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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 3

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And we’re back, for our 12th 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 that first round loss.

Free Agency? Meh

We’re trying to avoid (too much) speculation on free agency. The Nets are in the mix for top free agents —as Kenny Atkinson said this week, “We’re going to have options. A, I think we all know what A is. There’s some great players out there. But we also feel comfortable with B, C and D that if it doesn’t go our way in free agency.”

Although oddsmakers give the Nets good shots at everyone from Kevin Durant (“Option A”) to Kyrie Irving to Jimmy Butler to Tobias Harris (“Options B, C and D?”), the Nets seem prepared to make do If things don’t go their way. As Atkinson also said, “We have a great young core that we have that are coming back.”

Joe Tsai hinted about it in his NetsDaily interview as well, essentially saying continuity can be a big positive.

“You have to have patience when you’re in a rebuild. You look for all the pieces and you try to put all the pieces in place and the second thing is that players get better so you don’t need to go out and bring someone in.” he told NetsDaily.

In essence, there’s no desperation at HSS Training Center. None. Things are stable. The GM and head coach —along with their staffs— have been extended. (Yes, some staff are leaving, but that’s to be expected.) The ownership transfer from one multi-billionaire to another seems to be moving along. And the Nets know they’re still in a rebuild, that 42 wins and the playoffs are nice, but they they have a ways to go to reach their goal of being a consistent contender. Keep that in mind over the next six weeks. It will help your mental health.

Going Global ... Again

Word from ESPN Brazil is that the Nets will play Franca Basquete, a perennial Brazilian league champ, presumably in Brooklyn, during preseason.

Everaldo Marques, the voice of the NBA in Brazil, tweeted Saturday that he just had learned the “important news” which he called “very cool.”

Nothing official, but it wouldn’t be a surprise. The NBA brings international teams to the North America every year for preseason exhibitions. And Adam Silver has said that the Nets are always the first team to raise their hands when the league is looking for volunteers to take on international responsibility.

Of course, the Nets already have an international responsibility this preseason. They will play the Lakers on October 10 in Shanghai and two days later, take on L.A. in Shenzhen, about a thousand miles further south. So, it appears that the Nets will play two games in China vs. an NBA team and a game in Brooklyn vs. a Brazilian team.

In fact, during the Mikhail Prokhorov era, the Nets have traveled to China twice, once in 2010 when they played the Rockets and again in 2014 when they played the Kings, both in preseason. They also traveled to Mexico City for two regular season games vs. the Thunder and Heat in 2017 and last preseason, they were in Montreal for a game vs. the Raptors.

Moreover, Brooklyn has twice hosted Euroleague teams in the preseason, Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2014 and Fenerbahce in 2015.

Expect more of the same in the future. Both Mikhail Prokhorov and Joe Tsai, the league’s first European and second Asian owners, have professed a desire to make the Nets a global brand. The Nets didn’t succeed in that ambition under Prokhorov but Tsai has an advantage because of the China connection. He’s a native of Taiwan and a Canadian citizen as well, but his wealth derives from his holdings in Alibaba, the giant Chinese e-commerce company. And he’s on the board of NBA China.

And it ain’t about selling black-and-white t-shirts and shawls. Those are low budget items ... and revenue from sales of team gear beyond a 75-mile radius of the team’s arena is shared with the league’s 29 other teams.

Tsai believes the next big financial opportunity for the NBA is the Asian TV and digital rights. The league signed a rights deal in 2015 with TenCent, the internet-based Chinese technology and entertainment company, that was centered on NBA League Pass. It has yielded it $800 million so far. Many believe that TenCent won that deal and the next time the rights are available, they’ll become more competitive, more costly.

So, expect more international connections for the Nets and Tsai, things like we saw earlier this month when the Liberty hosted the Chinese Women’s National Team at Barclays. The connections will be large and small. Tsai, for example, will participate in Jeremy Lin’s charity basketball game in August and, as he told NetsDaily, he thinks it’s “only a matter of time” before the Nets have a Chinese player ... mainly because he believes the Chinese love for the game is going to produce more and more quality players.

As for when the Brazilians will arrive in Brooklyn, think early in the preseason. That’s normally when international teams play NBA clubs. The Chinese games are likely to be the final preseason games. One would also hope the Nets will get a few extra days off before the season opener. A 12-hour time difference after a 24-hour door-to-door plane ride is nothing to be trifled with.

Draftniks like Bol Bol for Nets

We’ve been compiling lists of the big mock drafts since December ... six so far. So we decided to take a look at all six to see which players have been most linked to the Nets by draftniks of all stripes.

The players most linked to the Nets are Bol Bol (a total of 10), the 7’2” 19-year-old from Oregon; Rui Hachimura, the 6’9” big from Gonzaga (8), followed by Nassir Little, the freshman swingman from UNC, and KZ Okpala, the Stanford small forward (6 each). Okpala’s mentions were limited to either the 27th or 31st picks.

Bol, of course, went down with a broken foot in January and underwent surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. He’d have been a top five pick if had been healthy. Now, most draftniks think he’s somewhere in the 10-to-20.

Other prospects linked to Brooklyn included Goga Bitadze, the Georgian 7-footer, and Lugentz Dort, the Arizona State shooting guard. (It was particular fun going back to the first Draft Watch in December when the Nets were projected as a lottery pick and nearly half the early mocks had them taking Ja Morant, now likely the second pick.)

Of course, all of this is virtually meaningless. No one knows how many picks the Nets will use. Last year, they went into Draft Week with three picks, the 29th, 40th and 45th. They gave up the 45th in the Dwight Howard salary dump. They could do the same thing this year as they try to rid themselves of Allen Crabbe’s contract.

Still fun, though.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

Well, since everyone likes Bol Bol for the Nets, let’s take a look.

He may be rail thin, but this kid is skilled at both ends. Before he went down, he was averaging 21 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and only 1.7 personals in 30 minutes. Oh yeah, he hit 52 percent of his three’s. Of course, he only played in nine games before he got hurt.

Bol had a typical foot surgery for a big man, a fracture of his navicular bone. Among those who had similar injuries, according to In Street Clothes, were Quincy Pondexter, Brendan Haywood, Joel Embiid, Marc Gasol, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Yao Ming.

His lawyer Bryan J. Freedman described the surgery this way: “two screws were inserted into the navicular bone and bone graft from his pelvis was added to speed up the healing, which will expedite his return to play.”

The surgeon (of course) was Dr. Martin O’Malley, the go-to foot surgeon for everyone from Brook Lopez to Dez Bryant ... and the Nets foot and ankle specialist. What’s the prognosis? We’re not an orthopedist but one would have to assume that O’Malley told Bol he’ll be ready or close to it this season.

We don’t know whether the Nets are interested. That’s a state secret.

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So who did the Nets talk with last week at the Draft Combine. So far, we know of any two players, both named Porter: Kevin Porter Jr. , the USC point guard and Jontay Porter, the Missouri big man who’s out this year after tearing his ACL, for the second straight year.

As we understand it, each team selects 30 players it wants to interview. Combine officials cut that down to 20. Players under no obligation to speak to a team.

Fight Fans

At least two Nets were at Saturday’s heavyweight title fight at Barclays Center. It didn’t last long. Deontay Wilder delivered a stunning first-round knockout against Dominic Breazeale. The KO stunned fight fans, including D’Angelo Russell who couldn’t contain himself.

Jared Dudley, who is 10 years older, was a bit more restrained.

Can DLo win Most Improved Player?

Speaking of D’Angelo Russell, he was named a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Player the other night. It was expected and now he and we will have to wait more than a month —until June 24— when the winners of all the big awards will be announced.

But as Pooch reported back in March for SNY, DLo expects to win it.

“I’m gonna win that s--t. Watch. Put it on record. I’m gonna win it,” said Russell, even when faced with a recitation of others who might challenge him. “I’m gonna win that s--t. Watch. Put it on record. I’m gonna win it.”

The big competition is Pascal Siakam of the Raptors who had the biggest statistical advance this season. That and how his improvement was so unexpected are the big arguments in his favor. Siakam advocates say Russell and De’Aaron Fox were expected to be great players. Siakam came out of nowhere.

Those pushing DLo note that he saved the Nets season, leading them to a 42-win season and a sixth seed in the playoffs.

And yes, we’re still pissed that Spencer Dinwiddie, who was second in the league in points and assists off the bench, didn’t qualify as a Sixth Man finalist. What makes it even more silly (we were thinking of a stronger term) is that two of the finalists, Lou WIlliams and Montrezl Harrell, both play for the Clippers. Which one is the Sixth Man, which one is the Seventh? Grrr.

Final Note

The Nets are returning from vacation. Both D’Angelo Russell and Dzanan Musa got back this week after a Caribbean vacation in DLo’s case and a return home to Bosnia in Musa’s. Both also used their time off to do some community outreach. DLo worked with local kids in the Bahamas while Musa paid for the repair and upgrade of the basketball court in his native Bihac where he learned to play the game.

Joe Harris was back home as well in Lake Chelan, Washington where he ran a basketball camp for local coaches. Got a good turnout too.

Okay, guys, back to work.