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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 9

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.

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Mozgov wants to play

Timofey Mozgov was on Radio Mayak in Russia last week to talk mainly about the Russian national team. With he and Alexey Shved now committed, Team Russia should do well in the two-game FIBA Qualifiers later this month. Their participation this year also bodes well for Russia’s chances in the FIBA World Cup next year in China.

Mozgov was asked about the Nets and he told the interviewer things were not as he had hoped.

Mozgov said it was a terrible season and he wants to play. When he talks to Kenny Atkinson, he said the coach doesn’t give him many details on what his situation is, offering only, “Keep it up, you’re doing fine.” So he just stays ready because it’s his job, but it’s been extremely hard.

The 31-year-old was a good soldier last season. After being traded to the Nets in the salary dump that brought D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn, Mozgov started at center for the Nets, but that ended after 13 games. In one 20-game stretch starting New Years Eve, Mozgov played only eight minutes and 20 seconds in a 34-point blowout loss to the Pistons. He played in a total of 31 games, getting minutes for the most part in blowout wins or losses.

But Mozgov didn’t complain and last month, he hosted 13 of his teammates at his home in L.A. as the Nets bonded and worked out in southern California.

How much longer can this continue? The Nets have him under contract for two more years at $16 million and $16.7 million. It’s hard to imagine he has any trade value in a league where cap space is at a premium. It’s also highly unlikely the Nets would stretch him. It would be five years of dead money on top of the two years they still have to pay on Deron Williams buyout.

So we wait to see if the Nets have any plans for him.

Rondae on Jalen

In the first player’s blog segment on the Nets official site, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson takes on Jalen Rose’s ESPN “promise” that the Nets aren’t texting each other this summer, a calumny made worse because he said it in full view of the Brooklyn Bridge!

Jeremy Lin was diplomatic in his tweet at Rose; RHJ not so much. He wouldn’t even mention Rose by name, calling him “a person”! The Nets forward also talked about how the California trip came together and how much the team expects to improve next season.

If there’s one thing that irked me, it’s comments made by a person last Tuesday that I won’t give any shine to. As I’ve said already, he’ll need to check in before he visits Brooklyn.

He doesn’t know what’s going on in our locker room, in our text messages and how we are as a team. I felt like it was a shot and a slap to the face, because of the perception of how nice we are. I feel like people look past what we have here sometimes. Yes, our record is what it is, but we have a brotherhood in our locker room and we have a group of young guys who are grinding every day to prove against that perception and improve as a team. We improved by eight games last season and that’s got to be the minimum expectation heading into next season. That was what the California trip was all about.

Everyone who went on that trip, volunteered to be a part of it. There weren’t any ultimatums and we definitely didn’t hold anyone hostage once they came. I was impressed that even guys who are free agents showed up. It shows the comfort level that we have with each other, it’s like they were like “I want to be here.” Anytime you get a group of guys that commit to something bigger than themselves, that says a lot about their character. About who they are and focusing on a better future, not only for themselves, but for us as a team. I think it was big, it was a step forward in the right direction for us.

Personally, it also inspired me to think about my own goals and expectations. I’m entering my fourth year and I want to be great. I want to be one of the greatest players to ever play the game. I think that’ll take some time, but I think I’m making the right strides – mentally. Once you figure out and know you have the talent, I think the next step is mentally sacrificing. Whether that’s your diet, your sleep or telling your friends ‘no we can’t hang out.’ Ultimately, to become this great player, you have to make those sacrifices and changes that the ones who aren’t great wouldn’t do. I think I showed some of that last season by improving offensively and I want to build on that heading into next season.

Hollis-Jefferson, of course, could be moved this summer. Almost anyone could. We hope not, but if you can move Brook Lopez, you can move Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Just sayin’.

Trade Tools

As the league transitions from the Draft to trade season to free agency, note that the Nets have a few trade tools that might not be so obvious, but could come into play in larger, more complicated deals.

The stashes. The value of the Nets two stashes, Juan Pablo Vaulet and Aleksandar Vezenkov, is that they have no cap value but can be used to make a larger trade work. Oftentimes, trades are broken into pieces to make them easier to complete or give one of the teams involved a sweetener. So, within the context of the Nets cap space, a player can be moved to Brooklyn in return for the rights to JPV or Vezenkov. Better than moving a future second rounder if you don’t think the player has an NBA future.

Several sites also contend the Nets have draft rights to Christian Drejer —a NetsDaily favorite taken back in the 2004 Draft — but Drejer retired from professional basketball 10 years ago with back and ankle issues. Bobby Marks has said that because he retired, the NBA won’t let Drejer’s draft rights be used in a deal.

The Rashad Vaughn trade exception. The Nets quietly created a trade exception in the Rashad Vaughn-for-Dante Cunningham deal. Cunningham was traded into the Jeremy Lin disabled player exception while Vaughn was essentially traded for nothing. So the Nets came away with a TE equal to the value of his salary —$1,889,040. There are some restrictions on TE’s, but can be used in trades, particularly in those complicated deals that need to be broken into pieces. The TE expires at the trade deadline next February.

The Pacers second rounder. We know how loathe Nets fans are to trading draft picks ... been there, done that. But the Pacer pick, acquired in the Thaddeus Young-for-Caris LeVert deal, is an extra pick, not one of their own. That would make the pain easier to bear. To refresh your memory, the pick will go to the Nets if the Pacers finish out of the lottery in any year between now and 2022. If the Pacers continue to make the playoffs through 2022, the protection goes away and Brooklyn will control the pick in 2023 no matter where Indiana finishes. How far away is that? It will be Joe Tsai’s third year as principal owner.

The cash considerations. As we’ve noted, the Nets have all their full $5.1 million in cash considerations which they can use to buy a second rounder or move up in the Draft. But the money can also be used to sweeten a trade as well. Again, cash has value in those deals broken into pieces. In a year when so many teams will be pressed up against the luxury tax threshold, cash considerations may be more valuable than in the past.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

Lonnie Walker would appear to be out of the Nets reach, unless of course they succeed in moving up. ESPN and Sports Illustrated have him at No. 13; at No. 16 and no wonder. The 6’5” freshman shooting guard out of Miami is a great athlete (40” max vertical), a good shooter (35 percent from three) and has the tools including a 6’11” wingspan to be a good defender. He is also mature, particularly for a 19-year-old. He might remind you of a young Richard Jefferson.

ESPN thinks he could be a diamond-in-the rough and as the Draft approaches, their Jonathan Givony thinks more and more teams will get interested.

Walker didn’t have a consistent or efficient freshman season, but his talent, combined with the lack of depth at his position, is keeping his name in the lottery conversation. His youth, strong frame, 6-foot-10½ wingspan and ability to shoot with his feet set or off the dribble make him a candidate to rise during the pre-draft process as teams search for upside and diamonds in the rough.

The Clippers’ wing rotation is a major work in progress and could certainly use some more shooting, length and perimeter-defensive prowess.

Do the Nets like him enough for them to make move, saddle themselves with a big contract? Hard to know. He doesn’t fill much of a need with so many guards on the roster and he is one of the youngest players in the Draft, but he fits “best player available.” They did interview him at the NBA Combine. When he was asked at the Combine who talked to h him, Walker cited the Nets second after the Clippers. That may not mean much if anything, but the Nets are familiar with him and were interested enough to request an interview.

Here’s his official highlight reel from the University of Miami...

Will the Nets move up?

Most of the rumors center on the Nuggets who have the 14th pick in the Draft and would like to dump Kenneth Faried to escape the luxury tax, but that’s always seemed a bit unlikely to us. Why? Because Denver traded out of their last year, giving up their 13th pick for Utah’s 24th pick and Trey Lyles. How’d that work out? Not well. The Jazz took Donovan Mitchell, Denver Tyler Lydon. How might Nuggets fans react if their front office did the same thing this year? The Pepsi Center might need additional fire insurance.

Mike Scotto suggested the Bucks could be an interesting match. They have the 17th pick. He pointed out the Bucks have “dangled John Henson (two years, $20.31 million remaining) and Matthew Dellavedova (two years, $19.2 million remaining) on the trade market in the past.” He didn’t indicate there are any ongoing talks.

Scotto also wondered if the Wizards who the Nets worked with a year and a half ago on a salary dump might be willing to relinquish the 15th pick if the Nets took on the expiring deals Marcin Gortat ($13.57 million) or Markieff Morris ($8.6 million).

But that speculation aside, there are other teams looking to avoid the luxury tax.

The Hornets, in a small market with one of the NBA’s least wealthy owners, are $4 million over the luxury tax threshold with a number of burdensome contracts like Nicolas Batum ($75 million over the next three); Tyler Zeller ($43.4 million over three); Marvin Williams ($29.1 million over two) and Dwight Howard ($23.8 million expiring). They have the 11th pick. Don’t they have to do something??

The Clippers, with the 12th and 13th picks, have the oft-injured Danilo Gallinari ($44.2 million over two) plus two expirings in DeAndre Jordan ($24.1 million) and Tobias Harris ($14.8 million) who might attract attention. Of course, with Steve Ballmer as your owner (worth 30 times Michael Jordan for example), you might not need to make a drastic move.

Brooklyn of course would have to give up players like DeMarre Carroll and in some scenarios, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, to take on those big salaries. Would they? We’ll know in two weeks.

The graduate

Jeremy Lin did not attend his own graduation at Harvard. He was working out with the Lakers in anticipation of the 2010 Draft. But he got a chance to play a role in others’ graduation ceremonies this weekend. He was the commencement speaker at NCCU, Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.

And Lin being Lin hit on a number of topics both universal and specific to his Taiwanese audience. Specifically, the Nets guard spoke on seven different keys to life but for much of the speech, he talked about three issues, appreciating the journey, staying grounded, the concept of “humble confidence” and being ready to listen before speaking. In all cases, he used examples from his NBA career.

Lin, who was met with raucous cheers when introduced, gave the graduates some standard fare one hears at commencements, “The ones who really succeed are the ones who just want it more,” but then opened up, talking at length about how he was so driven by his desire to succeed that he didn’t fully appreciate what he called, “the little things,” missing some of the joys of being an NBA player.

“My biggest regret in my entire life is during my first five years in the NBA, I was so focused on what I wanted to achieve that I couldn’t enjoy the process. And I have to learn to be content where I was and only did I get to the point did I really enjoy the things I was accomplishing the destination I was getting to.

“It wasn’t until my sixth year when I was playing for the Charlotte Hornets. I started looking around at the arena and I saw eight, nine thousand people watching every single game. Before that I never looked around. I couldn’t even focus on everybody else. I just wanted to be so great.

“But when i got to the point when I was really enjoying the moment, I really started to appreciate all the little things, even on the plane flights. “Unlimited snacks, food, cookies, chips, candy. These were things I never appreciated on my NBA journey, little things And the lesson is when you do have success, stay grounded.”

Almost as an aside, he mentioned, that he has even likes to stay grounded in the air.

“Every once in while, one of the things I like to do is fly economy because it reminds me that I don’t need to fly first class every time I’m on an airplane.

“So as you geet success, continue to find ways to stay grounded.”

Perhaps his biggest point was emphasizing that particularly in the Asian cultures, there is an emphasis on humility. But he told the audience, people can be confident and humble, again using a moment from his NBA career to illustrated how that works.

“There is a difference between humble confidence on one end and then the other side of that is being a doormat.

“One of the best things I ever did was confront James Harden. He had been showing a lot of poor body language towards me. He was right in what he was trying to say, but he wrong in his body language. And it took a lot of courage for me to say something. And I wanted a long time to do it. And when I finally got to that moment, I was extremely nervous.

“But the one thing i did was earn his respect that day. We communicated and I showed him that I can be confident, I can be humble, I can say things the right way, but I can also stand up for myself.”

As for listening before you speak, Lin spoke about how he was embarrassed at a dinner he had with Yao Ming.

“I remember one of my first interactions with Yao Ming. He took me to a very fancy restaurant. Multiple courses coming in. I remember the soup course was about to come in. Everyone is talking about soup. and the top of shark fin soup came up and I thought that what was coming out next. I don’t really know much about shark fin soup but i was saying, ‘i love shark fin soup; I can’t wait to have it.’ And Yao said to me, ‘i’m working on banning shark fin soup globally.’ It was one of my more embarrassing moments. Quick to listen, slow to speak.”

In another example derived from his NBA career, Lin spoke about “doing things the right way.”

“When I was a rookie (with Golden State), I owned one pair of jeans. My fashion game was weak. Monta Ellis noticed that I was wearing the same pair of jeans every day. So a week later, he bought me 20 pairs of jeans. Each one was $200 each. I will always remember that for the rest of my life. People didn’t always agree with Monta, but I will always remember that was doing things the right way.”

Lin also told the men in the audience they must respect women and when he heard some laughter, he re-emphasized the point. “I’m serious. Make sure you treat them the right way,” he said.

In the end, as in the beginning, the graduates cheered Lin. No polite applause that you see at commencements around the world. Cheers.

Political Note

We didn’t see any controversies surrounding Mikhail Prokhorov or Joe Tsai this week, but we did note that the wealth gap between Tsai and Prokhorov is widening. At the time of their agreement to divide up the Nets, they were back-to-back on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, at 124 and 125 on the world’s richest list. Now, Tsai is at 102 and Prokhorov 118. Tsai’s net worth has jumped $1.84 billion this year; Prokhorov’s “only” $379 million.

Final Note

Say it ain’t so, Spencer! The Nets aren’t getting LeBron James?!?

In a tweet on Saturday, Spencer Dinwiddie tried to tamp down ANY suggestion that King James would be interested in Brooklyn...

Well, of course, he’s right, both on the reality check re LeBron and the need for patience. It’s been the Nets mantra since Day 1 of the Marks Era: No shortcuts. Play it as it lays.

That of course is the difference between the Nets and Knicks: reality. Knick fans believe LeBron is headed to the Garden.