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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 21

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Every weekend, we’ll be updating the Nets’ off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help fans get ready for the giddiness of next season.

This is it, the end of the greatest off-season in Nets history ... or at least since 2001 when Rod Thorn traded for Jason Kidd. The season itself will determine which summer was better, but for pure excitement, this one has already won hands down. Signing two of the top five free agents from right under the Knicks’ noses and ushering in a new owner, all in 60 days! Wow. Now, it’s preseason and in a month the season we’ve all waited for!

On Tuesday, Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson will have their annual preseason press conference —a lot’s happened since they last spoke— and training camp opens Friday with Media Day. The off-season is over. The preseason is on.

Most Watched NBA Games Ever?

The NBA China Games —in Shanghai and Shenzhen— are officially only preseason games, but don’t be surprised if they turn out to be a milestone for the NBA. How so? Because of a confluence of events, the games between the Nets and Lakers could be the most watched NBA games ... ever ... anywhere.

China’s basketball jones is well known. Every year, some 600 million Chinese watch some NBA action on TV, online, etc. But these games in October are special. For the first time, a Chinese owner (officially a Taiwanese-Canadian governor) will be bringing his team to the People’s Republic. He’ll be sitting courtside no doubt with wife, Clara Wu, and his three children.

Then, there’s LeBron James return and the debuts of Anthony Davis in purple-and-gold and Kyrie Irving in black-and-white will be a draw, as will the presence of Kevin Durant. Remember Rich Kleiman, KD’s manager has recently noted that Durant sells more sneakers in China than he does in North America. He’s very popular.

One indicator of just what the Nets are walking into: the Chinese consul-general in New York noted at his reception for Nets players and staff a week ago that the tickets for the games, October 10 in Shanghai and October 12 in Shenzhen, sold out in ONE MINUTE.

No one (we know) is estimating how big of an audience the game will draw but tens of millions sounds conservative. Of course, the games will also be broadcast in the U.S. but starting time in New York will be 7:30 a.m. and in Los Angeles 4:30 a.m.

Stephen A on Kyrie

Stephen A. Smith went on Hot 97’s Ebro in the Morning this week to talk Kyrie Irving and how his presence on the Nets, KD or not, will not just lead to more wins ... big box office. Stephen A says Irving is a superstar and he’s not hearing all the critiques.

Smith told Ebro Darden...

“Kyrie, I’m really getting tired of people not realizing who the hell Kyrie Irving is,”

“You do walk through the turnstiles to see that brotha. This ain’t some Tim Duncan-type where it’s like: ‘yo he’s a Hall of Famer, he’s great, he’s a champion, big fundamentals.’ No no, Kyrie, you walk through the turnstiles to see the Spurs and that’s all they have in San Antonio is the Spurs and obviously Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward to ever live. But the bottom line is, he wasn’t box office per se. He’s an absolute winner but not box office.

“Kyrie is box office. He is a showstopper. You walk through the turnstiles to watch this brotha dance and the brotha was doing it in Cleveland and he was doing it in Boston. This brotha is from New Jersey. Can you imagine what he’s gonna do at the Barclays Center? Oh Kyrie is ready to put on a show and he will!”

Yes, Stephen, we can!

Stephen A also hinted he thinks Kevin Durant will be back this season and said that even if KD is 70 percent, “he can still average 23 a game.”

Why did Prokhorov sell? Price was oh so right.

The question that many asked when word came that Mikhail Prokhorov was selling out after 10 years of ownership. The Nets had just signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and were sitting on top of the NBA and New York sports worlds.

So, why’d he sell? You deserve the glory. In an interview with TASS, the big Russian news agency, Prokhorov essentially said Joe Tsai’s offer was too good to refuse. He sold the team and arena for roughly 10 times what he paid for it only nine years earlier.

“It’s been an amazing project from a business point of view,” Prokhorov said in his interview with TASS’s Andrey Kartashov. “I don’t know of another investment that has shown this kind of return in a relatively short period, so it was simply too good to pass up.”

“Having the chance to be a part of the NBA and see everything up close has been tremendously beneficial not only because they have a business model that makes sport profitable, but because they have taken every aspect of the sport to the highest level,

“This includes everything from scouting to physical training to medical treatment,” the now 54-year-old businessman said. “I’m taking with me a treasure trove of knowledge which is already being passed on to my friends and colleagues in basketball here at home.”

And he noted, he has a certain sense of accomplishment leaving the team in good hands and good shape.

“The Brooklyn Nets are now in the best shape they have ever been in during my tenure, and for most of the years before that,” Prokhorov told TASS. “So I’m passing the torch to new ownership with a clear conscience.”

The Russian billionaire added that he would continue rooting for the club and will be attending the games. He hopes that the Brooklyn will eventually win the NBA Championship.

”Even though I’ve sold the team, I will remain its No. 1 fan and will continue to attend games from time to time. I hope to be at their championship win sometime in the near future, and I fully believe that will happen,” he added.

One last question is what will Prokhorov do with this other New York assets: Nassau Coliseum, the Brooklyn Paramount Theater and Webster Hall in Manhattan. It appears that Prokhorov is willing to sell the three venues, too. The Coliseum property is actually a lease of the arena and the 77 acres surrounding it. Prokhorov holds the rights to build out the property as a multi-use development.

Expect his profits from his New York operations to increase when those sales go through. Tsai reportedly had no interest in buying Nassau, home to the Long Island Nets.

Still outstanding

We expect that by Tuesday, when Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson face the media at HSS Training Center, the last remaining questions about personnel will be answered. If not then, how about by Friday when the team starts training camp?

The Nets still have to fill:

—two coaching vacancies, replacements for Chris Fleming and Pablo Prigioni.

—one two-way contract. Henry Ellenson was signed to the first two-way on July 17.

—two camp invites. Deng Adel was signed July 30. The camp invites could be veterans or Exhibit 10 deals which can turn into G League contracts.

The Nets did announce new staff for the Long Island Nets this week ... and Long Island did make a trade.

Next announcement?

There could be a number of them as Joe Tsai and CEO David Levy sort out their new properties under the J Tsai Sports banner. There will be, no doubt, comings and goings and re-structuring of roles and departments. The fullness of the team and arena’s financial picture only became available to Tsai et al this week, Levy told us.

All that said, we expect the next announcement will be the New York Liberty’s move to Barclays Center. Even though Tsai agreed to buy the Nets and Barclays in August, there’s been nothing official about the WNBA team’s move to Brooklyn. Why? Tsai has always been very respectful of Mikhail Prokhorov’s ownership and has tried not to usurp any of his partner’s prerogatives ... until he took control, which he finally did this week.

The move will be huge for the Liberty, of course. They’ve been playing in an antiquated and quite small arena, the Westchester County Center in White Plains, for the last two years. It was part of James Dolan’s penny-pinching after years of losses at the Garden.

The Liberty were attracting only 2,000 or so fans at their home games in Westchester, compared to the 10,000 the team drew during the Liberty’s heyday at the Garden. In their one regular season appearance at Barclays last month, they drew 7,715, filling the lower bowl.

A healthy New York franchise is key to the health of the WNBA in general. They were the league’s top draw before the move to White Plains. And without the Garden to pump up attendance, the league’s numbers dropped precipitously, lowering revenue and increasing losses.

So expect an announcement of the move sometime after the WNBA Finals next week ... and before the WNBA players and the NBA begin their negotiations on the WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. (In addition to being the owner of the team in the biggest market —and the link to China, Tsai is almost certainly the wealthiest WNBA owner. So expect him to have a big role in the talks, which are likely to be contentious.)

How respectful of Prokhorov has Tsai been, you ask. Here’s a fun fact, the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s daily newspaper, is owned by Alibaba, Tsai’s company and Tsai is SCMP’s chairman. Yet the paper didn’t run a story on Tsai buying the team until Tuesday!

Adam Silver on Joe Tsai and David Levy

We missed this the other day. It’s Adam Silver referring to Joe Tsai as, among other things, a “visionary media executive.”

New Court?!?

Zach Cullen, eagle-eyed member of the Brooklyn Brigade —and a New York city cop— found what he thinks is a new court at Barclays. He spotted these images on NBA2K and tweeted them out on @ZCullen8. So, nothing official but ...

Someone even posted a video of NBA2K game action on the grey court...

The design, if real, retains the herringbone pattern but goes more black-and-white.

New players, new owner, new jerseys, now new court?? Will wonders ever cease? (Hope not!)

And ICYMI (We did)

On Friday, in response to Magic Johnson’s critique of what Kevin Durant said about finding happiness, KD tweeted back. “Horrible take. Just regurgitated bullish*t,” he wrote. Durant later deleted the tweet, but the sparring led to a spirited and very nuanced conversation among ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Ramona Shelbourne and Richard Jefferson...

Rachel Nichols is very, very good.

Stash Reporting

The Nets will have five draft stashes this season, their most ever. All will be playing in Europe:

Isaia Cordinier, 6’5” French combo guard who played for the Nets in summer league. He’s now with Nanterre in the French League. He’s 22. The Hawks’ 44th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Aaron White, 6’9” American power forward who the Nets acquired in the DeMarre Carroll salary dump. He’s playing with Milano in the Italian League. He’s 27. He’s said he had an opportunity to join an NBA training camp. He had played in Lithuania last season. He was the Wizards 49th pick in the 2015 Draft.

Nemanja Dangubic, a 6’8” Serbian swingman whose rights came to Brooklyn in the Carroll salary dump. He’s now with Estudiantes in Madrid after playing in Germany last season. He’s 28. He was selected with the 54th pick in the 2014 Draft by the 76ers who traded him immediately to the Spurs.

Aleksandar Vezenkov, a 6’9” Bulgarian stretch 4 who was drafted by the Nets at No. 57 in the 2017 Draft with a pick that was part of the infamous 2013 Boston trade. He’s the only one of the Nets stashes who didn’t switch teams this summer. He’s still playing for David Blatt at Olympiacos. He’s 24 and has Bulgarian, Cypriot and Greek citizenship but plays for Bulgaria in FIBA competition.

Juan Pablo Vaulet, a 6’7” Argentine swingman who made the biggest switch, going from Bahia in Argentina to Baxi Manresa in Spain. The 23-year-old was taken by the Nets in the 2015 Draft, the last “asset” from the Billy King era. Taken with the 39th pick in the 2015 Draft by the Hornets. He cost Brooklyn two future second rounders and $880,000 in cash. He’s had a series of injuries, mostly to his ankles and is a veteran of Dr. Martin O’Malley’s operating room.

We’ll keep track of them. In that light, here’s what Cordinier said this week about his time in the Summer League with the Nets ... and his future.

“I know that this summer they were very happy with what I showed at practices and in the match. I had very positive feedback. I keep the NBA in a corner of my mind but for now, I’m trying to just focus on Nanterre.”

What’s the value of having so many stashes? In some cases, it’s another level of development. The Hawks for example gave up on Cordinier but the Nets have had him over for summer league and regularly keep in touch with him, offering him pointers on physical development, on skills, etc. Cordinier and Vezenkov, for example, went to Madrid this summer to get shooting tips from Stefan Weissenboeck, the Nets’ German shooting coach.

Stashes can also be trading chips in complicated trade scenarios. Stashes have no salary value for the purposes of a trade. They’re like ghost players. Oftentimes, a complicated trade is broken into component pieces and having a variety of assets to throw into a deal can help get it done. Better to trade a stash than a pick.

There have been rumors the Nets will stash Jaylen Hands overseas this season. Nothing official however.

The Nets favorite NBA Draft

With the Nets acquiring the rights of Aaron White and Anthony Brown this summer —White in the DeMarre Carroll salary dump, Brown in a G League trade his past week, the Nets have now drafted or acquired a total of nine players in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Here ya go...

No. 2 - D’Angelo Russell, acquired from the Lakers in the Brook Lopez trade on Draft Night in 2017. Russell became an All-Star as a Net. Sent to Golden State this summer in the double sign-and-trade that returned Kevin Durant and a protected 2020 first rounder.

No. 3 - Jahlil Okafor, acquired from the 76ers in the Trevor Booker trade in December 2017. Okafor played sparingly for the Nets in 2017-18, then was picked up as an unrestricted free agent by the Pelicans in July of 2018, where he could start this season.

No. 17 - Rashad Vaughn, acquired from the Bucks in February 2018 along with a second round pick for Tyler Zeller. Three days later, he was sent to New Orleans for Dante Cunningham. The pick was traded in the Timofey Mozgov salary dump and became Hamidou Diallo. Playing in Bosnia.

No. 23 - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who came to the Nets in a Draft Night trade that sent Mason Plumlee and the rights to Pat Connaughton, the 41st pick that night. Played for the Nets till this summer when his rights were renounced and he signed a one-year deal with the Raptors.

No. 28 - R.J. Hunter who the Nets signed to their G League team in January 2017. He played well for the Long Island Nets but they did not renew his rights and he moved on. Playing in Turkey.

No. 29 - Chris McCullough who the Nets took with the 29th pick, which they had acquired in a pick swap with the Atlanta Hawks, part of the Joe Johnson trade. He was sent, along with Bojan Bogdanovic, to the Wizards in February 2017 for Washington’s first round pick, which turned into Jarrett Allen, and Andrew Nicholson. Playing in the Philippines.

No. 34 - Anthony Brown who the Long Island Nets acquired on Friday from the College Park Skyhawks for the rights to Tahjere McCall.

No. 39 - Juan Pablo Vaulet who the Nets took with a Hornets pick, which cost them two future second rounders and $880,000 in cash. The youngest international player in the 2015 Draft. Playing in Spain. (see above).

No. 49 - Aaron White whose rights the Nets acquired this summer in the DeMarre Carroll salary dump. He had been taken by the Wizards on Draft Night in 2015 and was seen as a possible training camp invite this year, but he signed a guaranteed deal in Europe. Playing in Italy (see above.)

The Nets also signed, however briefly, three players who were notably undrafted: Clifford Alexander, Treveon Graham and Alan Williams.

Now, if Sean Marks could only find a way to grab the overall No. 1 pick in that draft, Karl-Anthony Towns...

Final Note

Twenty-one weeks. Twenty-one weeks. “Game-changing” doesn’t begin to capture it. As Frank Isola once wrote, this off-season was “a once-in-a-lifetime summer” for the Nets. It may sound dramatic, but it has the added benefit of being true!

So many key players from last year’s magical season are gone, from D’Angelo Russell to Mikhail Prokhorov (Both made a lot of money!) Most of those who danced along the sidelines are gone, replaced by superstars. No Nets fan in his or her right mind would have predicted the changes this time last year.

So much has changed and so much will change. The Nets are the celebrity team in New York, the very home of celebrity. (No paparazzi is chasing Julius Randle.) The global dream Prokhorov had for the Nets now looks not only possible but likely. Joe Tsai and David Levy have big plans to make the Nets synonymous with Brooklyn and Brooklyn synonymous with cool from Bed-Stuy to Shanghai,

Standards will be higher. The team is new. Some players remain. So do Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson, but everyone understands these are the new Nets. There will be pressure like the Nets have never seen before. Never. But we will always have this summer, the sheer wonder and magic of it all.

So how to end the off-season? What’s the best way? How about remembering where you were when this happened and how you reacted...

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing. On to the next one!