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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 14

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.

First Off...

A bit of correction from RealGM on the protections on the first round pick the Nets got in Friday’s salary dump...

Big correction? Yes. Big deal? Not really. Here’s why: The Nuggets would basically have to suck so bad they would be in top 12 of the Draft through 2024. That’s unlikely with all the young talent, possibly including Michael Porter Jr. They just signed Nikola Jokic and Will Barton to big, long term deals. Not to mention Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and just this week, Isaiah Thomas. Of course, the Nets did take their veterans. We shall see.

Remain calm.

Where to begin?

Well, a lot of the rumors were (mostly) true. The Nets were shopping Jeremy Lin (but no one had the final destination as Atlanta). The Nets wanted to do a salary dump with Denver (but no one expected that both Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur would land in Brooklyn, carrying two picks as welcome gifts). Everybody expected Sean Marks to add some depth (but Shabazz Napier was not on anyone’s radar.)

It’s still not over. The Nets now have something else they didn’t have in the past several years: trade assets. Extra picks, strategic cap space, expiring contracts, big and small, for use next year or tomorrow.

It seems highly unlikely that those players whose rights were renounced this week will be coming back. That means losing Jahlil Okafor, Quincy Acy, Dante Cunningham, Milton Doyle and James Webb III. Timofey Mozgov, Nik Stauskas, Jeremy Lin and Isaiah Whitehead are already gone from the roster. That’s a total of nine, out of 17 players, counting two-ways, who will need to be replaced.

So far, the Nets have added four veteran players: Ed Davis, Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur and Shabazz Napier plus the two rookies, Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs. Of course, they’ve also added three draft picks, a moderately protected first rounder in next year’s draft; an unprotected second rounder and a heavily protected second rounder, both in 2020. Then there’s the draft rights to Isaia Cordinier, the French league guard. In the process, they gave up a second in 2025 and agreed to swap picks in 2023.)

And of course, they re-signed their top internal target, Joe Harris to a two-year, $16 million deal, and provided a pass-through for Dwight Howard on his way from Charlotte to Washington.

The Nets got a little older, not much, in the process, gained defense and rebounding particularly up front, one of their big problems last season; but lost shooting. Acy and Cunningham, for example, shot a combined 40 percent from three after the All-Star Break. Maybe the find a good shooter as things wind down. They’d better. Offense up front looks kind of barren. We’re not even entertaining the idea of drawing up a depth chart, if 1-through-5 even matters on this team.

Most importantly for the front office, they hung on to the huge cache of cap space they’ve been hoarding.

Is this a better team than last year, considering all that? It doesn’t look like a tanking team, but it doesn’t look like a playoff team, either. There are health issues to be dealt with, like D’Angelo Russell’s knee and those nagging issues that follow Caris LeVert. There are new chemistry issues, and a change of leadership. Jeremy Lin may have spent almost all of last season rehabbing at a facility 3,000 miles away and in another country, but the younger players gravitated to him and DeMarre Carroll. Will Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur replace him, or will DLo step up? It seems like he wants the responsibility.

The bottom line for us is this: as we wrote Friday morning after a sleepless night, the Nets are a normal NBA team again, with their own draft picks, firsts and seconds, cap space, a fully operating G-League team and even a few stashes, overseas. NONE of that was true two years and five months ago when Sean Marks walked in the doors of the brand new HSS Training Center (which he had quietly toured before it was open and while still with the Spurs. He knew.)

As Greg Logan writes Sunday....

“[A]fter 29 months of wheeling and dealing that exemplified his philosophy of being creative and strategic with every move, Marks has created light at the end of a long, dark tunnel for the Nets’ organization...

“Because the Nets’ record in two seasons under Marks and Atkinson is only 48-116, signs of progress have been difficult to discern. But the rebuilding job Marks has performed, laying a foundation from the ground up in just over two years has been nothing short of masterful.”

Kudos as well go to ownership who Marks got to go along with his somewhat scorched earth policies, even trading away the new minority owner’s favorite player.

As Pooch wrote in his story on DLo taking over the new Nets, next season is crucial. “It’s the most important season of his young career and the most important season since Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson took over.”

We continue to be guided in our appraisal of the rebuild by the words of Luis Scola who scanning the HSS Training Center told Zach Lowe that the Nets will get everyone they want, but they have to start winning first.

Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm argued similarly in a tweet Sunday morning.

“As of now,” of course, are the operative words, but we can also argue that Marks has made a lot of very good moves leading up to now and so the smart money is on the proposition he’ll make a few more before this time next year.

In case you missed it...

Joe Tsai once told Bill Walton that Jeremy Lin was his “favorite player,” and no wonder. The two men have a great number of similarities. They are of Tawainese heritage who were educated at Ivy League colleges —Lin at Harvard, Tsai at Yale. We even heard there is a familial tie. But none of that had any effect, it seems, on the Nets decision to use Lin to get the cap space necessary to add a first round pick in the 2019 and a second rounder in 2020.

Just before 3 a.m. Friday, Tsai dropped two tweets related to the trade.

If you have time, take a look at the reactions to the tweets from Lin fans. They were not happy with the move and asked how Tsai, the 49 percent owner of the Nets, let this happen.

It should be noted that Tsai really doesn’t have much power in decision making yet. The NBA by-laws are quite clear that the principal owner and team “governor,” which remains Mikhail Prokhorov, is in charge of all the decisions. He can consult with minority owners, but it’s all up to him.

As the tweets indicate, Sean Marks made sure to keep Tsai up to date, which is a courtesy now and a smart move down the road. Tsai will be taking over control of the team in 2021.

Tsai will also continue his friendship with Lin. Lin announced after the trade that Tsai will participate in a Lin-sponsored “Hoop for Hope” celebrity game August 4 in Shenzen, China.

Maybe we should send Pooch to China to cover it. It’s part of Lin’s big China tour which starts next week. Last we heard, Spencer Dinwiddie was going to accompany Lin on the tour.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your Brooklyn Trail Blazers

Yes, the Nets seem to be intent on re-creating the Portland Trail Blazers bench from 2016-17, as more than pundit noted this weekend. Already, they have Allen Crabbe, Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier from that 41-41 team. (And Nets fans’ favorite free agent of the moment, Noah Vonleh also played for Portland that year.)

In introducing the bench back in October 2016, NBC Sports Northwest, ran lengthy introductions of the Blazers’ new bench players. We thought we’d excerpt a few of the relevant parts on Davis and Napier. We can wait on Vonleh.

ED DAVIS: ‘The Everything Guy’

If there is a group discussion in the locker room, chances are it was instigated by Ed Davis.

Last week before the final preseason game at Golden State, there was debate among some players whether Islam was a language. As Shabazz Napier fished for confirmation that it was a language, Davis settled into his seat and ended all discussion.

“Islam is a religion; Arabic is the language of Islam,’’ Davis said.

When it comes to the personality of the team, Davis is the glue. He is widely considered the funniest guy on the team and also shares the title of biggest trash talker with Aminu. He is the coolest of cool, but also one of the most engaging and thoughtful guys on the team.

“A great person in the locker room,’’ Plumlee said. “He likes to pick the topic of choice, and he is going to be very direct with his questions. When he talks to you he’s going to ask you what you believe, how you treat your girlfriend … he wants to really get to know people.’’


SHABAZZ NAPIER: Lillard’s twin?

Last week after the Blazers beat the Jazz in an exhibition in Salt Lake City, Shabazz Napier sat in front of his locker with a stack of paper towels on his thigh. Between each towel was cash, and Napier was carefully dabbing the money to dry it out.

Earlier that day, after the team’s shootaround, he had turned in his laundry bag with his wallet still in his sweatpants pocket.

“I took a nap that afternoon and woke up and was like ‘Oh (crap)! … I just knew I left it in there,’’ Napier said.

He immediately called equipment manager Eric Hallman, who happened to be doing the laundry at the time. Sure enough, he found Napier’s wallet amid the water and suds.

“Thankfully, it wasn’t in the wash for more than 15 minutes,’’ Napier said.

Naturally, as Napier hand-patted his money in front of his locker, he drew snickers and head shakes from his teammates. Turns out, he was more concerned with his family pictures of his siblings and nephews and nieces, but nevertheless, the money drying drew attention.

“Washing money … that’s so middle school, man,’’ Davis said, disgusted. “I’m one of the older guys, and I try to help these guys out, but I don’t know what you can do about that. He’s still young.’’

Speaking of introductions, the Nets have not yet announced a press conference to introduce their new players. Of course, they have to wait till all the league paper work is done and also that Sean Marks is done.

That said, we’d assume that the press would be invited in to question Joe Harris, Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier, Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur whoever else they sign or re-sign. Stay tuned.

One other fun fact about the new Portland Nets or Brooklyn Blazers. Both Davis and Napier appear to have taken a salary cut to work here. Davis made around $7 million last year and Napier $2.5 million. If reports are accurate, they’ll be making around $4.4 million and $2 million.

Why Napier?

We like the signing of Shabazz Napier, considering it’s a cheap contract —apparently a vets minimum— and he’s just had his best year as a pro with Portland. But it did leave us scratching our heads. Wasn’t there a Brooklyn Backcourt Logjam that was just alleviated by trading Jeremy Lin and Isaiah Whitehead, no matter how little they played last year (a total of 17 games between them).

After all, the Nets still have D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Allen Crabbe, and even Dzanan Musa and Theo Pinson who does have an Exhibit 10 guarantee of $50,000 after all. Do they really need Napier?

Here’s our take If you’re Sean Marks, injuries to point guards have ruined your first two years as GM. Lin went down in Game 5 in 2016-17 and missed 46 games due to recurring hamstring issues. Same year, Greivis Vasquez, brought in to back-up Lin, went out in Game 3 and was waived not long afterwards. He had unresolved ankle woes that required season and career ending surgery. Lin and Vasquez missed a total of 125 games.

Then last year, Lin went down in Game 1 with a ruptured patella tendon that put him out for the year. Then, 13 games later, Russell went down and needed arthroscopic knee surgery. He was out for 34 games. The two missed 126 games combined.

So think about it. Marks may very well believe you can never have too many guards. He’s learned his lesson.

“As we’ve seen before, it’s been handy to have a couple of extra point guards,” said Marks on July 6. Point taken, pun intended.

Summer League and Two-Ways

The Nets Summer League experience was an abomination. The only winless team out of 30 with injuries that sent roster players home to China and Argentina; unresolved buyout issues that prevented at least one, maybe two players from participating and a decision not to play Caris LeVert at all.

Topping that, the team’s two two-way players —Milton Doyle and James Webb III— didn’t pick up the slack and by the end of the Nets Summer League stint, both were gone, their rights renounced. Neither Doyle nor Webb will be playing in Long Island next season.

Three players did have decent if not spectacular runs:

—Theo Pinson, the 6’7’ UNC grad proved that he could shoot from deep, hitting 42.8 percent from beyond the arc. That’s 20 points higher than what he shot for the Tar Heels last season. His lack of shooting was the lead reason given for him not being drafted. So the 22-year-old is a strong candidate for one of the two-ways.

—Yuta Watanabe, the 6’9” GWU grad showed that his A-10 Defensive Player of the Year award was earned. Watanabe who played guard at George Washington was able to protect the rim and hit some three’s making him a potential 3-and-D player at the next level. And he’s a native of Japan who hopes to be the second of his countrymen to play in the NBA

Shawn Dawson, a 6’6” swingman from Israel, surprised people with his all-around game. He’s athletic and can finish as well as hit from deep. He was the Summer Nets high scorer despite averaging only 17 minutes a game. He’s the oldest of the trio at 24, but he could make an appearance on the training camp roster, if not a two-way.

Those decisions don’t get made for a while. And of course, the Nets could change their mind in mid-season as they did last year, waiving their first set of two-ways and signing Doyle and Webb.

Final Note

We thought of doing a larger farewell piece on Lin, but really he played 37 games in two years. He wasn’t even around much this year.

He is a remarkably solid citizen, brilliant, a leader and generally a good guy. But at the end of the day, he played only those 37 games. He wasn’t Jason Kidd or Devin Harris or even Deron Williams. He wasn’t even LinSanity.

We wish him well in Atlanta where he will be part of a rebuild, just as he was here. It’s his seventh NBA city, after Golden State, New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Charlotte and Brooklyn. Each has been lucky to have him.

And yes, that jersey is marked down.