There’s a lot happening. Of course, we don’t know a lot of it. We figure there will be some basketball operations news starting Monday when teams can start taking deep looks at draft prospects as part of the re-imagined Draft Combine. Things will start to leak out about who’s interested in who ... both ways. Expect some agents to press the Nets to take their guy. A development record will do that for you.
In the meantime, we take a look at the randomness of the NBA, from draft talk to sneaker talk to political talk. If there’s a theme, it’s that the ridiculous to the sublime is well represented by your Brooklyn Nets.
Kyrie’s new sneaker line from Nike: a Nets’ themed black-and-white
Clean out your closets. The latest addition to the Nike Kyrie Low 3 line is coming soon, its black-and-white Nets theme adding to all hope and hype about the Nets upcoming season. Here are a few views of the footwear which goes on sale next week. H/T to Sneaker News
From Kyrie to Breonna
This week, after Kentucky’s attorney general declined to prosecute the police responsible for Breonna Taylor’s death, Kyrie Irving posted this on Instagram..,
As one fan tweeted a few days ago, there are still fans and media (particularly in Boston) who want to make Irving the issue whenever, wherever whatever but in fact he’s limited his public commentary in recent months. He’s been quietly working out in Los Angeles with Kevin Durant, who of course has taken the opposite tack and been very vocal. (In fact, KD will debut his new podcast, the ETC’s, on Tuesday.)
Checking Kyrie’s Instagram account over the past several months, there have been posts on Black Lives Matter issues, including his Players TV documentary on Taylor; a letter to Kobe Bryant; a tribute to his late mother and a celebration of a sneaker collaboration with his sister, Asia.
Irving, of course, has been providing needed food and personal protection equipment to residents of New York and New Jersey as well as the Standing Rock Sioux tribal reservation in North Dakota where his mother lived as a child ... and who welcomed him and his sister as members back in 2018. And he has set up a $1.5 million fund to help WNBA players who couldn’t travel to the “wubble” in Florida because of injury, illness or out of concerns over social justice.
The latest casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the annual NBA Draft Combine where the top 60 prospects would gather, usually in Chicago, for medical tests, measurements, interviews with teams as well as some 5-on-5 action.
Not this year. The NBA released its plan for what is basically a hybrid of the combine’s past with the requirements of the pandemic age. A key piece of the plan is the use of an app, called HomeCourt to record and analyze prospects’ skills, etc.
Here’s SportsTechie’s description of the role HomeCourt will play.
Rather than assess all prospects at a central location, each draft prospect will need to visit the NBA facility closest to his residence between Sept. 28 and Oct. 16. League-affiliated physicians on site will perform medical evaluations. The NBA draft is scheduled for Nov. 18.
Through HomeCourt’s iOS app, players will record pro day videos at the combine. HomeCourt’s computer vision technology will compile all shooting analytics. The NBA made an investment in HomeCourt’s parent company, NEX Team, in 2019.
So who else is an investor in HomeCourt’s parent company, NEX Team? Get out your popcorn. It’s a fun list of investors, presumably in order of their stake. We highlighted the more interesting names...
Investors include the NBA, Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, Joe Tsai (Owner, Brooklyn Nets and NY Liberty), Dreamers (the venture fund of movie star Will Smith and Japanese football star Keisuke Honda), Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment (Ownership, 76ers), Mark Cuban (Owner, Dallas Mavericks), and pro athletes including Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Bradley Beal, Sue Bird, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Harris, Al Horford, Jewell Loyd, Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee, and JJ Redick.
A virtual panoply of Nets ownership, management and players, past, present and maybe future? So will the Nets get a HomeCourt advantage? Nah, that’s not how it works. Too bad.
Draft Sleeper of the Week: Omer Yurtseven
Okay, how about a second rounder? The Nets control the Nuggets pick at No. 55.
It’s not that uncommon that a college prospect has played at Barclays Center before taking the big stage as a pro. Even some high schoolers played in the Jordan Brand Classic a few years back. But Omer Faruk Yurtseven’s Barclays Center experience was different. The big Turk played an preseason game against the Nets at Barclays on October 5, 2015 as a 17-year-old member of Turkey’s Fenerbahce Ulker...
Here he is, No. 24 in yellow...
As Spencer Davies of Basketball News wrote this week, it was a big deal for Yurtseven, then then the youngest player to ever get on the court in an NBA preseason game.
In 15 minutes, Yurtseven scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds and brought it on the defensive end (as head coach Zeljko Obradovic had emphasized), giving the Fenerbahce fans in attendance plenty to cheer about. One particular highlight stuck out for him, though.
“I’ll never forget that putback dunk,” Yurtseven said. “I rewatched it like 10-15 times.”
When Jan Vesely couldn’t get a contested scoop layup to go, Yurtseven was there for the emphatic two-hand clean-up. It was a crucial score in a three-point game with just four minutes left, one that Fenerbahce ended up winning, 101-96.
The experience drove his thinking about the NBA...
“I would say it motivated me and also gave me the confidence to believe that I can play at this level and make that level my reality,” Yurtseven said. “I was a high-school kid then, so it was a huge deal. It was just like... it felt unreal, but also it was really special because nobody would’ve thought a kid my age would be able to do that out there. And it’s the biggest fire or fuel you can ask for.
“Once you’re there and you do that, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I want to get involved with this game.’”
Yurtseven, now 22 and seven feet tall, has taken some detours since that fall night in Brooklyn. Seven months later, he scored 91 points and snared 28 rebounds in a game for Fener’s U18 team, getting him further attention. He then decided to abandon the European route to the NBA and play in the NCAA, North Carolina State to be precise where he was paired with Dennis Smith Jr.
There were eligibility issues and he was forced to sit nine games in Raleigh. In addition, the computer science major was learning English which slowed his development on and off the court. After another season with the Wolfpack, extending his range, building his body up, Yurtseven transferred to Georgetown which of course has a record of developing big men ... and whose coach is Patrick Ewing.
He spent a year learning to play the traditional center’s role and took only 14 3-pointers, making 21.4 percent of them, a big dropoff from his second year at N.C. State where he had taken 44 and made half.
“It was just something needed from me, and I just listened to my coach,” Yurtseven told Davies. “I did what he asked me to do. My job was to collapse defenses and put teams in their rotations so that we could find the shooters.”
Now, that he’s declared for the Draft, that 3-point shooting and wealth of experience is a positive. Here’s some highlights of his time both in Raleigh and Washington...
He’s optimistic that he’ll finally get the call during the Draft, but he might have to wait a long time. He’s seen as a late second rounder. In fact, NBADraft.net has him going to Brooklyn at No. 55 (assuming they keep the pick.). If the Nets plan on staking a claim to a stash that late, whether it’s one who plays overseas or in the G League, Yurtseven might be an ideal choice. He’d be welcomed by European teams considering his experience.
His ability to “score virtually from anywhere,” as one draftnik put it, three years ago, is balanced by a lack of mobility. But deep in the second round, Yurtseven might be a good pick and ultimately a return to Barclays might instill confidence ... again.
Allen Iverson and Trae Young endorse Steve Nash
The point guards have spoken. In two separate interviews this past week, both Hall of Famer Allen Iverson and Hawks young star Trae Young talked about Steve Nash’s hiring as Nets head coach. Both were enthusiastic and said they hoped he’d be successful
Allen Iverson supports Steve Nash coaching the Brooklyn Nets on The All The Smoke Podcast pic.twitter.com/u7SnWTnixP— 2Cool2Blog (@2Cool2BIog) September 24, 2020
“I never had the luxury of being around him a lot, but just hearing stories from other guys, just a beautiful man.” said Iverson. “I wanna see him succeed in the situation that he’s in with those two great players with all the other guys that they got around their team. It’s a recipe for greatness.”
I asked @TheTraeYoung today about Steve Nash becoming the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.— Ben Stinar (@BenStinar) September 25, 2020
Trae says he texted Nash, and considers him a big role model and somebody he looks up too. pic.twitter.com/w03OeH7qrg
“I texted him the day it happened and told him I was rooting for him, hope he has a great career in coaching, unless he’s playing us. But I was just happy for him.”
Back in March, Young was asked for his top five players ever and he put Nash at No. 5, behind LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant It’s always good to have an up-and-coming star endorse your coaching choice.
A case study in development
Earlier this week, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic profiled the relationship between D’Angelo Russell and the assistant coach the Timberwolves management assigned to work with him, Pablo Prigioni. Sound familiar? Of course, the two worked together with the Nets in 2018-19. Prigioni left the Nets for the TWolves a year ago. He was happy with the Nets but wanted to relocate his family, who had stayed in Spain, to a more low-key situation than New York could provide. Then, Russell who had been sent to Golden State in the Kevin Durant sign-and-trade was traded again at the deadline for Andrew Wiggins, a protected 2021 first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick.
The Krawczynski story is mostly about how the relationship between star and assistant coach is critical to making the Timberwolves work, but it also offers a look at how development works back in Brooklyn. It’s not just about performance teams and access to the best facilities and best practices. It’s about how a personal relationship is needed, particularly when the star has a controversial past, as DLo did on arrival in New York. Here’s Krawczynski described their relationship in Brooklyn.
The two first encountered each other on the court. Prigioni’s last season in the NBA was with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2015-16, Russell’s rookie season with the Lakers. Russell was traded to Brooklyn after his second season, and Nets coach Kenny Atkinson hired Prigioni as a player development coach in 2018. The two point guards clicked almost immediately. Russell trusted the way Prigioni, who was not far removed from playing, saw the game and appreciated the measured way he delivered the message. Prigioni found Russell to be inquisitive, hungry for guidance and open to suggestions...
Russell started 81 games in the 2018-19 season, averaging career bests to that point in scoring (21.1), assists (7.0), effective field goal percentage (.512) and 3-point shooting (.369). Russell made the All-Star team that season and he would often pick Prigioni’s brain in the huddle or while he was on the bench to dissect what he was seeing on the floor. They spoke the same language and lived the same experiences, which resonated with a younger Russell who never connected with the coaches in Los Angeles.
Prigioni appreciated his relationship with DLo
“He was always curious,” Prigioni said. “He came to me in games and said, ‘What do you see, Pablo? What do you see?’ I started to share my vision and what I see from the bench. I think we can run this, look for this guy, little tips. Looks like he started using those. Some of them worked. Some of them not.”
The Russell and Prigioni families became close with DLo and his brother visiting Spain in the off-season to watch some soccer and bond. That’s the kind of relationship you want if you’re going to develop a player and as the story notes, it didn’t happen in L.A. Lakers assistants in fact bad-mouthed Russell even after he departed.
Will it work in Minny? And does it matter to the Nets now that both are gone? The answer to the second question is the more important. It hopefully shows that the culture, despite changes in head coaches and their assistants, is going to go forward.
Be all that you can be!
The storefronts along Flatbush Avenue near Barclays Center have been slowly filling up ... slower than one would have expected now eight years (as of Monday) the arena has been open. There’s the Shake Shack, Chick-Fil-A and most recently, Snipes, the German footwear store directly across from the arena. But the signage advertising the possibilities at Flatbush and Pacific is getting worn and the Sports Triangle a block east remains shuttered. And Modells of course has closed while a court battle rages over whether that site and P.C. Richards next store will ever become the site of 75-story office complex. Don’t bet on it in this environment.
But further up the street, at No. 206, there’s some activity that warrants attention...
Of course, recreational marijuana use is still in limbo in New York State, unlike the 12 states where it’s completely legal. Weed has been decriminalized in the Empire State and medical marijuana has been legalized. A promise to legalize it for recreational use this year has fallen by the wayside. No surprise in these times, but there seems little doubt it will happen.
Be. the Cannabis Store is apparently getting ready. Their Brooklyn storefront, a block from Barclays, is part of a planned national chain, as it notes in this YouTube video. Brooklyn in fact topped its list...
And medical marijuana will be sold at the dispensary for the time being. Once things work out and Governor Cuomo has said it’s high on his agenda. (Okay, okay!), the walk along Flatbush opposite Barclays has real possibilities as Howard Beck notes...
And two blocks from Shake Shack. Just sayin. https://t.co/JX4it00knw— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) September 24, 2020
Once again this week, we’ve seen the basketball world react to the failure of government authorities to understand the depth and breadth of outrage over police shootings of black men and women. It’s been discussed in the locker rooms of the NBA and WNBA, on social media and on television where Jalen Rose made his feelings known this week.
And even before the Kentucky Attorney General’s decision not to bring serious criminal charges in the death of Breonna Taylor, Joe Tsai spoke about the issue with Yale students at his Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai City).
Tsai and his wife Clara have a history of supporting social justice through the COVID-19 crisis and the series of police shootings and their aftermaths. Clara is also a founding partner and major benefactor of Meek Mill’s REFORM Alliance which aims at changing the country’s prison and parole systems. Tsai noted in his talk that “very, very emotional conversations” with players drove his commitment to he and Clara’s $50 million commitment to a Social Justice Fund for Brooklyn.
But there’s another aspect of all this that should not be dismissed. Tsai is one of three people of color who own an NBA franchise. Michael Jordan of the Hornets and Vivek Ranadive of the Kings are the others. Tsai has a historical as well as personal understanding of race relations in the U.S. He is Taiwanese by birth, American by education, Chinese by heritage and Canadian by choice.
In addition to discussing a personal connection with his Black players —Liberty presumably as well as Nets— Tsai spoke as well as about the growing prejudice he sees against Asian Americans (which includes his wife and three children), coming from “the guy in the White House.” He has previously objected to the President calling COVID-19 the “kung flu” or the “Chinese virus.” In summary, don’t expect his and Clara’s commitment to be short-term or limited. As fellow owner Jordan might say, he takes it personally.