There’s nothing official about the first week of September on the NBA calendar. Training camps open at the end of the month, preceded by Media Day. But there’s every indication the front office wants their players at HSS Training Center next week. Mitch Creek, the Aussie swingman and camp invite, said as much this week when discussing the next step in his career. He’s boarding a plane on Saturday bound for New York.
A number of Nets have spent a lot of the summer at HSS Training Center, but the team would like everyone on hand starting next week.
So far, we know of 18 players (out of a permitted 20) who’ll be in camp ... the 15 players with guaranteed deals and the three with so-called “Exhibit 10” contracts: Creek, USC point guard Jordan McLauglin and UNC swingman Theo Pinson. These are deals that are non-guaranteed but reward camp invites with $50,000 payments if, once they’re cut, they agree to play for a team’s G-League club. In the Nets case, that’s the Long Island Nets.
The identity of the final two invites has yet to be disclosed (and it doesn’t have to be two). Expect at least one to be a big man, but don’t be surprised if it’s someone more likely to play more in Long Island than Brooklyn.
It appears, also from a couple of Creek interviews, that unlike last year the Nets will not immediately sign anyone to two-way deals, but instead will have camp invites compete for the slots. Two-ways are far more lucrative than Exhibit 10’s. A two-way player can earn up to $350,000 if they spend enough time with the big club. They can also be moved up and down while the NBA team continues to maintain their rights.
As of now, the Nets are one of only three NBA teams that haven’t signed at least one player to a two-way deal. The others are the Spurs and Blazers. It appears to be a lesson learned. Last summer, the Nets gave two-way deals to Jake Wiley of Eastern Washington and Yakuba Outtara of France. Neither worked out and the Nets ultimately cut them in favor of Milton Doyle and James Webb III.
What will the group be doing between now and September 25, Media Day? Training will be more organized, regimented. Under league rules, coaches can’t direct players in scrimmages until training camp opens, but they can and do observe. Strength and conditioning will be prioritized as well. As we’ve noted, training camp this year will be in Brooklyn. Last year, it started out in Anapolis, MD, at the US Naval Academy before returning to HSS.
At least one of the 18 will be leaving Brooklyn in mid-September to play in FIBA World Cup Qualifiers. Dzanan Musa said this week he will be joining Team Bosnia soon to prepare for Bosnia’s games with Finland (in Finland) on September 13 and the Czech Republic (in Bosnia) on September 16. No word on Creek, whose Australian team will also participate in the Qualifiers, playing Qatar in Qatar on September 13 and Kazakhstan in Australia four days later. And yes, you can watch all the FIBA Qualifiers at livebasketball.tv
And just a reminder, the Nets preseason game, vs. the Knicks, is a month from Monday at Barclays Center. Only four more Off-Season Reports, too. We move from Off-Season to Pre-Season on Monday, September 25.
Saturday, there was news about the Lakers stretch of Luol Deng’s last two years of his huge, four year $54 million contract. Under terms of the stretch, the Lakers will have Deng’s dead money on the books through 2021-22. In return, they will be able to finally get rid of his onerous deal.
It’s instructive to look at how the Lakers, Nets and Knicks dealt with bad deals that they faced this summer. Each had a contract that looked like it would prevent them from making a big free agent push next July. The Nets had Timofey Mozgov’s contract with $32.7 million remaining over this year and 2019-20; the Lakers had Luol Deng’s $36.5 million and the Knicks Joakim Noah’s $37.8 million. None were in their team’s plans and all three were after thoughts this past season.
At this point — and things can change, it appears the Nets did the best of the three ... considering the relative starting points. The Nets were able to trade Mozgov, the rights to Hamidou Diallo and a 2020 second round pick to the Hornets for Dwight Howard, who they then bought out at $5 million less than he was owed. That in turn gave the Nets a nest egg of cap space which when combined with the trades of Jeremy Lin to Atlanta and Isaiah Whitehead to Denver provided the Nets with four draft picks —including Denver’s first— Kenneth Faried and Jared Dudley. At the end of the day, the Nets also will go into next summer with between $50 and $70 million in cap space.
The Lakers were able to buy out and stretch Deng, giving them $38 million in cap space next June to find a companion or two for LeBron James. That’s all they got and they will have $5 million in dead money on the books annually through 2022. (Howard, of course, comes off the books in June.)
The Knicks still haven’t decided what to do with Noah’s deal. They could buy out and stretch Noah’s deal, but he has shown no inclination to take $1 less than what he is owed (unlike Deng, who gave back $7.5 million in his buyout talks.)
Admittedly, the Nets could look worse if Howard suddenly has a resurgence (at 33) or if Diallo turns into a star. And of course, the Lakers cap space situation is enhanced to the nth degree by having LeBron as a recruiter. Still, considering where all three started the summer, the Nets and Sean Marks deserve kudos.
The Nets official website has been counting down the top 25 players in Nets history over the past couple of weeks. This weekend, they are at No. 9.
To review, here’s how we got there.
No. 25 - Stephon Marbury.
No. 24 - Albert King.
No. 23 - Bernard King.
No. 22 - Billy Paultz.
No. 21 - Michael Ray Richardson
No. 20 - Darryl Dawkins
No. 19 - Mike Gminski
No. 18 - Kenny Anderson.
No. 17 - Joe Johnson
No. 16 - Brian Taylor
No. 15 - Bill Melchionni.
No. 14 - Derrick Coleman
No. 13 - Otis Birdsong
No. 12 - Keith Van Horn
No. 11 - Kenyon Martin.
No. 10 - Kerry Kittles.
No. 9 - John Williamson
We can quibble here and there, but it’s a pretty good list.
So who’s left? Jason Kidd obviously. Also, Julius Erving. The others who could be expected in the last slots: Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson from the mid-2000’s and Drazen Petrovic, the Hall of Famer. Those are givens. So is Buck Williams, the all-time rebound leader, and of course, Brook Lopez, the all-time point leader. Guaranteed.
What about Rick Barry? He only played two years for the ABA Nets, but he did average 30 points a game over those two and is in the Hall of Fame. And then there’s DWill? Put your wanted posters away. He did play five seasons in New Jersey and Brooklyn.
Who do we think will be No. 1? At this rate, No. 1 will chose on September 7, the day Kidd is enshrined. If sports book were taking bets, I’d take No. 5 as No. 1. And it will be well deserved.
It’s the end of the summer, Labor Day Weekend. Tom is in Hawaii and NI is in Vermont. So the OSR is a bit shorter. We promise to do better.
Happy Labor Day