Day 1 of Free Agency ... Two “nice” moves
The Nets decision to retain Joe Harris for two years and $16 million was expected, the agreement with Ed Davis not so much.
Harris’ price tag might have been a little higher than what the Nets wanted to pay but the flexibility of a two-year deal (meaning they can move him) provides a nice counter balance. For Harris, the deal offers him an opportunity to get a bigger deal in 2020 when 1) he’ll only be 28 and 2) the NBA salary cap will be taking a big jump.
The best part of the move, from an organizational standpoint, might be that it proves the Nets can find talent, develop talent, keep talent. That’s a selling point! Harris is two years removed from being dumped by the Cavaliers and Magic in a single day, the same day he underwent foot surgery! Then, after rehab, he was approached by the Nets. Things changed.
Bret Brielmaier, the Nets’ VERY underrated assistant coach, had worked with Harris when both were with the Cavaliers and had faith in his ability. Kenny Atkinson, in his pitch to Harris, told him that the organization thought of him as their Kyle Korver. Harris was reportedly bowled over by the comparison. (Development isn’t just physical. It’s psychological, too.)
Over the next two years, the Nets built Harris confidence and his game to the point that comparisons with Korver are no longer far-fetched.
In his fourth season in the NBA, he averaged personal bests in points (10.8), rebounds (3.3), field goal percentage (49.1), three-point percentage (41.9) and free throw percentage (82.7). More impressively, he was the best player in the NBA in scoring on drives to the rim (62.7 percent), topping second-place LeBron James.
Post All-Star Break, Harris led the team and the league in 3-point percent at 47.1 percent. His defense has also improved and we hear that he’s regarded as the Nets best teammate. Not DeMarre Carroll, not Jeremy Lin. Harris.
In short, he is who the Nets want to be, a collection of players who have gone from castoff to star, from nobody to fan favorite ... all the while exhibiting great character. They could not afford to lose him.
Davis’ signing was a bolt from the blue. A few fans might have mentioned him on our board as someone Sean Marks should target, but he was not on the pundits’ radar. The signing was surprising from other perspectives.
Start with why would Portland let him go? He told Jason Quick, the Blazers long-time beat writer, that he wanted to stay. He’s one of the best rebounders off the bench in the NBA and a great locker room guy by every assessment. He also represents something the Nets have needed, someone who can stop the bleeding and bullying underneath. He’s a banger and he’s 29, the ideal age for what the Nets want from a back-up: still athletic, smart and credible enough to mentor Jarrett Allen.
His contract is, indeed, very team-friendly ... $4.4 million for one year. Like Harris’ deal, it offers him and the Nets flexibility. (We assume the term of the deal was set by his agent, in hopes that he will be able to get a bigger deal next season.) All good.
But as “nice” as these deals are and as much as the pundits love them, they are incremental. They’re not going to move the needle much this season. They’re also much like the picks of .Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs. The Nets could have gone for an NBA-ready player, like a Keita Bates-Diop, but instead went for guys with long horizons. They hopefully will make the team more credible, more competitive, but getting from 28 wins to the playoffs without the addition of a big star will be very difficult.
And adding a star, big or not, for this year will be dependent on how much the Nets can get back from Dwight Howard. Howard is scheduled to make $23.8 million this year and the Nets would like to get $8 million back from him in a buyout. That would give them, depending on a number of things, around $15 million this year or what the Nets had before they traded Timofey Mozgov’s contract to Charlotte. The $8 million figure represents about 33 percent of that $23.8 million, which is standard for an NBA buyout. But suppose Howard wants to give up less, like $3 million or $5 million? As of now, Howard holds the upper hand. The Nets need that cap space. If at some point, another team gets interested in Howard, the advantage shifts to Brooklyn. As of now, there’s no indication any team is desperate for Howard, whose reputation as a locker room poison is known throughout the NBA. The early rumor that the Warriors might be interested seems exaggerated at best. Washington? Maybe, but there’s speculation the Wizards are thinking about going more small ball after trading Marcin Gortat.
Would it bother the Nets (much) if they reach a stalemate with Howard? Sure, to an extent, but that trade was ALL about next summer and dumping the $16.7 million they owed Mozgov in 2019-20. That’s now on Charlotte’s books. Not the worst thing that could happen.
In fact, it’s fair to state that everything the Nets have done so far is more about next summer than this: protecting the $50 to $70 million in cap space and that glorious first round pick. The Nets say they want to be “competitive” this year and point to the value of continuity (and health), but if it doesn’t work and they’re on track to win 35 or so games, with no real prospect of the playoffs, might they tank ... despite all their talk they won’t? The 2019 Draft is seen as historically bad after the top four or five picks. If the Nets get into the R.J. Barrett/Cameron Reddish sweepstakes, why not play the kids big minutes?
So, we wait ... maybe for a year.
DLo the leader
Dzanan Musa has said that before he joined the Nets, his favorite Brooklyn player was D’Angelo Russell. Maybe it’s his style or the fact that Musa was a Lakers fan growing up and knew DLo from his days in L.A.
So, as Tom Dowd reported this week, Musa was surprised and impressed when he had his first encounter with DLo.
Musa has met most of his veteran teammates as they filter through HSS Training Center for their own workouts and has quickly connected with point guard D’Angelo Russell, who invited him to his home to get acquainted.
“I’m the rookie,” said Musa. “That was a really nice gesture from him.”
The Nets are very happy with Russell. He has more than said all the right things. He’s done them. He was one of the driving forces in setting up the team get-together in L.A., which he jokingly calls, “the joint in Cali.” He’s at HSS Training Center most days, bright and early. He’s been front and center at community events, like the Steve Nash Foundation soccer tournament. He understands that he needs to show leadership. He wants it.
DLo is still only 22, going into his fourth season. His health remains a concern. He’s missed an increasing number of games in his first three seasons, from two in his rookie year to 19 in the second year and 34 last year, almost all of it due to knee issues. He’s working on his lower body strength, we’re told.
Still, if the Brooklyn Nets are going anywhere this season, they will go there on the back of D’Angelo Russell.
The Melbourne Connection?
Eurohoops, the official blog of the Euroleague, reports Sunday that Europe’s top 3-point shooter, Ryan Broekhoff, is considering taking his game to Brooklyn. Broekhoff to Brooklyn? What could go wrong? Here’s Nikos Varlas report...
According to Eurohoops sources, Ryan Broekhoff has sparked NBA interest by the Brooklyn Nets, but also could stay in Europe and play for Khimki Moscow Region.
If he decides to move to Moscow and play for Khimki he will sign a two-year deal, but the NBA is also an option. Broekhoff will wait a couple of days to make his decision and see if he can actually find a contract in the NBA.
Since 2015, the 27-year old has been playing in Russia for Lokomotiv Kuban and in 2018 he made the All 7DAYS EuroCup First Team. In Europe’s competition, he averaged 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
More importantly, Broekhoff hit 48.8 percent of his three’s in 32 games this year. He’s worked out for several NBA teams in the past few weeks including the Nets, who may have a hidden advantage: their Australian connection.
The 6’7” Broekhoff was born in Frankston, Australia, not far from Melbourne, and has played for the Australian national team since 2009, including on the Aussie entry in the Rio Olympics two years ago.
The Nets of course have a New Zealand-born GM (not always an advantage in the Aussie-Kiwi rivalry) but three staffers with strong connections to Australian sports. For starters, Kenny Atkinson’s assistant and new Long Island Nets coach, Will Weaver, is an assistant coach on Team Australia. Moreover, the Nets just promoted two Bleak City natives to jobs within the Performance Team.
Strength and conditioning coach Dan Meehan, a veteran of Australian rules football, has been named to the newly created job as director of sports science within the Performance Team. And at the same time, they added Les Gelis, a physiotherapist for the Australian national soccer team, as director of sports medicine. Gelis will be joining the Nets soon after finishing up his gig at the World Cup. Surprised? Don’t be. Australian trainers are highly valued in the NBA, as we wrote two years ago.
Broekhoff may or may not sign with the Nets, but if he does, he’ll find a comfort level.
Jason Kidd — Hall of Famer
As we get closer to the September 7 and the enshrinement of Jason Kidd in the Hall of Fame, we’ll be taking a look back at his career with the Nets. Today, we want to go back to Day 1, the day he arrived in East Rutherford for the opening of training camp. A few weeks later, SLAM had a famous (at least to us Nets fans) cover story on the Nets, “The Best TEAM in the World,”
If you were around, you remember the thrill of seeing it on the shelves.
Writer Michael Lewis, before he wrote “Moneyball,” “The Blind Side,” and “The Big Short,” profiled Kidd’s effect on the Nets. New Jersey had won a grand total of 26 games the year before and who NOBODY thought would make the playoffs, even with Kidd.
Lewis opened his profile with Kidd’s meeting his new teammates for the first time, at the training camp dinner.
In the final hours of the first night of October, the new guy spoke.
Jason Kidd had been in town only one day, yet immediately, he seemed to have a complete handle on the state of the New Jersey Nets franchise. He knew about all the losing, all about the broken promises and broken bones and broken psyches and clearly, he didn’t give a damn about any of it.
Now for the first time, Kidd and the rest of his teammates were gathered in the same room, in the Renaissance Meadowlands Hotel in East Rutherford, N.J., just down the road from their home gym, the night before training camp was to begin. They probably should’ve had name tags — heaven knows, about half of them were complete strangers to each other. They had been brought together because everything else had failed, and now the guy with the easy smile and killer handle was standing up and demanding their attention.
And this, in a calm, decisive, confident tones, is what the said,
The losing is over. It will not be accepted any long. Nothing that has happened before right now matters. Absolutely nothing. You work hard, you stick with me, you sacrifice and you do what’s best for this team, and we’re gonna win. Nothing else is acceptable.
And then, Jason Kidd sat down and an organization, for all practical purposes, was reborn, ready to rise up from the muck it had been mired in for far too long.
YEOW!! Those 44 words were so Kidd. Extemporaneous, economical and effective. He may be flawed. Okay, he IS flawed, but he is charismatic in a stoic way that cannot be denied. No rah, rah. No trash talk. He’s about results and people respect that, want to follow him.
Trying to find another Jason Kidd is a futile endeavor. He was unique and we were lucky to have him, if only for a short while.
Another record broken?
This summer is about turning the corner for the Nets. They finally have their first round pick back, after five years of seeing it being used for players like Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Colin Sexton, all lottery picks.
And it looks like Mikhail Prokhorov will lose a distinction he has held for four years — the most luxury taxes paid for one season. The record is $90.6 million, which he handed over in July 2014. There isn’t a close second. And to be quite frank, we thought it was a record that like Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak would never be broken.
But Oklahoma City’s ownership is the Cal Ripken Jr. of big bucks spending. Unless they make dramatic reductions in their payroll, the Thunder’s ownership will pay out $130 million in luxury taxes. They have some time to mitigate that, but dropping below $90 million seems tough. Final calculations aren’t made until the last day of the regular season and so they have the rest of the summer and basically through the trade deadline to get it down. They could buy out and stretch Carmelo Anthony’s gargantuan final year, for example, or dump players for picks or draft rights to long forgotten Euros. The payment itself is due on July 7.
The more of those ugly records from 2013-14 are extinguished the better!
On Friday, the Nets summer league team will make their debut against the Magic at the Cox Center in Las Vegas. Starting time: 5:00 p.m. ET. It will be carried on NBA TV. We’ve profiled the players, counted the international players and noted that Jacque Vaughn will be handling the big job this summer.
Now, we will be counting how many of the team’s current players will be on hand to cheer on the kids. Word is that a majority of the veterans will be there. In the past, they didn’t just attend the game. They worked out with the kids, dined with them, got to know them. Good stuff.