Hello New York! Good to see you back!
The Nets front office, including Sean Marks, is in Las Vegas offering support to Kevin Durant and Team USA. Nothing seems imminent. Is it the calm before the storm? Maybe. The Draft is still nearly three weeks away. So plenty of time to speculate.
In the meantime, expect a lot of rumors, about the Draft, free agency, the possible extensions for the “Big Three.” Most will be, shall we say, baloney. Remember, last year, the big rumor was that the Nets were going to hire Gregg Popovich as head coach. How’d that turn out? The Nets have a tendency to keep things quiet till the last minute. David Vanterpool’s hiring this week is just the latest example. It wasn’t a free agent signing but it came as a surprise nonetheless.
And note this: not every source has equal credibility. There are some reporters who are not in the business of being wrong, starting with Adrian Wojnarowski, Shams Charania, Marc Stein and Chris Haynes nationally. And us, of course, too.
Coaching changes ... and it’s not just David Vanterpool
The Nets feared they could lose up to three assistant coaches — Mike D’Antoni, Jacque Vaughn and Ime Udoka, but lost only Udoka to the Celtics. They did very well in bringing in David Vanterpool to replace Udoka. He not only has a great reputation as a development and defensive specialist, but has a lot of fans among his former pupils. Damien Lillard, C.J. McCullum and Karl-Anthony Towns have all endorsed him as a potential head coach in the past.
That switch-out leaves the Nets with eight assistants, same as last year. It also appears that Vanterpool will replace Udoka as defensive coordinator, leaving Vaughn as the lead assistant to Steve Nash and D’Antoni as the offensive coordinator.
Brooklyn also quietly hired a new head coach for the Long Island Nets in Adam Caporn, an Australian known for player development Down Under. He replaces Bret Brielmaier, who was an assistant coach with the Nets from 2016 through 2020, then ran the G League affiliate in their “bubble” last season. He won’t be returning.
Caporn comes from the Australian sports science culture. The nation has long prioritized the preventive over rehabilitative and seen development of athletes as multi-disciplinary, using everything from sports psychology to fitness training.
Sean Marks, who hails across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, has embraced the model and hired accordingly. The Nets director of sports science, Dan Meehan, director of medical services, Les Gelis, and physical performance coach,Daniel Jones, are all from Melbourne, Australia, and are the core of the Nets performance team. Interestingly, none had much of a background in basketball but joining the Nets but rather Australian rules football and soccer.
Caporn is all about basketball, however. He’s an assistant coach for the Australian national basketball team. More than than, he’s been the head coach for the last seven years at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence, which is the country’s leading player development program. Over the years, its alumni have included Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, Aaron Baynes and more recently, Patty Mills, and Dante Exum (both of whom it should be noted are unrestricted free agents and worked with Caporn.)
Newsday caught up with Caporn in Las Vegas. He said the Nets culture presented a big appeal.
“One of the initial things that attracted me to the position was the Nets organization and the things they’re doing. I’ve come to know them a little bit, the strength of their culture and it seems like a great team to be a part of and hopefully contribute to a little bit.
“And I love development work, it’s a big part of my background. The Long Island situation and the strength of collaboration with Brooklyn is a big thing. So those are the first things that grabbed my attention.”
Caporn, 39, is what you might call a basketball intellectual, a sought-after speaker on player development not just in Australia but around the world. For the nerds among you, here’s Caporn’s hour-long discussion of development strategy. Bottom line, he thinks coaches should “avoid auto pilot” and that the development process is often not “linear,” but “messy, difficult, arduous.”
Caporn will be on the sidelines Monday when Team USA faces the Australian national team in Las Vegas.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
Daishen Nix, the G League Ignite point guard, is all over the mock drafts, from mid to late first to late second round. The 6’4” 19-year-old hails from Alaska and chose the G League Ignite program over UCLA last year.
Seen as top 20 prospect coming out of high school, he disappointed to an extent with Ignite. Here’s some highlights, including some from his game vs. Long Island...
A bit heavy last year, Nix has slimmed down (although he still registered 11.8 percent body fat at the Draft Combine. Shades of Marcus Williams, who he’s been compared to.) He has shooting issues as well, but what separates Nix is his court vision and his defense. As Evan Tomes of NBADraft.net wrote...
Good size for position … Very good ball handler, court vision, and passing ability. Alert with very good instincts. Reads and reacts, doesn’t predetermine his offense. Knows where the pass is going before he receives the ball. Effective distributing in the half-court and leading in transition. Very good timing on lead passes, hits teammates in stride and makes accurate cross-court passes. Finds teammates at times when they don’t realize they’re open … Quick, shifty, and creative with the ball. Breaks down the defense and is effective with his dribble, changing speed and direction to fit into tight spaces. Splits defenders. Gets to the middle to dump off to the open man or kick to the open shooter when the help comes. Makes one-handed passes on the move with either hand. Difficult to pressure in the back court and isn’t fazed by a defender guarding him tight, keeping his dribble alive
He also has the needed self-confidence as he showed in this interview last month...
There’s still a lot of doubters which explains the disparity in the mock drafts. Here’s John Hollinger’s take, post-Combine...
G League Ignite guard Daishen Nix had teams excited to see how his trimmed shape would play out against other prospects. While his frame was notably more svelte than it was in the G-League bubble, the on-court portion did not go well. Nix shot 0-for-10 from the field and struggled to put pressure on the rim, although he did finish with 12 assists over the two games. Nix also registered with 11.8 percent body fat, indicating there still is some money left on the table, conditioning-wise, while his size (6-3 in socks) and passing remain intriguing. Surprisingly, he ripped off a 3.00 sprint time.
Nix has been linked to the Nets in several mocks, at Nos. 27, 44 and 59! At this point, it would seem like Nix’s most likely landing spot is in the middle of the second round where the Nets have two picks, at 44 and 49.
For the 75th anniversary of the NBA next season, Nike will be marketing a series of footwear and gear to commemorate the diamond anniversary. And according to Sneaker News, some teams will get Low Dunk treatment and one of them is the Nets.
Take a look...
What’s notable is that the color scheme is predominantly red, white and blue, not black and white. As Sneaker News notes, the scheme “matches that of the Nets’ previous threads prior to their Brooklyn relocation, while the heel logo blends old with new as it takes the shield logo and infuses it with the contemporary basketball logo.”
Once again, the Nets’ New Jersey legacy is being popularized. The 1991 throwback jerseys were a huge success this year. It will be interesting to see with a full season of full crowds, what the Nets do with that legacy in 2021-22.
Joe Tsai’s other NBA investment
People around Joe Tsai have always said that his purchase of the Nets was not just about the Nets but about acquiring a 1/30th interest in the NBA and its great growth prospects. He’s even jokingly called the NBA “socialist” in that it shares so much of its revenue — like national and international TV rights and merchandise sales — equitably among the owners.
Then, there’s the Liberty, a long-term investment that he and his wife, Clara Wu Tsai, believe will be increasingly valuable with rising interest in women’s sports.
His financial interest in the league amounts to more than that, though. Tsai’s Blue Pool Capital, the investment vehicle he used to buy the Nets, is also a significant minority partner in Blue Owl Capital which in turn runs Dyal HomeCourt, the only private equity fund pre-approved by the NBA to invest in multiple NBA franchises. The league likes the idea because Dyal HomeCourt can provide growth capital for its teams while giving “silent” investors (like Blue Pool) an opportunity to engage in the league’s “economic ecosystem,” meaning increasing asset value.
The investment got some attention four months ago when the Post’s Josh Kosman wrote that rivals were concerned about a conflict-of-interest in having Tsai benefiting from investing, even indirectly, in other teams. At the time, Dyal said that Tsai’s Blue Pool owns “a stake in the asset manager and not in the HomeCourt Partners fund itself.“
The stake became less abstract and more interesting this week when Dyal HomeCourt announced it was buying a small stake — less than five percent — in the Phoenix Suns. Then, Sunday, there was word that Dyal is going to buy a similarly sized piece of the Kings as well. Indeed, Dyal HomeCourt can acquire a pool of stakes in an unlimited number of NBA franchises.
Direct of indirect, Tsai seems committed to the league’s future. That’s good since Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant that’s the main source of his wealth, has been tanking in the market, primarily due to the PRC’s crackdown on tech companies’ independence. Alibaba dropped 10 percent this week on the New York Stock Exchange and Tsai’s net worth is down $2.39 billion his year, per Bloomberg. Still, there’s no indication yet that the losses are affecting team financial decisions.
Another piece across the street
For the nearly 10 years that Barclays Center has been open, the property across the street from the arena has decked out with a sign advertising it as an ideal location, most recently for a “Brooklyn Flagship Development.” It was an eyesore and a reminder that the arena hasn’t been that much of a retail magnet.
As Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report wrote this week, the site at 604 Pacific Street, a former mattress outlet, has been promoted as a sports bar, a gastro pub, a retail outlet ... all of it tied to the proximity to the arena.
Last week, the Commercial Observer reported that at least the ground floor will be something much more quotidian, a Walgreens drugstore.
As Oder notes, Walgreens “seems likely more to take advantage from general increased foot traffic rather than evening arena crowds.” The Barclays Center/Atlantic Avenue subway station is the city’s third busiest.
The site will join other once vacant storefronts across from Barclays that have become retail outlets: Shake Shack, Chick-fil-A, Snipes and now Walgreens will fill out the block across from Barclays Center. What’s left? The Triangle Block up the street. Formerly a sporting goods store, it’s been most recently used as a three-story billboard for James Harden and Kyrie Irving sneaker ads.
Walgreens will open late in 2022, around the 10th anniversary of the arena on September 28.
Good to see the Brooklyn Brigade at the Liberty vs. Sun game Sunday at Barclays Center.
They certainly don’t need the practice. They simply see supporting New York Basketball as a year round endeavor.