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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 13

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.

Done with deals?

Sean Marks gave one of his delphic media talks on Friday night at halftime of the Nets - Magic summer league game Friday night. The headline, at least for us, was that this is the roster they’re going to war with.

“You look at the team now, that’s what we’ve got and that’s what we’re planning on. We’re planning on going into the season with that team,” he said.

But he also said, pay attention, we might do something else...

“I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Marks said. “I would just say we’re constantly weighing our options. I’ve used it before, we’re going to be strategic and see how it comes. The longer the process is drawn out and going into July, they’ll probably be better deals out there.”

That of course is what happened last year. A year ago Sunday, the Wizards had just announced they were matching the Nets offer sheet on Otto Porter Jr. ... and the Nets were in the final stages of a salary dump that got them DeMarre Carroll and two picks that turned into Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs. That deal broke on July 9, a year ago Monday.

A few days later, Ian Eagle told a Sports Illustrated podcast that the Nets “still have some things up their sleeves,” and on July 25, the Nets traded Andrew Nicholson for Allen Crabbe.

Still, the Nets roster remains unbalanced, too many guards, too few bigs and while Marks notes that it was great having such backcourt depth last season, what happens if either Jarrett Allen or Ed Davis have devastating injuries this year? There’s so little depth up front ... and so little scoring. The Nets waited until preseason last year to bring in Tyler Zeller and it was good they did.

The roster imbalance is not something that’s being discussed solely by fans or by pundits. People across the Nets organization acknowledge it, even if privately, and expect something to happen.

If it doesn’t, the Nets will go into the season, hoping for an incremental improvement. Individual players will get better and unit cohesiveness will be enhanced by simply having players play together another year, understand each other better. Development matters. Continuity matters, but again so does health. The Nets are too thin up front.

So we wait and are patient. The $10 million or so they have in cap space is now, after the all the big deals have gone down league-wide, top two or three in the NBA. They might not have enough to do a salary dump for Kenneth Faried with the Nuggets, but we are always amazed at what GM’s in general and Marks in particular can do. That’s why they get paid the (moderately) big bucks.

Would they tank, deliberately try to get a high pick in a weak draft? To a man, the Nets say no way, but if things aren’t going well as they approach the trade deadline, there will no doubt be a temptation to make some moves, then play the kids the rest of the way. It would be the smart, if not palpable to fans, move.

Why Portland gave up on Ed Davis

In response to questions about why the Trail Blazers didn’t re-sign Ed Davis, Portland president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said this week that the new Nets center’s lack of offense hurt the team’s spacing and balance in the playoffs.

“As productive as Ed was, there was certainly limitations in terms of what it exposed us to defensively by an elite defensive team like New Orleans,” Olshey told the Portland media Friday. The Pelicans swept the first round series.

Indeed, Davis scored only 2.8 points (but 8.0 rebounds) in 17 minutes per over the four playoff games, taking only 10 shots total. Offensively, his game is pretty much limited to putbacks and very short-range shots. He’s taken two 3-pointers since joining the NBA in 2010, missed both.

Olshey believes Zach Collins, Caleb Swanigan and Meyers Leonard —all of whom have more “advanced” offensive games— can fill the void left by Davis.

“We think their skillsets translate more to what we need coming off the bench in the NBA today,” he said.

Olshey added that he advised Davis to take the Nets’ offer of the room exception —$4.4 million over one year. That’s a significant drop from the near $7 million Davis made last season.

Olshey told the media he was on the phone with Davis and his agent when the Nets offered Davis the deal.

“I counseled him to take that job,” Olshey said. “I think if you asked Ed today, the counsel was pretty good.”

Olshey added that he understands fans (and players) reaction to the loss of Davis, whose gritty style made him a favorite in the Pacific Northwest.

“I get people missing Ed. No one will miss him more than Terry [Stotts] and I and the guys around here,” Olshey said.

DLo talks about mentoring Musa

We wrote last week about D’Angelo Russell’s desire to be a leader and how Dzanan Musa appreciated how DLo welcomed him to Brooklyn, invited him to his apartment. They’re even working out together, starting early in the morning at the HSS Training Center.

In talking with Tom Dowd of the Nets official website, Russell added more details.

“You’ve got a European kid that comes over here that doesn’t really know anything, and New York’s a hard place to live in when you’re not from here,” said Russell. “I just wanted to kind of take him under my wing. Whatever he needs.

“He’s an exciting guy. He’s young. He’s ready to learn. He’s a sponge right now. You can tell just from communicating with him. I think the sky’s the limit with him. He’s in the gym every day too.”

DLo also spoke to Dowd about what he’s doing with the Nets kids out in Las Vegas.

“If I can show my support and drop as many jewels as possible with these guys, that’s my job,” he said.

As student of the game, DLo is also looking for “jewels” of his own, talking to the game’s legends in Vegas.

Leadership is becoming part of who Russell wants to be, as a natural course of his development as hopefully the Nets franchise player. Magic Johnson may not have seen DLo as a leader, but he sees himself as one.

Nets flood the zone

The Nets, as usual, have a big contingent in Las Vegas with summer league players, the veteran cheering section, the coaching and scouting staffs as well as GM Sean Marks, his. No. 2 Trajan Langdon, etc.

The Nets in fact have a growing reputation for “flooding the zone,” as one league insider put it, with large contingents at most league-wide events. It’s a far cry from the days when the cash-strapped Bruce Ratner owned the team in the late 2000’s.

Here’s a shot of the Nets staff section on Friday night in Las Vegas.

Similarly, Marks likes having a lot of input from other staffers, particularly on Draft prospects. Last month, when Rodions Kurucs’ agent worked out at his agent’s “Pro Day” in L.A., the Nets may very well have had a larger group of scouts on hand than the 29 other NBA teams, taking up a big stretch of the front row.

You can see Sean Marks quite clearly in this video of the Pro Day...

Good or bad, it certainly is an improvement over the way the team operated as it made the transition from New Jersey to Brooklyn. Before Mikhail Prokhorov bought the team from Ratner in May 2010, the Nets had three assistant coaches and three scouts. The coaches had pooled their salaries so one of them didn’t get laid off. More than a quarter of the business staff was laid off and those who survived were given Friday furloughs, an unpaid day off. The Nets also downsized their travel party and downgraded their choice of hotel, going from five star to four star. They had a joint summer league team with the 76ers.

There are worse things than flooding the zone.

Farewell to Gregg Polinsky

After nearly two decades as a scout — and director of player personnel — Gregg Polinsky is leaving the Nets, one of the last of the Nets lifers to depart. He’s headed to Detroit and a job that promises to have more responsibility than he had in Brooklyn.

Hired when John Nash was GM, he survived Nash, Rod Thorn, Billy King and two years of Sean Marks. His recommendations were sometimes accepted, sometimes ignored on Draft Night, but he knew his talent.

Back in May, he even hinted that there were two European players the Nets liked. No names, but in light of what happened last month, he was referring to Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs.

Here’s what he told a radio station in his native Alabama about European players in this year’s Draft, suggesting there were “two maybe three lottery picks” coming out of Europe this year.

“I can’t go into names, but I can talk about the talent there is in Europe. In my own opinion ... I think there is two lottery picks there, possibly three, a guy who will be taken in the first two or three or four players in the draft (no doubt referring to Luka Doncic) and another kid there,” his voice trailing off as if he realized he might have said too much. (Interestingly, ESPN’s latest mock draft has only one European in the lottery, Doncic, and only one other, Dzanan Musa, a 6’9” forward from Bosnia, in the rest of the first round.)

“There’s some other kids that you look at, they’re potential first rounders,” he said of European talent.

Indeed, the Nets had Musa quite high on their internal board and Marks did say the day after the Draft that the Nets had been “targeting” Musa and Kurucs all along.

No doubt Polinsky feels comfortable in his new gig in Detroit, considering his new boss, Ed Stefanski, was also his boss back in New Jersey. Stefanski was Thorn’s No. 2 and played a big role in the Draft.

More from Allen Crabbe on his gift

Allen Crabbe has gotten a lot of kudos on his six-figure gift to Frederick K.C. Price III Christian School, a private school in South L.A, one he attended from kindergarten through eighth grade ... and, as it turns out, was founded by the grandfather.

TMZ broke the story two weeks ago and went back to Crabbe a few days ago to talk about his motivations and how it went down...

[Crabbe] felt a moral obligation to help out when it couldn’t afford to pay the bills.

”My mom texted me saying, ‘Look, nobody has come forward with a donation, can you give this amount?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it!’”

Crabbe -- who’s in the middle of a 4-year, nearly $75 million contract -- says he’s ‘blessed’ to be making such a high salary and says he wants to use that money to give other kids a chance.

In a video, the 26-year-old also said he didn’t want his legacy to just being an athlete or a basketball player but somebody “who’s giving back to the community and making a change.”

He also said he’d rather spend money this way than using it to “buy five cars and three big houses.”

Crabbe also spoke to the Nets official site...

It’s not often players get recognized for their giving (even if by TMZ!). More than a decade ago, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson handed out $5 million in charitable donations in a week, Carter $3 million to help establish a drug rehab clinic and Jefferson $2 million to his alma mater, the University of Arizona. There was no publicity about either gift in New York media.

Good on you, Allen Crabbe, and good on TMZ for publicizing it.

Watanabe a big hit in Japan

The Nets international contingent on this year’s summer league team hasn’t had much of a chance to show its stuff so far. Ding Yanyuhang of China had to return home after a recurrence of knee tendinitis. Juan Pablo Vaulet is once again sidelined by foot pain and Rodions Kurucs buyout with F.C. Barcelona has yet to be worked out. Dzanan Musa wasn’t expected to play in Vegas, but his buyout hasn’t been finalized either.

Shawn Dawson of Israel and Tyler Davis of Puerto Rico both played well in the Nets first game, but Dawson tailed off in Game 2 and Davis didn’t play.

So that leaves Yuta Watanabe, the 6’8” swingman from Japan and George Washington. Watanabe. The former A-10 Defensive Player of the Year has been, along with Theo Pinson, the most consistent Net in summer league play. On Saturday, he had 13 points, including a 3-pointer, four blocks, five rebounds, two steals ... and played disruptive defense.

It’s not quite Linsanity level yet, but Japanese fans are following Watanabe (pronounced, at least according to Rick Kamla, as Wa-TAN-ah-bey) in larger and larger numbers. It may only be Summer League, but Watanabe would be only the second NBA player of Japanese descent.

Here’s a sampling...

There’s a lot more in Japanese.

IF he keeps it up, there may very well be a place for Watanabe in the Nets organization, maybe on Long Island. Sean Marks has talked on more than one occasion about using the Nets G-League affiliate as a route for international players to get acclimated to the NBA game.

The Nets currently have a two-way deal open. They renounced James Webb III’s NBA rights last week, ending his two-way contract from last year. The Nets gave Milton Doyle a qualifying offer on his two-way contract. Of course, Pinson is more likely to get that two-way. The Nets are high on the 6’7” guard.

But they could also give Watanabe a training camp invite and if he’s among the last players cut, they would automatically retain his G-League rights.

Final Note

If you’re looking for another indicator that Jahlil Okafor isn’t coming back, other than that he’s working out in Miami, not Brooklyn, and the Nets renounced his rights this week, there’s this.

Theo Pinson is wearing No. 4 in the summer league. That’s Okafor’s number.

Players on the summer league don’t get to wear the jersey numbers of players on the big club. For example, Juan Pablo Vaulet was only able to get No. 20 —so he could honor his hero, Manu Ginobili, because Timofey Mozgov had been traded.

With Okafor not expected back now and Nik Stauskas signed in Portland, that December 2017 trade of Trevor Booker to Philly does now look like it was all about the other piece in the deal, the Knicks 2019 second rounder.

Too bad. We had hopes for that one.