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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 3

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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 ... whatever.

Apple Debuts Latest Products Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

So Steve Nash has passed his first test. He aced his introductory press conference, admitting to “skipping the line” and noting that there is “white privilege” ... although he argued he didn’t believe it was relevant to his hiring. He said all the right things about Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving but was vague in answering questions on the roster and the offense he plans to run. He did not, however, shy away from championship aspirations.

Bottom line: he was articulate and probably helped some fans get over whatever anxiety they had about the Nets hiring a player without NBA coaching experience ... or any coaching experience for that matter.

Also, in the days after being announced on September 2, we know he reached out to his players. Joe Harris said he, Nash and Sean Marks had “coffee” in Brooklyn to discuss, among other things, Nash’s desire to have him on the roster next season. Alex Schiffer reported that Nash was in New Jersey (presumably West Orange) to watch Kyrie Irving work out. He also spoke by phone with other players, including Caris LeVert.

There were a couple of intriguing things that may have gotten lost in the shuffle.

—Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert all told reporters they were as surprised as anyone by the news when it broke on September 2. LeVert said he got a call from Sean Marks just before the official announcement telling him that Nash was “our coach.” So, it would appear that none of those three were consulted about the choice prior to the announcement. KD, who spoke on J.J. Redick’s podcast, wasn’t asked if he was surprised.

—Nash told WFAN he thought LeVert could fit into a number of roles for the Nets, saying, “Caris is versatile – he can start, he can maybe fit that Ginobili role as a closer – but it’s exciting to have a player of his caliber, another player who loves the game.” Ginobili of course won Sixth Man of the Year with the Spurs.

Similarly, Durant praised LeVert “Any given night, he could lead us in scoring or lead us in assists or he can control the offense or we can go to him in the post in a match-up,” Durant said. “I feel like he has the tools to do everything on the basketball court. On our team, we play unselfishly. We got guys that can play off the basketball. Any given night, anybody can be the star.” Doesn’t sound like LeVert, who begins his new, three-year, $52.5 million deal next season, is going anywhere.

—In his interview with Michael Kay on ESPN Radio, Nash described the “principles” that will guide him in developing an offense of his own. Joking that “it sounds like the whole league now plays ‘Seven Seconds or Less,” Mike D’Antoni’s famous offense in Phoenix. Nash did say, “I want us to play quickly, make quick decisions, put pressure on defense, move the ball, be unselfish and play together.” He also noted that his offense will be reflective of the talent he has which he referred to as “profound.”

—Nash also told Kay that the Nets performance in the “bubble” left him “incredibly impressed.” He even found the playoff effort against a healthier, more skilled Toronto team “admirable,” giving a lot of credit to the coaching staff. Who will be retained and who will be hired is of course still TBD but it’s been quite apparent that Marks is generally happy with his coaching staff and wants to keep them on.

At present, the Nets have six assistants, not counting strength and conditioning coach Dan Liburd or physical performance coach Daniel Jones. There’s nothing to stop the Nets from adding more. There’s no roster limit or salary cap for coaches. Mark Cuban famously had 11. By making Jacque Vaughn the highest paid assistant coach in the NBA, Joe Tsai showed that he’s willing to spend. (More on that below.) We’ve already seen rumors about interest in Phil Handy, the Lakers assistant, and Royal Ivey of the Knicks. Frank Vogel has said he’d give any of his assistants permission to interview elsewhere, but last year, the Knicks declined to let Ivey talk with other teams. Handy is close to Irving, Ivey to Durant. And shockingly, Shams Charania has said Jeff Van Gundy might get a call!

—Based on his history as a player, his performance at the press conference and in subsequent interviews, we expect that Nash will have a good relationship with the media, both local and national. He had an excellent record with the media as player and his openness in responding to questions, even tough ones, Wednesday suggests that will continue.

Does Indiana want Jacque Vaughn?

The big winner in all of this, other than Nash of course, was Jacque Vaughn who the Nets kept on at a premium, which had to have pleased the Nets players. Vaughn was immensely popular with his players and carried himself well both on and off the court as the team and the league were buffeted by COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter protests. There’s a report that the Pacers want to interview him for their open head coaching job. Indiana would have to get permission from the Nets to even interview Vaughn and there’s no word on whether they would do so. The normal protocol is for a team to grant such permission if the coach or other staffer would be getting a better job.

IndyCornrows.com, our Pacer sister site on SB Nation, believes that Vaughn could be the ideal head coach for Indiana, noting among other things that he was Victor Oladipo’s first coach with the Magic. (The Magic fired Vaughn during their rebuilding and traded Oladipo because he wasn’t developing fast enough. How’s that work out?)

Fast forward to now, however, and by putting Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen in position to grow together and play off of each other with greater opportunity and less depth, Vaughn has flipped the script on what never materialized with the Magic, spotlighting the potential of Brooklyn’s young pieces with a streamlined, egalitarian approach that could benefit not only who Oladipo has become, but also who the rest of the Pacers already are.

The story is extensive, with film studies of how Vaughn could fit the Pacers system.

When do we get the game back?

Shams Charania wrote Friday about where the game is headed, and despite suggestions there might be a multi-bubble environment for the 2020-21 season, Shams reports the league sees 2020-21 as a transition season, with some fans returning to arena, albeit with a very different format. Here’s how he described it...

For next season, the NBA prefers in-market competition with reduced travel and an amount of fans — instead of the bubble environment it is playing in currently, according to sources.

The league is aiming for an 82-game regular season in 2020-21.

That seems to suggest a schedule different from the traditional three or four games with your conference rivals and two with out-of-conference teams. It also seems to suggest that the NBA wants to bring fans back to arenas. Not full houses, but reduced numbers with various COVID protections installed, things like mandatory masks, social distancing in the stands, plexiglass shields, temperature checks on arrival, etc., etc. We’ve heard one suggestion that crowds might be limited to 5,000 or 6,000 fans and slowly bump up as conditions warrant. The question, however, is would 5,000 or 6,000 people be willing to gather in a closed environment? In New York?

And, as Dr. Anthony Fauci is fond of saying, we don’t set the schedule, the virus does.

Shams also notes that the Draft has been moved back again, but the Draft Combine lives, again in a different format.

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are planning for a Nov. 18 NBA draft...

The NBA is planning a Draft Combine process beginning later this month and in two parts:

— Mid-September to early October: In-market medical exams and on-court drills and virtual interviews.

— Mid-October to Draft date: Teams will be able to conduct in-person interviews with prospects — but no workouts.

Again, everything is in flux.

Joe Tsai spends

By making Jacque Vaughn the highest paid assistant in the NBA —and signing Steve Nash to what has to be a lucrative contract, Joe Tsai proved once again that he’s willing to spend money on his sports properties.

Other than Woj reporting that Nash got a four-year deal, there’s been nothing on the details of his contract, things like how much money, whether there’s a team option, etc. But it’s hard to imagine that Nash signed for less than around $5 million a year. (The Nets also are on the hook for whatever Kenny Atkinson is owed. He signed a contract extension just before last season.)

But if you tally up how much Tsai has invested in the Nets, the figure is huge, close to $4 billion huge. Start with the amount he paid out for the team and Barclays Center. That was somewhere around $3.4 billion. He also bought the Liberty from James Dolan. The sales price for the WNBA franchise has never been revealed, but it’s unlikely to have been much. Dolan claimed he had accumulated $100 million in losses over its 20+ years as a Garden property. Then, he couldn’t sell it for 17 months after he announced his intention to get out.

Then, there’s the “Clean Sweep” contracts. Although he was officially a minority owner at the time of the signings, Tsai was obviously consulted and committed to the payout, which as it turned out, is all on his dime. The contracts signed with Kevin Durant ($164 million), Kyrie Irving ($141 million), DeAndre Jordan ($40 million) and Garrett Temple ($10 million) add up to $355 million. Then add in the two deals signed later last off-season, Caris Levert ($52.5 million) and Taurean Prince ($29 million) and the grand total for free agent contracts jumps to $436.5 million. (We’re not counting Nicolas Claxton’s $4 million deal or the vets minimum deals or the “substitute” contracts.)

There are also the social justice initiatives (a $10 million commitment over five years that every NBA owner has agreed to plus his and his wife Clara’s $50 million Social Justice Fund for Brooklyn) and COVID-19 relief efforts (paying all the team and arena workers at a cost that now likely runs to more than $10 million) plus his and Clara Wu Tsai’s donation of 2,000 ventilators and millions of pieces of PPE to New York, San Diego and Detroit, no doubt another $10+ million). If you want, you can also add the $10 million donation Clara reportedly gave to Meek Mill’s REFORM Alliance, of which she is a Founding Partner.

Finally, Tsai will likely pay out $50 million in luxury taxes whenever the 2020-21 season ends. That’s if Joe Harris signs a deal starting at $12 million, which would be a bargain. Beyond $12 million and the tax goes up. That $50 million payment would be the fifth highest — ever — in the NBA.

Even if you argue that Tsai is a very rich man, that’s a huge investment. Tsai’s net worth, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, is more than $14 billion, up by more than than $5 billion since January 2019.. Maybe Steve Ballmer of the Clippers, who’s going to build a new billion dollar arena in L.A. and signed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, has committed more. Maybe.

Why have Tsai and his wife, his co-owner, spent so much? According to more than one NBA insider, Tsai sees the Nets, Liberty, Barclays Center, etc. as “legacy” properties, that is, properties he intends to retain and pass on to his three children. That’s a good thing.

Draft Sleeper of the Week: Jaden McDaniels

Jaden McDaniels is a 6’9” wing with a 7-foot wingspan who played for the University of Washington last season after being a five-star recruit coming out of the Seattle area. He’d been linked to the Nets at No. 19 on more than a couple of mock drafts during the summer although lately, he’s dropped He’s listed at No. 25 to the Thunder on ESPN’s mock and No. 23 to the Jazz on The Ringer’s. In fact, he was originally seen as a top five pick before he even played at Washington.

So what happened and would the Nets be willing to take a chance on him? Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, put it this way...

Hyped-up prospect who underwhelmed as a freshman but retains appeal with his size, shooting ability, and defensive versatility.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN and Draft Express wrote something similar...

McDaniels was once projected as a potential top-five pick, but an uneven season at Washington — along with concerns regarding his frame, efficiency and inconsistent approach — caused his stock to slide. This late in the draft, a team with a strong development system in place, such as the Thunder, might be intrigued by the positional size, length and two-way versatility McDaniels offers.

As did NBA.com’s profile...

Displaying a budding skill level, McDaniels lacks a degree of consistency, but shows potential as a jump shooter, the ability to create separation off the dribble, and make some heads up passes. Playing on the ball quite a bit for a forward, McDaniels served as a shot creator in spurts for the Huskies even if he did most of his scoring playing off the ball. He had some ups and downs over the course of the season but made tough shots in bunches on several occasions.

At least the draftniks are consistent about his inconsistency!

The Nets have gone with prospects who’ve dropped for various reasons in the past. Jarrett Allen went from No. 13 and a lottery pick to No. 22 in a matter of weeks before the 2017 Draft. “Love of the game” was supposedly the issue. After being seen as a late lottery pick in 2017, Rodions Kurucs dropped into the second round in 2018 because F. C. Barcelona hid him. Similarly, the Nets got Nicolas Claxton at No. 31 in 2019 even though most mocks had him in the mid-20’s. In fact, some of the same criticisms being leveled at McDaniels were leveled at Claxton. Too skinny, too inconsistent, etc.

Although he may not be the 7-footer (okay 6’11 3/4”) Claxton is, McDaniels possesses some of the same qualities. He’s an excellent ball-handler for his size, has a decent shooting stroke from three, hitting 33 percent at UWash. Also, he is by no means a finished product. Still, the Nets have the luxury of taking their time with him as they are with Clax, beefing him up and helping him develop his game, matching his decision-making to his ball-handling skills, for example.

Here’s some highlights...

McDaniels also has an NBA pedigree. His brother Jalen plays for the Hornets and his cousin is former NBA star Juwan Howard,

Congratulations to Garrett and Kara!

It’s a boy for Garrett Temple and Kara McCollough, who was Miss USA in 2017...

Final Note

Chinese basketball fans —and people in general— have been wowed by the ball-handling skills of a 14-year-old boy from the city of Yunfu named Zhang Jiacheng. Videos of Zhang went viral in the early summer. You see, he lost his right arm in an accident at the age of 5 but it did not diminish his love for the game...

Since the videos were posted, he’s received an encouraging message from Steph Curry and met former Net Yi Jianlian at his Guangdong Southern Tigers training camp. So far, the video has been viewed millions of times ... including by Joe Tsai. The Nets owner sent him and his parents a message, an invitation ... and an autographed Irving jersey. It was posted on Weibo, the Chinese social media network that also publishes the Nets Chinese language site (of course there’s one!)

“Jiacheng’s love and fighting spirit for basketball has moved me very much,” said Tsai, according to a Google translation of the message. “I would like to invite him to watch the court in New York, have a face-to-face chat with our players, learn from each other, and help him realize his dream.

“Then we can also arrange for him to try his skills during the intermission of the game. I hope that fans all over the world can see the demeanor of the Chinese youth generation, and we will continue to support the growth of domestic youth basketball in the future.”

Zhang responded. He included a new video ... with him mimicking some of Kyrie’s most famous moves in the family kitchen while wearing his new Nets jersey.

It’s gone viral, too. Zhang told Tsai, “Thank you all for your support! I will definitely work harder and train harder.” We look forward to seeing you, kid.