The Players Lounge at HSS Training Center isn’t very full this time of year. Everyone is out in Las Vegas or on vacation. Still, work gets done. Sean Marks said on Tuesday that he might be 90 percent done, leaving open the possibility of more moves.
Summer League doings
Not much left to say about Cam Thomas. So far, he’s proven a number of things: that he’s fearless, that he’s got just a little touch of star quality ... and that the Nets haven’t lost their touch in scouting, then picking prospects who surprise. As the Nets enter what’s likely to be their final Summer League game Sunday, Thomas leads the 2021 Draft class in scoring (24.0) and trips to the free throw line (9.3). Not bad for the 27th pick.
Thomas is the latest late first or early second round Nets pick who’s done better than expected: Caris LeVert at No. 20 in 2016; Jarrett Allen at No. 22 in 2017 and Nicolas Claxton at No. 31 in 2019. The Nets of course took Dzanan Musa at No. 29 in 2018 which didn’t work out, but three out of four ain’t bad. The Nets might have more success but they’ve traded away four firsts in the Marks era to clear cap space or acquire a player who they thought could help immediately.
It’s possible as well that Day’Ron Sharpe, taken at No. 29, will look better than where he was selected. Sharpe, who like Thomas is 19 years old, has shown a doggedness under the boards and some playmaking ability. The 6’11” Sharpe led the NCAA in offensive rebounding last season as a freshman and tops that category in the 2021 Draft class (4.3). Rebounding, historically, has been the most transferable trait from college to the pro’s.
We haven’t seen a lot from the Nos. 49 and 59 picks, Marcus Zegarowski and RaiQuan Gray, but Kessler Edwards, taken at 44, looked good in the Wizards game with his 14 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and shooting splits of 50 percent overall and 40 percent from deep. He looked like the 3-and-D candidate draftniks thought he could fill.
Then, there’s David Duke Jr., who’s started the first three games of Summer League despite going undrafted. He’s had a tough time from deep, shooting 12.5 percent compared to his 40 percent figure at Providence. Still, he’s averaging 7.7 rebounds, sixth best in the Draft class, to go along with 7.7 points. He’s also played solid defense and his 23.8 minutes a game are second only to Thomas on the Nets roster.
What’s going to happen to them? Thomas and Sharpe, as first rounders, have guaranteed two-year deals with Brooklyn. Duke has signed an Exhibit 10 deal, a training camp contract which guarantees the Nets his G League rights and provides him with a signing bonus of up to $50,000.
The rest of them will likely be offered places on the Long Island Nets roster, on two-way deals ... or less. The Nets can sign two players to NBA two-way deals; sign players directly to Long Island and retain their draft rights; or waive them at the end of camp and assign them to Long Island. They wouldn’t retain their NBA rights in that latter arrangement.
It was a bit of surprise that the Nets kept all five of their picks, then added Duke. That might not have been their plan but with such a deep draft — and with the Nets having so few picks going forward — it looks like a smart move.
Coaching staff grows and grows
There’s no reliable list of NBA coaching staffs we’re aware of, but the Nets’ has got to be the biggest or nearly the biggest. Even without official announcements of two additions, Steve Clifford as a coaching consultant and Kyle Korver as player development assistant coach, the staff had eight assistants and player development coordinator Amar’e Stoudemire. As we noted, that doesn’t include the strength and conditioning coach or the physical performance coach or the director of coaching analytics who sits behind Nash armed with an iPad.
It seems that Clifford and Korver will have different roles from other coaches and from each other. Clifford will deal with Nash and his assistants, offering his advice on all manner of things including defense, where he won his NBA rep both as an assistant and head coach. Korver, on the other hand, will work with the players but won’t be sitting on the bench with et al.
Considering that outgoing assistant and offensive coordinator Mike D’Antoni has landed a coaching consultant role — officially “coaching adviser,” some have wondered about the circumstances behind D’Antoni’s departure. He supposedly wasn’t enamored of the assistant coaching grind, but which certainly makes sense considering D’Antoni’s long career as a head coach and his age, 70. So why not keep him in Brooklyn as a consultant rather than hire Clifford?
It’s possible that the Nets wanted a more defensive oriented consultant. Defense is Clifford’s forte and not D’Antoni’s. Certainly, the Nets have prioritized defense in their roster moves. Or it’s maybe it’s more complex. Maybe we’ll find out, maybe not.
Apropos of the Korver hire, here’s part of a recent conversation between Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoopshype and Chris Brickley who trains a number of NBA players. Brickley recalled how Korver had been surprised, as he moved around the league in his 17-year career, at the disparity in development priorities among NBA teams. It mattered to Korver, Brickley noted...
And it’s a testament to Korver as well that he wants to improve the breed by offering his services and advice to the Nets shooting corps. He’s unlikely to be working much with the “Big Three” or Joe Harris. Instead, we suspect he’ll be tutoring younger players like Bruce Brown perhaps or Cam Thomas.
What’s the largest NBA staff we’ve ever heard of? In Mark Cuban’s early days as Mavericks’ owner, Dallas had 11, including one dedicated to helping players improve their free throw shooting. The Nets are close.
Speaking of assistant coaches, Adam Harrington tweeted Saturday that he’s out in Chelan, Washington, helping Joe Harris at his annual basketball camp near his family home.
Must be nice for kids to get instructions from the coach who taught Kevin Durant the one-legged Dirk Nowitzki fadeaway and the fourth best 3-point shooter, percentage-wise, in NBA history.
Barclays as betting parlor?
The State of New York this week took bids from prospective sports book “platform providers”, six in all, with an eye towards awarding two licenses in early December. Then, early in 2022, expect to see sports books open up with their giant screens fed by cable, satellite and streaming sports live from around the world.
As we noted earlier this week, the Nets, through corporate parent BSE Global, signed on with Fanatics and Penn National Gaming (Barstool Sports) in one of the bids. The Yankees and Buffalo Bills signed on with others.
Would there be a sports book at Barclays Center once the smoke clears? We think that it’s a real possibility. There are rumors that the 40-40 Club could be renovated into a sports book and/or that betting kiosks could be set up around the arena. Beyond the physical plant, more than one Nets official has suggested that betting from the seats — using a mobile app powered by 5G — could work as well. It’s all about enhancing the fan experience, they’ve said.
A number of sports executives have wondered openly about whether the increasingly realistic big screen experience offered by regional and national television networks will keep sports fans at home. That concern, no doubt, has been enhanced by the difficult decisions that venues have had to make in light of the recent COVID resurgence. So finding ways to bring fans in through the front door of arenas and stadiums is a priority. The excitement of a sports book or betting from the seats may be one way.
The Nets are indeed all in, not just partnering with Fanatics and Barstool Sports, but being among the more aggressive lobbyists, as Mike Mazzeo also reported this week. And as we’ve noted more than once in the past, we’re intrigued by Nets and BSE Global trademarking “Bet on Brooklyn” and “Brooklyn Gaming.”
ICYMI, Kyrie Irving back in West Orange
On Friday night, Kyrie Irving was back in West Orange for a New Jersey-Maryland showdown called “More Than a Run,” that included community events and a visit by Travis Scott, the rapper and singer-songwriter who’s become a fixture at Barclays Center.
The Nets social media team was on hand too and offered us some tweets...
Hoping to see more on the Nets website.
Training camp a short jog from Tsais place
The Nets have yet to announce that they will be holding training camp in San Diego or where in the Southern California city it will take place, but there’s speculation in the local paper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, that it will be held at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) athletic facility. Camp opens September 28, the day after Media Day in Brooklyn.
Last week, a columnist of the U-T wrote...
It’s not known exactly which facility will be used, but team owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai are residents of the La Jolla community and have donated heavily to UCSD, so RIMAC Arena may be the leader in the clubhouse.
That’s the Recreation, Intramural, and Athletic Complex on the LaJolla campus. Makes sense. The facility has everything the Nets would need to run their week long camp prior to their October 3 preseason opener just up I-5 at Staples Center vs. the Lakers. Moreover, RIMAC is a short jog or bike ride from Joe and Clara Wu Tsai’s La Jolla home up in the hills above the Pacific.
As veteran Nets players can tell you, there’s likely to be a swell party or two hosted by the Nets co-owners. Two years ago, when the team was in L.A., Clara Tsai invited the team and staff to a reception in Santa Monica where guest list included Gwenyth Paltrow, the actor; Russell Wilson, the Seahawks quarterback (who’s since showed up at Barclays Center); Evan Speigel, the founder of Snapchat, and his supermodel wife, Miranda Kerr.
The benefits of being a Nets player are many.
Once the Summer League is complete Tuesday, the road ahead is dry. After the playoffs, the Draft, free agency, the Olympics and Summer League, the tempo slows down. There’s six long weeks between now and the opening of training camp. Sure, there’s the Liberty who are back in action tonight after their Olympic break. They’ll be playing for a while and the NetsGC, the NBA2K team, are in the playoffs.
In the meantime, we’ll be on the hunt for nuggets and no doubt there will be news. Just not as much.