Free agency signings are winding down. (So are we!) As for Saturday night, Bobby Marks estimates that 85 percent of NBA roster spots are filled. There are a few big names left —Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram come to mind but they’re waiting on contract structure. And there’s little money left to pay those remaining. Only the Knicks have a real cash hoard.
For the Nets, depending on what they do Sunday or maybe Monday, they’re down to one roster spot.
There’s plenty of analysis and debate on which teams got better. The defending champs appear to have improved but losing Rajon Rondo (who’s been to the Finals three times) and Dwight Howard (who can still play defense) hurt, in our humble opinion. So did the loss of Avery Bradley. The Clippers’ acquisition of Ibaka may have saved their off-season. The Nuggets, TrailBlazers and Suns appear have made the biggest leaps in the West, but no one is penciling them for the Finals. Sadly, the Warriors lost Klay Thompson.
In the East, the Bucks added Jrue Holiday, but not Bogdan Bogdanovic, and lost some members of the NBA’s best bench (which they were replenishing Sunday morning). The 76ers did well, more by subtraction than addition after making a significant coaching change. The Celtics added rebounding in Tristan Thompson but lost scoring in Gordan Hayward. We’ll have to see about that. The Raptors meanwhile look like they’re about to embark on a rebuild 1,300 miles away from home. The Heat, now just across the Florida peninsula from Toronto, also lost a solid player in Jae Crowder while picking up a solid defender and locker room guy in Bradley. And the Heat being the Heat maintained their team chemistry. That’s important nowadays.
In the Draft, the contenders who did well included the Warriors who took James Wiseman, and the Celtics with Aaron Nesmith.
And so, what about our Nets? They made moves at the edges and on the perimeter ... as pundits mostly expected they would, starting Wednesday night. We always love the Draft but by now we know that Sean Marks will snatch away our dreams by making Draft night deals. He dealt a pick that could have been Saddiq Bey or a number of others like R.J. Hampton, Jaden McDaniels or Desmond Bane. But for the price of the 19th pick, Dzanan Musa, a 2021 Raptors second rounder, the rights to Jaylen Hands and maybe some cash, Marks acquired two solid perimeter players in Landry Shamet, who’s the offensive piece of the pair, and Bruce Brown Jr., more the defender. One is 23, the other 24 and their combined salary is less than what the Nets would’ve paid Musa and the pick. They apparently also generated a $2 million trade exception in the deal.
Picks are nice but Shamet, a year older than Obi Toppin who was taken by the Knicks, has played in a lot of big games with a lot of big players. The Nets may have also snagged a steal at No. 57 in 6;10”, 250-pound Reggie Perry who was both MVP of the FIBA U19 Tournament and SEC Player of the Year last year. Marks says the Nets had him “much higher” and we’ve read —and been told— that he is not alone.
The Nets re-signed their top off-season priority in Joe Harris with such ease that we have to believe the four-year, $75 million deal was in place earlier than 6:00 p.m. Friday.
Joe Tsai was certainly ready, posting this 14 minutes after Woj broke the news...
They added Jeff Green who has ties to Kevin Durant and Mike D’Antoni. He proved that he can still play when with D’Antoni in Houston, averaging 12 points in 18 games. Green, who’s now played for 10 NBA teams, will be the replacement for Garrett Temple, whose team option was declined and is now in Chicago, and Wilson Chandler, who’s now in China.
Did they improve? As much as some of their rivals? Well, it’s an easy argument to make that when you stack up the active rosters of all 30 teams at the end of last season with what each has now, no team has improved as much as the Nets. After going 5-3 (and one shot short of 6-2) in the “bubble,” the Nets will now feature a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving who played 20 games between them last season. While pundits may wring their hands about how we don’t know whether Durant will be the same, eyewitness after eyewitness has talked about how great KD looks with one NBA player suggesting he may be better than the old KD. Durant, is after all, one of the best players of all-time. You cannot underestimate how important that is.
Yes, the Nets “lost” Serge Ibaka but that was a pipe dream anyway considering how little money they could toss him. And it certainly wasn’t the death knell for the team’s fortunes. Ibaka played very very well the last two years, but increasingly off the bench and at the 5. The Nets need a 4 (if you want to be bound by the 1-through 5 dynamic which we don’t think Steve Nash and D’Antoni are.) We’ll see what happens Sunday and Monday. We anticipate other moves, maybe a trade.
At the end of the day, you have to trust Marks and the team that took the Nets from the worst team in the league with no picks, no real stars, to a championship contender in four years ... making the playoffs twice along the way. Ya dance with the one who brung ya.
As for the much discussed James Harden deal, Marks laid down a marker when he spoke with reporters the day after the Draft. His message was simple: We have the leverage and they do. They love their roster, think it can get them to the Finals and one of the best players in the NBA wants to play for them and only them. So, Marks will wait until the Rockets ownership comes to its senses and lowers the price ... or deals him elsewhere.
“I couldn’t tell you if we are done yet or not but I don’t see us changing five or six guys on the roster,” Marks said, deadpan.
He also told reporters he doesn’t want to “mortgage” the future either.
“That is the dilemma, right?” Marks said when asked about trading draft picks. “If you put it like mortgage the future, I would probably say no. There comes a fine line where you say this is what we are going to do, not only in a trade for a star player but any trade for that matter.”
Draft Sleeper of the Week? Never Mind!
Well, we blew that. We profiled 12 players from Aleksej Pokusevski to Josh Hall. And on Draft Night? Nothing, nada, zip, zero. Like we said earlier, Sean Marks, breaker of dreams.
Here’s the final list and where our sleepers ultimately wound up...
- Aleksej Pokusevski, 7’0” F, Olympiacos, Greece. No. 17 to Thunder
- R.J. Hampton, 6’6” G, New Zealand Breakers, No. 24 to Nuggets
- Jaden McDaniels, 6’10” SF, Washington, No. 28 to Timberwolves
- Desmond Bane, 6’6” SF/SG, TCU, No. 30 to Grizzlies
- Omer Yurtseven, 7’0” PF, Georgetown, undrafted to Thunder
- Isaiah Joe, 6’5” SG, Arkansas, No. 49 to 76ers
- Cole Anthony, 6’3” PG, North Carolina, No. 15 to Magic
- Immanuel Quickley, 6’4” SG, Kentucky, No. 25 to Knicks
- Josh Green, 6’6” SG, Arizona, No. 18 to Mavericks
- Josh Hall, 6’8” SG, Moravian Prep, N.C., undrafted to Thunder
- Jalen Smith, 6’10” PF, Maryland, No. 10 to Suns
- Theo Maledon, 6’5” PG, Asvel, France, No. 34 to Thunder
Maybe we should have done the “sleeper” feature for Loud City, SB Nation’s Thunder site. Four of the 12 we profiled wound up in OKC. That said, we were surprised by a few things, that Hampton and McDaniels dropped as far as they did, that Smith was taken so high.
We did hear a couple of things about the Nets Draft War Room machinations. We heard that Sean Marks was trying to move up into “the top five or six” as one source told us to take one of the bigs available up top: Patrick Williams, taken at No. 4 by the Bulls’ Isaac Okoro taken at No. 5 by the Cavaliers; or Onyeka Okongwu, taken at No. 6 by the Hawks. Presumably, they were dangling Spencer Dinwiddie. No go.
Pooch tells us that they were also trying to secure a late first around No. 26. No idea on what they were offering — or who they wanted, but it didn’t work either.
We didn’t do anything on Reggie Perry who the Nets acquired at No. 57 in the three-team extravaganza finalized Thursday, but we tried to make up for it in our post-Draft feature. on him As Marks said of him in his press conference.
“We enjoyed watching Reggie this last year at college and I think he brings a different facet, He is a big man out there with a forceful nature and step out on the floor as well as play in the post but we had him much higher on our board. I look forward to seeing him develop, I look forward to seeing him in camp, and going from there.”
The Nets have signed two undrafted players to training camp invites, Exhibit 10 contracts: Nate Sestina, a 6’9” stretch 4 who played at Kentucky last year after a solid four-year career at Bucknell, and Jordan Bowden, a 6’5” 3-and-D prospect who had a bit of a disappointing senior year at Tennessee after a solid career with the Volunteers. Neither were top 100 prospects and are likely headed to Long Island as assignment players. Will Nets sign another Exhibit 10 player? Last season, they signed four but they have a lot more roster players this year and the training camp roster is still limited to 20 players.
And if you want some insight in how the Nets prepared for the Draft, there’s a terrific interview on the YES Network website, a clip from the new “Nets Hot Stove” program. In case you missed it, Michael Grady spoke with assistant Nets GM Jeff Peterson and B.J. Johnson, director of college scouting...
We would hate to see Spencer Dinwiddie go. We just want get that out there. Along with Joe Harris and D’Angelo Russell, Dinwiddie represents the Nets development ethic. Discarded by others, he came into his own in Brooklyn. He’s smart, funny, iconoclastic and, let’s not forget, averaged 21 and 7 last season filling in as Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert went to the bench. The last time we saw him in uniform he was drilling a game-winner at Staples Center. After that, he contracted COVID-19 and after gamely trying to get back in time to help in the “bubble,” he and the Nets decided rest was best.
There’s a lot of speculation —indeed it’s an article of faith among some fans and pundits— that he’ll soon be gone, sent to the NBA’s hinterlands in return for a serviceable big, to Orlando maybe for Aaron Gordon, perhaps or back to Detroit as part of a package for Blake Griffin who’d been working out in L.A. with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (who didn’t??)
Here’s two tweets from people who cover the Nets from last night, after Serge Ibaka decided he could make more money with the Clippers...
Sucks the Nets missed out on Serge... unfortunately it makes it more likely Dinwiddie is used as a chip for a big.— Evan Roberts (@EvanRobertsWFAN) November 22, 2020
(Really? Griffin is owed $75 million over two years and had the worst year of his career last year, limited to 18 games due to multiple knee surgeries.)
Indeed, if the Nets need to make a big trade, Dinwiddie’s name is the first to come up in virtually any discussion. And we noted that the Nets made a small, but possibly telling (?) move the other day, tendering a qualifying offer to Chris Chiozza, making him a restricted free agent. Was that just paperwork or a signal that they might need Chiozza on the roster as insurance should they move Din? We don’t know.
So just in case he gets dealt later Sunday and we get all wound up with the new guy —we do that, unfortunately — we’d like to express our appreciation for all that he’s done for the fans and franchise. Not to mention the copy!
Losing him or Caris LeVert in some future trade for James Harden would make us recall the famous Jerry Seinfeld joke about how players move so frequently that fans find themselves “rooting for laundry.”
Knowing how these things work, we’re sure we’ll hear some revisionist history about him if and when he’s gone. He always had to prove he was “the smartest guy in the room.” (Duh!). He annoyed this guy or that one. He turned into a loner. Whatever.
That dagger in L.A. would be a fitting coda for his Nets career if that’s the way it works out. In his hometown, he showed up the big guys, the champs. That’s what the Nets culture has been about.
“Flipping the City”
Mike Vaccaro of the Post wrote Sunday about how now is the Nets time to shine because “The Knicks really do seem committed to the long game this time around” (Translation: they cannot attract stars to The Mecca.)
And yes, inside the 7th floor business offices just below the HSS Training Center courts, they talk in only the most hushed tones about “flipping the city,” using the leverage of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and championship dreams to make New York a Nets town.
Yeah, yeah, I hear you Knicks fans. Never happen. Whatever. But assuming the rosters stay stable, who will be the talk of the town? R.J. Barrett or his godfather, Steve Nash?
We’ve written about the metrics of fandom and how the Nets are slowly but surely catching up in everything from attendance, percentage of arenas sold, local and national TV ratings, merchandise sales, even road attendance.
Vaccaro is right to suggest that metrics are one thing (and without fans in the stands, that will be difficult to assess). Conversation is quite another.
If it happens, we will know that it happened. People will talk about the Nets easily, and it won’t seem odd or out of place. That hasn’t happened yet, not really. But this time it does seem to be getting louder, and more prevalent. We may be seeing a franchise flip-flop. We may be getting there. We really might.
He also discusses things from a historical perspective, how things change but slowly, in New York fandom, noting that with a few exceptions it took a championship, not just a championship contender, to do the trick. As Vaccaro wrote, “pockets of prosperity” don’t matter so much. Rings, pennants, trophies do.
The Mets came along and wrestled the town away from the Yankees between 1964-75. The Yankees came back with a vengeance, dominating the Mets from ’76-83, thene Mets came back themselves, emerging as top baseball dogs from 1984-91 or so. But since 1992, it has been a Yankees town, even during those the Mets’ pockets of prosperity.
He also talks about football (why now?) and how the Jets sole time in the spotlight, in 1969, was a lost opportunity. The Giants dominate. Blue beats green. Only in hockey, is it different. The Rangers keep winning fans while losing games even as their B&T rivals in New Jersey and on Long Island have won titles.
So, Vaccaro concludes...
It’s never seemed remotely possible the Nets could rule the roost here. And maybe they won’t now, either. But if not now … when?
You will NEVER hear Joe Tsai or John Abbamondi talk about “flipping the city,” at least in public. Tsai has said that having two contenders in the city would be good for both teams as well as the league. More people would follow basketball, upping the ante (and the take). We don’t know what they say about the rivalry in private but remember Abbamondi used to work for James Dolan.
Look instead for subtle messages like using Kyrie Irving to lure fans from New Jersey to Brooklyn, using his legitimate childhood fandom to create a buzz. We don’t have video link, but in the new “Nets Hot Stove” program (a worthy endeavor), here’s what he said...
“Growing up in New Jersey, being a Nets fan, especially in the tri-state area, it was a different pride you had to have. It was big to rep where you were from. And that the was the attitude, that was the mentality I embodied. I wanted to be J Kidd growing up. to be etched with those names in Nets history now, being part of the organization, knowing it was once a fan and now I became part of it. “
Then perhaps recalling when he attended one of the Nets Finals games back in the early 2000’s, he finished with a big smile and a promise...
“I’m going to make sure that when the Nets gat back to The Finals, we will make sure we’re going to be winning this!”
That’s how you do it.
Speaking of Kyrie. While we were focusing on the Draft and free agency, he was focusing on Thanksgiving, specifically alleviating hunger in this two New York “home towns,” in New Jersey and the Bronx, distributing food, holiday meals and PPE at the Patrick School in Hillside and at the South Bronx housing complex where he lived after he and his dad returned from Australia.
Here’s some social media on his visits.
Brooklyn Nets PG Kyrie Irving also did a Thanksgiving giveaway in his hometown of West Orange, NJ today. pic.twitter.com/MtZt220NFf— Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, M.A. (@ScoopB) November 18, 2020
(Scoop meant Hillside.)
Here’s the details on the Bronx drive, organized by Kyrie’s KAI Family Foundation with the help of City Harvest and Fresh Direct, among others...
- 500 turkeys and tote bags from FreshDirect
- Holiday-inspired side dishes and fresh produce from City Harvest
- Approximately 700 bakery items (apple pies and bread) from KAI Family Foundation and Lineage Logistics
- 200 additional turkeys from Virtu Financial
- Entertainment support by legendary Hip Hop artist Slick Rick
Irving was not alone. Jarrett Allen once again worked with “Children of Promise,” youngsters whose parents are incarcerated, in his annual “Meals + Math: Thanksgiving program.
We’re so excited! #Thanksgiving is near, and it’s time for the @_bigjayy_ #MealsPlusMath event at CPNYC!— Children of Promise, NYC (@childrenofcpnyc) November 16, 2020
A special shout out to the @BrooklynNets and partners @_tandemse, @KeyFood and @CityHarvest for your support! pic.twitter.com/RFTHIKft3j
Big thanks to those two. In these horrible times for those who are sick and needy, just doing right matters.