basketball operations or keeping promises. Ask Billy King, Bobby Marks and Dmitry Razumov, who’s still with the Nets. They know.

There were a couple of telling points in his comments. He said he needed a “clean slate where it’s not people talking about my past.” Like who? Sean Marks? Kenny Atkinson? Did they say ‘thanks but no thanks,’ Dwight?

Also, he said he didn’t get a call from the Hornets. Translation: Isn’t good riddance enough of a message.

Then finally, there’s his comments about his “goal,” which is not winning championships, but getting better as a player, and about his statistics this year. All about him.

Will we find out who initiated it? Probably. Does it matter? Nah. What matters is how much will the buyout be and whether it will be stretched. See way above.

We were happy to see what a guy who averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds could do for the Nets, but we are still happy that in all of our stories, we noted the off-the-court issues that have beleaguered the teams he’s played for. Counting the Nets, the next team he plays for with his seventh in seven years. ‘Nuff said.

Final Note

Now that the Draft is over, we want to thank three very contributors to the site’s pre-Draft coverage.

Charles Maniego provided us with a seven-part series that was not just well researched, but beautifully written. Charles also provided with his now famous Draft Cards, quick (black-and-white, appropriately!) summaries of all the key players, including we should note, the two guys the Nets picked...

Nick LeTourneau put together a number of Twitter moments on prospects, doing quick film studies of their strengths and weaknesses. He got Musa right as well.

Finally, a BIG shout out to @GNYR, aka Jose, who kept track of the Nets workouts ... and mini-camps. We may not have had official lists, like other blogs, but we have GNYR’s sleuthing. He came up with the names of more than 60 prospects who came to Brooklyn for workouts. Bravo.

We should note that we’ve not met any of the three. Emails, texts, DM’s yes, physical meeting, no. For all we know, they’re all Pooch’s burner accounts! Thanks to him and Bryan Fonseca, too!