Of the Nets three overseas stashes, 6’5” French guard Isaia Cordinier is emerging as the most likely to play in the NBA ... but even that is far from guaranteed. While Cordinier is playing well, if not spectacularly, in his comeback from double knee surgery, Juan Pablo Vaulet and Aleksandar Vezenkov are either not playing (Vaulet) or playing mostly garbage time.
Cordinier’s rights were acquired in the July 12 trade that sent Jeremy Lin to Atlanta while JPV was taken by the Nets in 2015 after Brooklyn traded two future second rounders and $880,000 for his rights. Vezenkov was taken with the Celtics pick, No. 57, in 2017, part of the trade swap included in Billy King’s notorious Boston trade.
The French league guard, who just turned 22, missed all of last season because of tendinitis in both his knees. He’s said he played with some level of pain for five years before his surgery a year ago. He’s played 10 games so far this season, averaging 8.3 points on 48.3 percent shooting overall and 28.6 percent from deep. He is hyperathletic which drove the Hawks to take him at No. 44 in the 2016 Draft.
After being traded, Cordinier said the Nets had shown him they’re interested in his progress.
“Brooklyn looks very invested,” he said in an interview with Be Basket back in September. “They called me in the day of the trade or the next day to welcome me. I went there for two days to do a lot of physical tests to find out where my knees are. They also follow my (rehabilitation) protocol in collaboration with Antibes. They will come to France regularly. That’s why I think it’s a good opportunity and it’s very good for me.”
The Nets have other advantages. His coach, Julien Espinosa, has worked with the Nets, serving as an assistant coach on Brooklyn’s summer league team two years ago. More to the point, he and Shaun Fein, the Nets’ Player Development Coordinator, were briefly teammates four years ago at Antibes.
Vaulet is currently without a team. He and his brother, Santiago, were sent home by his long time Argentine team, Bahia Blanca, at the beginning of the season after a medical diagnosis, never made public. Ultimately, Bahia released both. Vaulet, still only 22, then looked for a European team to sign him, but couldn’t connect with any. Now, he’s talking to other Argentine clubs.
“There are many players that interest us, but the first one is Juan Pablo Vaulet,” said Leo Gutierrez, coach of Penarol, an Argentine club. “We have to wait, the negotiations are not easy” Leo Gutierrez, coach of @Penarolo
A victim of several injuries to his ankle and lower leg since being drafted, Vaulet came to Las Vegas this summer in hopes of getting minutes for the Nets summer league team. His ankle prevented him from playing in any of the five games, however, and he had to sit on the bench for the week.
Vezenkov, 23, was Rodions Kurucs teammate last season at F.C. Barcelona and like Kurucs was exiled to the bench because of his NBA ambitions. He secured a buyout last summer and signed with Olimpiacos of Greece, coached by David Blatt. While he’s still getting minutes in the Greek League, the 6’9” stretch 4, has again been relegated to the bench for Euroleague games.
He’s averaging 7.5 points in 15.7 minutes while shooting 48.3 percent from deep in Greek competition but in the Euroleague, he’s averaging only 3.8 points in 10 minutes per game and shooting under 10 percent from beyond the arc. In the last seven Euroleague games, the big Bulgarian has played double-digit minutes only once and that was a 10-minute gig last Thursday. He scored two points.
Word in Bulgaria is that Vezenkov is not interested in playing in the G League, preferring Europe even without big minutes. He has an NBA “out” after this season.
Just as Las Vegas Summer League was to be a testing ground for Vaulet, it could serve the same purpose for Cordinier and Vezenkov, assuming their teams agree to “lend” them to the Nets. The question then is whether the Nets would bring them over for training camp —and the G-League.