Slow week for the denizens of Barclays Center. The Liberty won a couple of games, including a great comeback victory on Saturday. There were also intermittent reports of draft prospects workouts at HSS Training Center. Before Sean Marks took over five years ago, the Nets would lay out just who worked out. Now that, like other aspects of basketball operations, is non-public information. All that said, here’s our latest on what’s going on.
Spencer Dinwiddie on getting back, getting paid
There was were a couple of social media posts from Spencer Dinwiddie this week that seem to serve as a punctuation mark to his career as a Net. There may be some nostalgia-driven hope that he could return, but the reality seems clear. He’s exercised his team option and never returned to Brooklyn to root, root, root of the home team. He’s a free agent and his relationship with the Nets now seems to be limited to a mutual interest in working some sort of deal that benefits both.
Here’s the posts...
The quote is from a Drake song, “No tellin’.”
This quote, too, is also a song lyric from Nick Minaj’s collaboration with Drake and Lil Wayne, “Seeing Green.” It’s never easy deriving specific meanings from Dinwiddie’s posts —and we’re always open to others’ interpretation. But both songs quoted by Dinwiddie talk to getting paid. And that money will almost certainly be paid by an NBA governor other than Joe Tsai.
We and others have looked at the free agency possibilities, but the word from pundits and insiders alike is that Dinwiddie could be looking at a four-year, $80 million contract. Whether the Nets get any value out of Dinwiddie’s next deal is the big question, but again most think fans should think small while Dinwiddie thinks big...
Bottom line though is that whatever the Nets get will be a bonus. They have one of the best starting point guards in the NBA in James Harden. His backup could come from the likes of holdover free agents Mike James or Tyler Johnson ... or someone signed in free agency.
Our best bet on what happens? The Nets get a future draft pick and a big trade exception. When? Sometime before the NBA Draft, which is July 29.
It appears that Dinwiddie will not be joining Mike Brown’s Team Nigeria at the Olympics, perhaps because he wants to continue rehabbing in L.A. or maybe because there’s an overlap between the end of the Olympics and the beginning of free agency.
Kevin Durant on the floor again ... this time in red, white and blue
As Brian Lewis writes Sunday...
Tuesday is opening day for Team USA’s Olympic training camp which as in the past is being held in Las Vegas. KD is the only Nets player on the roster, with James Harden and Kyrie Irving opting out. However, the Nets long-time medical director, Dr. Riley J. Williams III, will once again be team doctor for Team USA.
That has to make Sean Marks et al more comfortable.
It won’t take long for KD and Team USA to show their stuff. They’ll be scrimmaging against Team Select, the group of young players USA Basketball has put together to test the 12 veterans, all this week, then playing a series of exhibition games vs. Nigeria (July 10), Australia (July 12), Argentina (July 13), Spain (July 18). All are in Las Vegas in prime time, but we haven’t seen a TV schedule yet.
The first game in Tokyo will take place on July 25 vs. Les Bleus, Team France. Be prepared to get up early or stay up late if you want to watch. (Isaia Cordinier is an alternate for France. He’s not expected to make the trip to Tokyo.)
“Being in Tokyo, I’ve never been there before. Playing with [Jayson] Tatum and Book [Devin Booker] and Dame [Lillard] … Bam [Adebayo],” Durant said of the Olympics. “I never played with those dudes, so I’m looking forward to that.
“I just like playing for Team USA. I just love the hospitality they show us. Just the whole experience is fun. Just being around the guys for a month is cool.”
Beyond all that, there was ample evidence over the past two weeks that KD is very happy in Brooklyn and with the culture the organization has created. If the Nets top priority is extending the “Big Three,” then Duran’t public comments — and his decision to sit next to Joe and Clara Wu Tsai at a Liberty game — are good news.
“Just the camaraderie we built with the fans. The culture we kind of built around Barclays and just Nets culture in general,” Durant said on his Boardroom podcast with his agent/manager/partner Rich Kleiman. “People kind of look at the Nets now and like, ‘All right, they can be contenders next year.’ I like that part of it. I was excited about that going forward.
“I was excited about that even in the regular season. It felt pretty solid to start to build a culture. I feel like a lot Nets fans feel like, ‘Yo, we got a chance.’ To make some noise next year.”
Durant spoke as well of the city and how the Nets and Knicks are making basketball fun again.
“It was fun, man,” Durant said. “Especially with the Knicks playing and us playing. We got two teams in the playoffs. Knicks [and] Nets fans got a little beef right now because both teams are solid. We got the MSG-Barclays beef in the city.
“It just felt like a lot of energy, man. You look in our stands, you see superstars there. Beyoncé, Jay-Z, H.E.R., Bryan Cranston … Travis Scott. You see that energy floating around our building for games like that now. What’s next year going to look like? People got that picture in their minds. It’s cool to be a part of that s–t, to help build that s–t.”
Sounds like at least one of the “Big Three” is sold on staying in Brooklyn.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
As we said above, a list of prospect workouts for the Nets is hard to come by. Take a look at Hoopshype’s compilation of who’s going where and you’ll find only three names attached to the Nets, all of them no better than second round possibilities ... and that information is not from Brooklyn’s basketball operations but from secondary sources,
In watching the process and mock drafts, we were a bit surprised to see one of the youngest Draft prospects, J. T. Thor of Auburn, projected as a Nets pick in the latest ESPN mock.
Thor is 18 years old, an athletic freak and very raw. That would seem, by some logic, just what the Nets would like at No. 27. The Nets aren’t likely to use their first on someone who can contribute next year. What they do need is someone who will come with a small price tag and who they can develop into a rotation player a couple of years down the line. The No. 27 pick will be paid $2 million next season, about what a veteran on a minimum deal will earn. Bobby Marks said said don’t be surprised if the Nets wind up with rookie or two to keep costs — and the luxury tax — down.
Here’s how ESPN describes the 6’10” Thor’s fit with the Nets but also suggests that Sean Marks could once again trade the pick.
The Nets’ timetable could very well cause them to explore trading out of the first round — as they have in each of the past two years — as it’s difficult to project anyone in this range helping them compete for a championship next season. Thor is the type of player a patient team could trade into the first round to obtain, as he’s one of the youngest prospects in the draft and shows an intriguing combination of size, length, shooting prowess and defensive versatility. He helped his stock considerably at the NBA combine this past week.
Here’s what Jonathan Givony of ESPN meant by his NBA Combine performance helping his Draft stock...
Auburn's JT Thor showing his impressive size, length, athleticism, shooting touch and upside at his NBA Combine Pro Day. One of the youngest players in the draft. pic.twitter.com/JJJ0teEXMN— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 26, 2021
(If you look really closely at who’s looking really closely at Thor, you might notice Sean
Also helping were his Combine measurements. Thor has a 7’3” wingspan, a 36” max vertical and showed off an improved shot after converting on 15-of-25 shots in one drill, per USA Today. His lane agility drills weren’t great but that’s a teachable skill.
Thor has an interesting background as well. He was born in Omaha to South Sudanese parents and moved to Anchorage, Alaska at age five. He started playing basketball in seventh grade and competed for West Anchorage High School. At age 14, Thor moved to West Virginia to attend Huntington Prep School, a well known feeder school for top scholastic prospects. After two seasons, he transferred to Norcross High School in Norcross, Georgia. As a senior, Thor averaged 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, receiving all-state honors. He was a consensus four-star recruit.
It should be noted that the Nets might have an in with Thor. Royal Ivey, the Nets assistant coach, was recently named head coach of the South Sudanese national team.
Here’s some recent highlights of Thor...
Would the Nets take Thor when they already have 22-year-old Nic Claxton and 21-year-old Reggie Perry? The Nets have a history of drafting BPA — best player available. They took Claxton in 2019 even though they already had Jarrett Allen. Two teams who pick ahead of the Nets, the Rockets at No. 23 and even the Spurs at No. 12 have reported interest in Thor.
Trolling KD and Kyrie
Yet another sports betting outlet has compiled statistics from social media to determine likeability. The Nets were, as you no doubt recall, voted most hated NBA team, according to a very small sample based on geo-tagging Twitter.
Now comes TopRatedCasinos.co.uk with its rankings of most trolled players. Per Basketball News, They compiled roughly 3,000 tweets that were sent to various NBA players between October 2020 to January 2021, and each tweet was analyzed for positive, negative and neutral words using the online analytics tool SEMrush. Of all the tweets sent to Curry, 27.9% had a negative tone, which was the highest percentage of any player.
So who’s most trolled? Steph Curry who is also among the most well-known and most popular NBA players. No surprise, really. Where do Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving fit? There were Nos. 5 and 6, just behind LeBron James who you’d expect would be higher.
Kevin Durant’s negatives were at 21.7 percent and Kyrie Irving 20.7 percent. On the other side of the coin, among those mentioned positively in the survey, Blake Griffin was third with 46.7 percent of directed tweets being positive. No, we didn’t see James Harden on either list.
Our response, a big whatever. As we noted in last week’s Off-Season Report, the two are among the NBA’s most popular players as determined by who puts down hard-earned cash for jerseys and other merchandise. KD was No. 2 in merchandise sales in the U.S., U.K. and Europe, Irving was No. 5 in the U.S., No. 6 in the U.K. and Europe.
Clean Sweep two years on ... where were you?
So on June 30, the second anniversary of the “Clean Sweep,” Woj’s description of the signing of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan, we asked fans what they were doing when the word came of the coup.
Here’s a sample drawn from more than 100 replies...
Waiting for a Mets game to start pic.twitter.com/nMAAU19qFN— larryfleisher (@larryfleisher) June 30, 2021
Funny you say that: This photo came up in my Facebook memories today. My partner took this photo of me seeing the news.— Justin Tasolides (@JTasTasTas) June 30, 2021
I was at my old apartment, and I assume I was also letting out a non-verbal, guttural screech. pic.twitter.com/pwA0EMM3YH
I was in Ontario by a lake holding my then 3 y/o. I flung my phone and sandals about 30 feet in the air and ran around like a mad man with my boy in my arms.— Daydreaming (President, Reggie Perry Stan Club) (@Tabak10) June 30, 2021
I was cutting the grass in my front yard. I started screaming and my neighbors where looking like what is wrong with this guy!— Adam (@AdamBrr) June 30, 2021
i had mono hadn’t moved for weeks, saw the “clean sweep” tweet from woj and sprinted outside— Nets in Fo (@anothakdburner) July 1, 2021
It was my high school graduation. Best gift ever— Nick (@Nick_1225) June 30, 2021
I had just come out of the woods from a backpacking trip and the first hint at reception checked twitter....definitely let out a cry of joy that was heard for miles among the Sierra...— Leo Stern (@leonardstern) June 30, 2021
At work when a Knicks fan slammed his hands on his desk and walked out— 2020 (@ThatsTwenty20) June 30, 2021
Yep, that last one resonated.
It will be a mixed bag when the Milwaukee Bucks starting lineup is introduced before Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night. Nets fans, of course, were hoping for a different Eastern Conference representative, but on the other hand, there’s Brook Lopez. Lopez proved this week with his 33-point, 7-rebound, 4-block performance in Game 5 that he still has it. Instead of being a diversion to give the Bucks big scorers a more open court, Lopez reverted to the style of play that endeared him to Nets fans during his 562 games as a New Jersey, then Brooklyn Net. He took advantage of his height and shooting touch around the rim, dominating the Hawks with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the bench hobbled by a hyperextended knee.
So we will be rooting for Brookie to get a ring in Milwaukee. The Nets all-time leading scorer deserves it.
Meanwhile, with Milwaukee and Phoenix in the Finals, don’t be surprised if the Nets-Bucks Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals turns out to be the most watched game of the post-season. The game attracted 6.9 million viewers. None of the conference finals games game within a half million of that number. Small consolation but a consolation nonetheless. NBA fans appreciate what the Nets put on the floor this season.