Only one more after this one. The Nets off-season, which has seen their greatest free agency by far and an ownership change — as well as a suspension and an arrest— will end. We will then move into pre-season starting with Media Day and the opening of training camp on September 27. A week later, on October 4, the Nets will play Basquete Franca in their first preseason game. That’s less than three weeks away, although it feels much longer...
The Big News
The NBA Board of Governors will vote this week on the Nets change of ownership. The League annually has its big meeting this week. So big it’s two days, Thursday and Friday. The week will also signal the end of the tenures of two dominant personalities in Nets’ lore: CEO Brett Yormark and Chairman of the Board Dmitry Razumov.
The two have a controversial history, particularly Yormark, who spearheaded the move from New Jersey to Brooklyn, with reversible jerseys and a confrontation with fans who wore bags over their head (after receiving free tickets)! Razumov pressed Billy King to get the Boston deal done. That’s enough.
But the bottom line for these two is simple. They got stuff done! BIG stuff, like that big building at Flatbush and Atlantic, a credit to both of them. Mikhail Prokhorov and Bruce Ratner didn’t choose September 28, 2012 at random for the opening of Barclays Center. It was Yormark’s 46th birthday! They learned from mistakes and were both part of the five-man committee that chose Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson. Yormark also recognized the energy of the Brooklyn Brigade and helped make them a permanent force in the arena.
In Razumov’s case, he was always pushing for resources in analytics, scouting and facilities. He wanted to win badly. (On a personal note, “Dima” is a friend who invited me to sit courtside with him on the Nets first game in Barclays Center and for the final quarter of Dywane Wade’s final game in April. Quite the season ticket holder upgrade!)
Good Luck to both of them and thanks for all the help.
Joe Harris, Frequent Flier
As we noted on Saturday, the peripatetic Mr. Harris has played 12 games for Team USA, including exhibitions, in six cities on three continents —North America, Australia and Asia— in a little under a month, starting with an exhibition against Spain on August 17 in Anaheim.
And three weeks after he returns to Brooklyn, he’ll back on a charter headed to China where the Nets will play the Lakers in two Chinese cities where he played for Team USA, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Does it suggest that Harris, who turned 28 on his journey, will need “load management,” as one pundit suggested or was his time with USA Basketball, disappointing as it was, a big positive for him and the Nets. He thinks it was the latter.
“Individually, across the board, everybody gets a lot better by playing and going through this entire process,” Harris said this week. “You spent 39-plus days with one of the best coaches in the world, one of the best coaches in the game in Pop.
”Just being around them, learning their approach to the game, being around all these great players, competing with them night in and night out, whether it’s practices or games, and competing at a high level every night against some of the best players in the world, this is the best off=season preparation you can have going into the season.”
He spoke as well about his experience in China.
“It’s fun to be in a place where the appreciation and love for basketball is so high. The fans are incredible out here,” he told the Nets official site. “You see that from the time you get into the the hotel to when you get to the games and everywhere in between. So, it’s a pretty cool experience and I think it will be pretty similar when we come out here with the Nets. Obviously, It will be a little different. We’ll be playing the Lakers.”
Harris also gained a few fans among his teammates and coaching staff, as a feature on FIBA.com revealed a week ago. They realized what the adroit Nets fan has known: Joe Harris is the NBA’s leading 3-point shooter, but he’s more than just that.
“He can play,” Harris’ USA teammate Harrison Barnes said. “A lot of guys, they look at players and say what is he: is he this or that. Yes, Joe can shoot the ball at an extremely high rate with probably anyone in the world. But he can play. He can make moves off the ball, he can set good screens, he can defend intelligently off the ball. Things like that to help our team...
“It doesn’t surprise me the level that he’s at now. He’s extremely consistent in his work ethic,” said Barnes who was at UNC when Harris was at Virginia. “Very smart guy, very hard working guy, so just to see him continually get better and better and continue to see him go from the training camp to starting now and continuing to improve, I think he’s been great for our team.”
He didn’t just impress his teammates, either. Anderson Varejao of Brazil who he played with in Cleveland, spoke about his development.
“I’m really happy for Joe Harris. He works extremely hard. He’s a great guy. I had the pleasure to mentor him in Cleveland. He’s a great person. I love him and I am very happy for him for what he has been doing in the NBA and now being on the USA national team,” said Varejao, who’s looking for a return to the NBA.
One final note on the FIBA World Cup. Among those on hand in Shenzhen for Harris’ game was Sean Marks, who had a conversation with one of his old teammates.
Speaking of China
The Nets will leave Brooklyn for China after they play Basquete Franca on October 4 ... probably right after. China is 12 hours ahead on the clock and probably a 20-hour door-to-door trip.
So, little by little, the Nets (who will be the first NBA team to be owned by a Chinese businessman), are starting to promote what will be a week-long event in the two cities. One of the first events in the promotion was held Thursday at the Chinese consulate along the Hudson River where a Nets delegation helped the consulate celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival ... complete with mooncakes.
Here’s a series of tweets with video from the event, offered by the Xinhua, the big Chinese news agency and other Chinese news outlets...
Chinese Consul General in New York Huang Ping hosted a #MidAutumnFestival reception for @BrooklynNets, who will depart for Shanghai for @NBA China Games 2019. Stars including Spencer Dinwiddie @SDinwiddie_25 tasted #mooncakes and enjoyed a #ChinesePaperCutting show at the event pic.twitter.com/PIz9njT9aZ— Beijing Review (@BeijingReview) September 12, 2019
The Chinese Consulate General in New York held a Mid-Autumn Festival reception for the Brooklyn Nets, which was also a send-off party for the NBA team's upcoming tour to China. pic.twitter.com/gMmQvk7JdQ— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) September 13, 2019
Spencer Dinwiddie now knows how to say “mooncake” in Chinese! During a #MidAutumnFestival celebration event in the Chinese Consulate General in New York, guests from Brooklyn Nets have learned about traditional Chinese culture. pic.twitter.com/J8ExbqLHsE— China News 中国新闻网 (@Echinanews) September 12, 2019
In addition to Sean Marks (who left for China and the World Cup shortly thereafter), the delegation included four players and a man likely to play a big role in the future. The was Spencer Dinwiddie who just returned from China where he tended to endorsement deals and a charity game; Garrett Temple; Theo Pinson, Nic Claxton ... and Oliver Weisberg, who directs Joe Tsai’s Blue Pool Capital, the Alibaba billionaire’s personal investment vehicle.
Weisberg is what used to be called an “old China hand,” a foreigner who has made his way and career in China, in his case having worked for Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong and served as an adviser to the Harvard China Fund. Weisberg’s role with the Nets has yet to be laid out, but he has served as alternate governor for the New York Liberty on the WNBA Board of Governors. Tsai is the Liberty governor and will be the Nets as well after this week, when the NBA is expected to approve the sale.
Tsai was not on hand for the event, but sent a video greeting.
”I hope Chinese basketball fans could enjoy the highest level of American basketball through the games, and I also hope the Nets could have an amazing journey in China and promote the cultural exchanges between our two countries,” he said.
Tsai’s company, Alibaba, may be Chinese but he holds Taiwanese and Canadian citizenship. He has offered warnings that the US-China trade war could hurt US companies more than China.
Kyrie is everywhere in Brooklyn ... and the Bronx. Thursday, we saw him greet Coco Grauff, the tennis phenom, when she visited HSS Training Center and as well as Saturday at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, giving local hoopsters some thrills.
On Friday, he visited with high school students in the Bronx and gave them a pep talk, noting that his family has ties to the borough: his father grew up there...
Kyrie Irving dropped by to talk to students in the Bronx today. Signed autographs for almost every last kid. He declined to talk to media, but it’s pretty evident he’s excited to be in NYC with @BrooklynNets pic.twitter.com/ClEaaOvvAR— John Chandler (@JohnChandlerNBC) September 13, 2019
With Kevin Durant sidelined with his ruptured Achilles, Irving will be the primary face of the franchise. Or his Roc Nation Sports, his agent, called him, “Man of the People.”
SOME front office moves
While we wait on the Nets final roster moves —a two-way contract and two Exhibit 10’s— there was some news on filling vacancies in the front office.
Shaun Fein was named head coach of the Long Island Nets and Matt Riccardi was named GM, replacing Will Weaver and Trajan Langdon, who were coach and GM of the year in the G League. Also, based on some internet sleuthing, it looks like Ronald Burrell and Mike Babul will be assistant coaches out on the Island.
Burrell was a player development and video assistant in Brooklyn last year. A New Jersey native, he played at UNC Greensboro before playing overseas for 11 seasons ending in 2016. He then went back to school to get his MBA in sports management at Florida Atlantic University.
Babul had been the associate head coach at Wagner until he joined the Nets this summer. Before that, he had been director of basketball operations at Drexel, Auburn and UTEP ... and assistant under John Calipari at Memphis, among other stops. A friend of Fein’s going back to high school in Massachusetts —they played AAU ball together, he told his and Fein’s hometown paper that Fein wanted someone that he was familiar with, someone he’s trusted.
Nets still haven’t hired replacements for assistant coaches Chris Fleming who handled offensive strategy and Pablo Prigioni who did player development. Of course, they could simply move assistants around. Or change titles. We expect more announcements this week (but we also expected them last week as well!)
Our internet sleuthing also turned up an additional hire for the team’s in-game analytics staff, which is run by Logan MacPhail, director of coaching analytics. Rohan Jaitley joined the Nets this month as coaching analytics and video assistant. Most recently, he had been a basketball analytics intern with the Suns and a capologist with NEXT Sports, an agency that reps Kent Bazemore, among others.
From what we can understand, the Nets break down their analytics department into coaching analytics, which is what MacPhail and Jaitley do, and talent analytics, working free agency and the draft. That’s Glenn DuPaul and Rami Antoun’s job. They also do more than a bit of capology. The Nets also have a systems administrator who works in basketball operations, Michael McCarthy.
As we previously noted, the Nets have also hired Daniel Jones as their Physical Performance Coach. How he fits with fellow Aussies, Dan Meehan, director of sports science, and Les Gelis, director of medical services. Jones and Meehan had been strength and conditioning coach at the North Melbourne Football Club prior to joining the Nets. Australia has a great reputation in the field of sports performance, having decided a generation ago that if it wanted to succeed in sports internationally, it would have to create a culture of development.
Coming Soon: the Stephen A. Smith interview with KD
On Sunday afternoon, Kevin Durant was pictured at Barclays Center. His L.A. pal, Omeez Jones, posted images of Durant at Barclays Center, apparently his first!
KD in his new home ⚫️ ⚪️— Christopher Lavinio (@ChrisLavinio) September 15, 2019
( iamomeez via Instagram) pic.twitter.com/q25AmjvILc
Meanwhile, ESPN is promoting the hell out of Stephen A. Smith’s interview with Kevin Durant which took place Friday but has not yet aired...
- Kevin Durant is now in New York. As was reported in the great Wall Street Journal Magazine report last week, he’s looking for new digs, perhaps in DUMBO. He will now be working with the Nets rehab team and keeping in regular touch with his surgeon, Dr. Martin O’Malley, of the Hospital for Special Surgery and the Nets orthopedics specialist.
- What could Stephen A. get out of KD that would so surprise us that we’d need to “buckle up?” We don’t know, but if we were betting, we’d bet Smith, noted Knick fan, asked him about speculation that he would wind up at the Mecca rather than the Big Brownstone (trademark pending). Sounds like fun!
The day before the interview, Stephen A. suggested that Durant wants to be seen as the best player in the NBA, but that he’s not thinking of where he ranks in the pantheon of all-time great basketball players.
And what’s with this??
A Dr.J as Black Panther bobblehead? What? or What the ...?
Darren Rovell revealed it on Twitter this week.
We don’t get any of it. But here’s one hint: The bobblehead will be distributed two weeks after the Doc’s 70th birthday which is February 22. Are the Nets going to do a belated birthday bash for Erving? But Black Panther? We guess that the rationale for that will be revealed in time.
In the spirit of telling you what we don’t know, which takes up a lot of this Report, we also don’t know yet what will happen with Jaylen Hands, who the Nets drafted with the 56th pick this year. Nor do we know who Joe Tsai will name as CEO once he officially takes over this week. We suspect Hands will be playing overseas this year. We only know the Woj tweet that David Levy, former head of Turner Sports, is a serious candidate for the job.
But we did unearth video of Hands “guarding” Tsai, at the Pac-12 China Games in Huangzhou that Tsai’s Alibaba sponsored two years ago.
Joe Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba, who recently purchased 49% of the Brooklyn Nets, practicing with UCLA ahead of the Pac-12 China Game. pic.twitter.com/u2PgZHkFEE— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) November 6, 2017
Hands couldn’t have known that he be letting his future boss score easily. But it certainly was a prescient move.