Last week’s Off-Season Report was a little long. This one is a little short, by comparison, but it’s still hot!
Soccer and world wide marketing
Three Nets players —Joe Harris, Theo Pinson and Nic Claxton— were at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands Friday night for the La Liga Madrid Derby, a preseason contest between Spanish giants Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, It was an “unforgettable night,” the official site of the Spanish soccer league, tweeted.
The three Nets exchanged jerseys with three players from Athletico Madrid after the game, a 7-3 win for Athletico, all of which was captured on social media in multiple languages and on multiple fan sites from New York to Madrid ... and beyond.
@saulniguez, @joaofelix70 and @alvaromorata exchanged shirts with @BrooklynNets players @_claxton33, @tpinsonn and Joe Harris after our win at @MetLifeStadium.— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) July 27, 2019
We wish you the best of luck in this exciting season! #AúpaAtleti #AtletiSummerTour #ICC2019 pic.twitter.com/zDqAG1TpJ2
Only three days earlier, players from Lisbon’s S.L. Benfica stopped by HSS Training Center and also exchanged jerseys. (Harris seems to have quite the collection.)
It’s not the first time the Nets have teamed up with a European soccer team for a jersey swap, a visit to HSS Training Center or something bigger.
In June, Real Madrid’s “ambassador” Álvaro Arbeloa dropped by HSS on a trip to New York to promote the Madrid Derby. His visit made it to the Nets social media account as well.
Arbeloa even recorded bi-lingual message for Nets fans.
Antoine Greizmann, a star on France’s World Cup champions (and then a member of Athletico), made a couple of appearance at Nets games last Year. (Greizmann, of course, is a big fan of D’Angelo Russell, copying DLo’s “ice in my veins” gesture ... and even showed up at Barclays Center for a playoff game.)
In December, he got a tour...
December, in fact, was a big month for the Nets and “futball.”
Just before Greizmann’s visit, on December 7, the Nets held Juventus Night at Barclays Center to celebrate the Italian soccer club whose colors, like the Nets, are black-and-white and whose Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably the single most popular sports start in the world. (It was the night of the Raptors game, when the Nets turned their season around, starting a seven game winning streak and going on a 20-6 run).
The event was built as a theme day, starting with a “watch party” at the 40-40 Club at 2:30 p.m. where fans of both clubs could cheer on Juventus as they played Inter Milan back in Italy. As Front Office Sports reported, “there were appearances by club ambassador and former Juventus star David Trezeguet and Kerry Kittles from the Nets, a display of the Serie A championship trophy, and giveaways such as a trip to Italy for a Juventus match.”
During the game, highlights from the afternoon game were flashed on the big screens at the arena. Even the t-shirt toss featured the Brooklynnettes in Juventus-themed outfits.
You could buy Juvenutus gear in the Nets swag shop, too!
Even last summer, there was DLo rooting on Manchester City...
So what’s all this soccer stuff about? It is decidedly not random. It’s about global marketing. As Lucy Hartwell of Front Office Sports wrote a few months back...
Mike Zavodsky, the chief revenue officer for the Nets, noticed the growing relationship between the sports and decided to explore that as an opportunity to grow the NBA team’s fan base. A cold call to Luca Adornato, Juventus’ head of marketing, started a conversation which culminated in a watch party for Derby d’Italia at Barclays, followed by Juventus Night during the Nets’ game Friday evening.
Zavodsky’s goal was to find a way to grow the Nets’ fan base both domestically, with New York locals who hadn’t yet been to Barclays, and internationally, with basketball fans looking for a team to support. Zavodsky’s idea aligned with Juventus, a team which, like many other European clubs, was looking to find a way into the American market.
“They’ve played games here and are looking to grow their fan base in America — in New York, in particular,” explained Zavodsky. “So, it was a natural win-win. And then when you add in the fact that we both were black and white, it made it that much more seamless.”
The relationship continued throughout the season and at one point, the Juventus website suggested that the Nets success last season was the “Juventus effect.”
Juventus effect? Since the Brooklyn Nets hosted the Juve Nigh in December, they've won 12 out of 15 and become one of the most talked about teams in the NBA. Before that, they'd won just 8 games out of 26. [GdS] pic.twitter.com/ZYf9SL9w0f— Juvefc.com (@juvefcdotcom) January 8, 2019
It’s also been a two-way street. The Nets sent DLo and Harris to Madrid last May for the UEFA Champions League Final.
The Nets also used Real Madrid practice facility that week for a training session attended by two of the Nets stashes —Isaia Cordinier and Aleksandar Vezenkov— as well as Rodions Kurucs. The three of them got shooting tips from Stefan Weissenboeck, the Nets so-called “tele-coach” who flew in from Germany.
Should we expect more of this? Duh! The Nets have long pictured themselves as a global franchise (much more so than their cross-river rival who despite their legacy in New York have never marketed themselves effectively overseas). Now with Joe Tsai joining ownership, you can expect an Asian pitch as well. And of course, having internationally recognized stars on the roster is going to be a big help. As one of our fans noted...
-The @BrooklynNets can become that global team Proky has dreamed of.— Mr_Jose_82 (@Mr_Jose_82) July 27, 2019
-KD & Kyrie having respective shoe lines helps.
-The color schemes of black & white is something everyone wears.
-Brooklyn resonates around the world.
-Nets doing different collaboration helps attract new fans.
South Sudanese Nets
Word that Deng Adel, a 6’7” swingman, had agreed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Nets didn’t create a lot of noise this week. The Louisville product played only 19 games last season with Cleveland, averaging only 1.7 points a game. He did play well in the Summer League for Houston, but he’s most likely destined for Long Island, not Brooklyn.
What makes the deal interesting is that Adel is an Australian citizen, a refugee from war-torn South Sudan. Roughly two million people died as a result of war, famine and disease caused by the 22-year civil war that ultimately resulted in the formation of the world’s newest country, South Sudan. Four million people in southern Sudan were displaced at least once, including Adel and his family.
In fact, Adel is the second South Sudanese-Australian player to get a contract from the Nets this summer. Duop Reath, a 6’11” center, wore the black-and-white in the Summer League. The LSU product played overseas last season with FMP in Serbia. He too was a refugee.
In fact, the two young men —Adel is 22, Reath 23— share a history. Both escaped the Sudanese civil war as children —Adel at 9, Reath at 5— and spent time in crowded refugee camps in neighboring countries —Adel in Uganda, Reath in Kenya— before being welcomed as refugees to Australia — Adel settling in Melbourne, Reath in Perth. There, both discovered basketball and have now made a career out of it. (It should be noted that last year, the Nets signed Nuni Omot, who was actually born in a Kenyan refugee camp, to an Exhibit 10 deal.)
Brian Lewis interviewed Reath in Las Vegas where he talked about the hell he and family faced before deciding to flee southern Sudan.
“I remember it. We got displaced, moved to a refugee camp, Kakuma refugee camp. It was a pretty big camp,” Reath told The Post, without noting he was one of 150,000 Sudanese in the UN facility. “They left all their family behind: their mothers, parents, brothers and sister. They left all those people behind just for us, so we could have a better opportunity.”
In Australia, the two thrived. As Lewis wrote, Reath “who had grown up in a hut with no bed and had no shoes or formal schooling, got all three” down under. They eventually made their way to the NCAA and professional basketball. Adel will likely play for the Australian national team in the FIBA World Cup starting next month. The Boomers, as the team is called, is seen as a potential medalist.
The Nets of course have a number of Australian (and obviously New Zealand) connections. In addition to Sean Marks, a native of Auckland, New Zealand, the team’s directors of sports science (Dan Meehan) and sports medicine (Les Gelis) are Aussies from Melbourne. Will Weaver, who was the G League coach of the year with Long Island last season, is an assistant coach for the national team and now head coach of the Sydney Kings. He tweeted out his congratulations to Adel after Michael Scotto broke the news.
No word on whether Reath will join Adel and get an Exhibit 10 deal —a camp invite— from the Nets. Summer Leaguers often do, although Reath didn’t play much behind Amida Brimah, another African player (Ghana). Brimah decided to sign with Indiana. Brooklyn has two such openings as well as a second two-way available.
What’s left in the Off-Season?
As we’ve noted, the Nets have received all A’s from pundits grading the NBA’s off-season with two— from Basketball Insiders and Sporting News— giving them the best grade, an A+.
And of course, the off-season hasn’t ended!! There could be more surprises. What’s left?
—One of the two-way deals. The Nets have signed Henry Ellenson, the 6’11” stretch 5 who last played for the Knicks, to the other two-way. There were reports that Ron Baker, another former Knick, was deciding between CSKA Moscow and the Nets, but more recently, we’ve heard neither team is that interested. CSKA in fact is reportedly focusing on Jeremy Lin, who despite having won a ring in Toronto is having a hard time finding work in the NBA.
—Two Exhibit 10 deals. Mike Scotto, as we noted, reported last week that Deng Adel will sign an Exhibit 10 contract, what used to be called a training camp invite. But the way the NBA works now, a camp invite is tantamount to a G League deal. Once the Nets cut a player, his G League rights automatically go to the team’s G League affiliate. Last season, two Nets who got Exhibit 10 deals —Mitch Creek and Tahjere McCall— were eventually called up to Brooklyn ... and Creek wound up with a standard players contract with Minnesota.
—Three coaching vacancies. The Nets lost Chris Fleming, their offensive guru, to the Bulls and Pablo Prigioni, their development specialist, to the Timberwolves. In addition, Will Weaver, the Long Island Nets coach, left for Australia’s NBL. No word on their replacements yet. The Nets also lost Trajan Langdon, their assistant GM, to the Pelicans and Gianluca Pascucci, the director of global scouting, also to the Timberwolves. The Nets have hired Jeff Peterson from the Hawks and Andy Birdsong from the Spurs to serve as assistant GM’s. No word on whether Pascucci will be replaced.
We could be waiting a while on the remaining two-way and Exhibit 10’s. The Nets didn’t sign Alan Williams, their second two way last year, till September 17. They didn’t announce their final Exhibit 10 deal, with Nuni Omot, until a week after that. (Williams signed this weekend with Lokomotiv Krasnodar of the Russian League and Omot earlier in the week with Macedonian club MZT Skopje.)
As for trades, they would appear unlikely, but the Nets made their last deal, for Jared Dudley, on July 20, 2018. And a good deal it was: The Nets gave up Darrell Arthur, who they had to take in the Kenneth Faried salary dump, for Dudley and a lightly protected second rounder in 2021. Arthur, who had had a series of injuries, is out of the league.
If you’ve any doubts that Kyrie Irving was a New Jersey Nets fan back in the day, take a listen to this excerpt of Irving talking to Richard Jefferson last April about going to games at Continental Airlines Arena, walking from the Giants Stadium parking lot, sleeping with his Nets towel and those wonderful grey New Jersey road uniforms ... and watching Jason Kidd.