clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 9

New, comments

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.

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

A bit of a slow week ahead ... as far as we know. (Just jinxed it.) Summer League is over. Free agency seems close to it, unless Sean Marks and the front office surprise ... which is always possible.

Roster things

At some point soon, we expect a decision or two on the remaining draft picks, Marcus Zegarowski and RaiQuan Gray as well as David Duke Jr. Zegarowski and Gray are among the few unsigned second rounders.

The first question is who gets the other two-way, now that Kessler Edwards has signed up? It could be any of the three. And, it should be noted, the second two-way doesn’t have to be someone who the Nets drafted or signed to an Exhibit 10 training camp contract, like they did with Duke. They could go outside. The Nets always have their eye on the waiver wire.

On Labor Day weekend — that’s the weekend after next — the Nets also have to make a decision on Alize Johnson. His three year deal is non-guaranteed with a first $100,000 due him if he’s on the roster 30 days after the end of the free agent moratorium, which would be September 4, next Saturday. If he survives that deadline, he’ll be up for another $200,000 if he’s still on the Opening Night roster on October 19. The contract, like all non-guaranteed and partially guaranteed deals, would become fully guaranteed the first week of January.

Of course, we don’t know when the Nets will announce the extensions for James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Sean Marks has said he expects to have them “signed, sealed and delivered” by the opening of training camp which begins in 37 days out west. We wouldn’t be surprised if that happened.

No word on new capologist

Andrew Baker, who arrived in Brooklyn a month after Sean Marks was hired, is now the newly installed Senior Director of Salary Cap & Strategy with the Mavericks. As our Mavs counterpart, Mavs Moneyball, wrote of his hiring...

Baker is respected for his contract creativity and is widely credited with making the 2019 Kevin Durant sign-and-trade with the Golden State Warriors work. The deal demonstrated the unique thinking Baker possesses regarding contracts and trades, which is something the Mavericks desperately need.

Baker is returning to his roots in the Southwest. Good luck to him. He did good. His job with the Nets ended in July, per his LinkedIn profile. No word yet on who has replaced him even if in a interim role. From what we can tell, it’s the only big change in the front office (although we have seen moves on the coaching staff.)

The Nets usually make an announcement on their big off-season front office moves near the beginning of training camp. So we shall see.

Your turn to shine in G League

Get your body and mind ready. The Long Island Nets are holding open tryouts on September 25 and 26 for locals who think they have the goods to play in the G League. The team announced this week that it provide the opportunity for players to “showcase your talents to the Brooklyn Nets and Long Island Nets coaching staff and basketball operations staff.”

You’ll have to register online, pay a $200 fee and provide evidence you’re vaccinated against COVID-19.

All tryout participants must pre-register online, be eligible to play in the NBA G League and be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to attend. As advised by the CDC, full vaccination means at least 14 days after the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (or other COVID-19 vaccinations recognized by WHO) or at least 14 days after the single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. You will be asked to upload proof of vaccination while registering.

The first tryout will take place on Saturday, September 25 at the LIU Campus in Brooklyn, specifically the Steinberg Wellness Center. Check-in begins at 11 AM, Tryout begins at 12 PM. The second will take place the next day, this time at LIU POST, Pratt Recreation Center, Old Westbury N.Y. Check-in there begins at 10 AM, Tryout begins at 11 AM.

And if you’re lucky ... and good, you may be asked to stay for an additional private workout with Nets staff.

It’s not pure fantasy, as Newsday reports...

The LI Nets last held local tryouts in 2019, with four attendees joining the roster at some point in the 2019-20 season. Jonathan Kasibabu, a standout at Fairfield who went undrafted, appeared in 36 games after his 2019 tryout, while former Long Island Lutheran star Ash Yacoubou made 20 appearances with the LI Nets that season in a return to the area following college and overseas play.

Good luck to all!

KD invests in weed, but not the way you would think

One of the most interesting things we noted in stories on Kevin Durant’s wealth and income is that he’s moving from endorsements to investments. He’s done quite well on his early bets on things like Postmates, the online delivery company; Coinbase, the bitcoin exchange and now Robin Hood, the online brokerage company. Just last week, it was reported that he made a 2,500% return on Robin Hood. Per Yahoo! Sports report from July 29 when the company went public.

Durant tallied a 2,500% return on his Robinhood stock today. Remarkably, it’s his second 10-bagger this month.

The NBA star bought into Robinhood during the online broker’s venture capital rounds through his Thirty Five Ventures. Robinhood made its stock market debut today at $38 a share, giving it a valuation of $32 billion. Durant’s firm bought into Robinhood in 2017, when it was valued at just $1.2 billion, according to data compiled by Crunchbase.

In fact, July was a very good month for KD and his business partner Rich Kleiman, per Yahoo!

Robinhood’s return isn’t the only 1,000%-plus return he’s booked this month, a rare level of returns coined a “10-bagger” by investing legend Peter Lynch. The Brooklyn Nets forward tallied another huge paper gain this month when Mercury, an online bank for other start-ups, raised Series B financing at a valuation of $1.6 billion. That’s 16 times what the business was worth when Durant was part of Mercury’s Series A financing in late 2019. Fellow NBA player Andre Iguodala also invested in Mercury at that time.

Now, Durant and Kleiman are looking to expand on another early investment, in cannibis. With New York and New Jersey moving forward on retailing and regulation, weed should be available in stores within the next six months or so.

As Brian Windhorst reported Thursday, this investment isn’t just about ROI, return on investment...

In a significant step, Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant announced a partnership and sponsorship deal with cannabis marketplace Weedmaps on Thursday and said he plans to use his platform to destigmatize marijuana use among athletes.

In fact, this is not KD’s first investment in cannabis businesses. He has advocated for the legalization and de-stigmatizing of the plant product for years.

“I think it’s far past time to address the stigmas around cannabis that still exist in the sports world as well as globally,” Durant told ESPN. “This partnership is going to help us continue to normalize those conversations, as well as create content, events, and a lot more through our Boardroom media network. This is just the beginning for us.”

Weedmaps is an interesting choice for an investment. It is not a dispensary or grower. It is an e-commerce platform that guides users to dispensaries. So it skirts any laws that criminalize the possession or use.

Even though marijuana is legal in 18 states, including New York, and the District of Columbia, it’s still banned by the NBA. However, as ESPN noted, testing was halted when the league re-started in the Orlando bubble in 2020 and then didn’t return for the 2020-21 season. No word on whether the league will start up testing again next season, but it would seem doubtful. (A quick look at a map of where marijuana has been legalized for recreational use reveals that half the NBA’s 30 teams play in states where it’s legal and half where it remains illegal.)

One other point: if you’re looking for a theme in Durant’s investing, think marketplace. KD and Kleiman seem to like companies that provide easy online access to markets whether it’s bitcoin, stocks or marijuana.

Schedule evolution

Some fans seem upset that the Nets, the overwhelming favorite — at least among gamblers — to win it all, don’t have the most games on national TV. The Nets will have 38 games on ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV, down one game from last season, and behind the Lakers with 42 and the Warriors with 41. Here are the top ten teams

Lakers: 42

Warriors: 41

Nets: 38

Bucks: 36

Suns: 34

Celtics: 33

Knicks: 29

Clippers: 27

76ers: 27

Mavericks: 26

Interesting that 1) this year’s title contenders, the Bucks and Suns, have fewer national TV games than the Lakers, Warriors and Nets and 2) the Mavs, with one of the game’s most electrifying stars, Luka Doncic, are only on 26 times while the Knicks are on 29. Doesn’t seem logical.

But let’s put all this in an historical perspective. Here the ten teams with the least national TV appearances back in 2016-17, Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson’s first year in Brooklyn.

Wizards: 5

Suns: 4

Pelicans: 4

Bucks: 3

Hornets: 3

Nuggets: 3

76ers: 3

Kings: 2

Magic: 1

Nets: 1

Going from one nationally televised game to 38 is pretty, pretty good in a five-year period. Suns, Sixers and Bucks did well too. Kings and Magic, not so much.

Patty Mills disappointment ... and response

In retrospect, it seems almost forgotten that Australia beat Team USA in an exhibition game back on July 12. Patty Mills — not yet a Net — scored 22 points and Australia held the US without a field goal for the final 4:34 on the way to beating the Americans 91-83 in Las Vegas. For Team USA, Kevin Durant scored 17 points. Fans in Las Vegas booed their countrymen. Bad form.

So when the Boomers faced off against Americans in the medal round on August 5, the Australians believed they could do it again and advance to the gold medal game vs. France.

“We know a lot about them,” said Dante Exum, the Cavs free agent and Aussie guard, about the Boomers’ game vs. the U.S.. “We’ve played them and obviously they’ve got the hype of being Team USA. But we have to just go in and play our game and we know what we have to do.”

Well, knowing what to do and executing it — twice — is different.

Team USA beat Australia by 19 and eventually won gold two nights later. Durant finished with 23 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field. Mills, whose free agent signing was revealed earlier in the day, had 15. What wasn’t well-known at the time was how devastated the loss was to the Australians. The exhibition game win had buoyed them, given them hope..

In an interview with Australia’s National Basketball League on August 13, Boomer head coach Brian Goorjian talked about how he had to pull them out of the depths of hoops despair and the role Mills played.

“They — Patty, Joe (Ingles), that group — expected gold and were dropped to the knees with the loss. And I walked into the locker room, there were tears, like ‘This is done. We’re done.’ I came in strong and hard. ‘Hey, 0-and 11,’” Goorjian said he told his team, referring to the 11 trips Australian had made to the Olympics without any men’s basketball medal, hoping to rally them for the bronze medal game.

“This culture’s been strong. You’ve been great. You’ve performed outside the boundaries. You’ve been a bust here?!? NO!,” he added, recalling that he told his team, “You’ve set the table to do something that’s never been done before.’ I went down that path real hard. Head up, back straight, be proud.”

Goorjian also knew he needed Mills and Ingles to sign on ... and they did.

“We had a meeting. I sat with Joe and Patty,” he continued. “They were on board.

It wasn’t all rah-rah speechifying, said Goorjian. He made adjustments. On defense, he put Matthew Dellavedova on Luka Doncic. He made a key change on offense. “We’re putting the ball in Patty’s hands,” he said he told the team. Both worked.

“He motivated me,” the transplanted California said of Mills. “Look at how this guy is handling the pressure. I thought it was a big thing naming him captain — ‘first aboriginal captain of the Boomers. this is a big deal’ NO. He’s the captain of the Australian Olympic team! ... “Now, the ball is in his hands. After all that’s been said, the ball is in his hands.”

And by the end of the game, Mills had scored 42 points, setting a record for the Olympic medal game, and Australia, on its 12th trip to the Olympics since 1936, had a medal to show for it.

Cam Thomas note

We would be remiss if we missed an Off-Season Report without posting something new on Cam Thomas. Have no fear! Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, who we love, did a lengthy review of the Summer League’s top prospects, including the co-MVP’s, Davion Mitchell of the Kings and our guy, Cam. It’s a fun read.

First, he laid out his evaluation of Thomas’ offensive game...

Honestly, all I can do with Thomas is laugh to myself every time I watch him. It’s an experience unlike anything I’ve ever evaluated. He legitimately might be the most natural scorer in the 2021 NBA Draft. He just has such an incredible innate feel for how to get to his spots, and he showcased that on his way to winning co-MVP of summer league.

Thomas isn’t the most athletic player on the court by any stretch, but his ability to read the way defenders play him is incredible. If a defender closes out with just 10 percent too much pressure on his front foot, Thomas attacks and knows exactly how to take advantage.

Additionally, he’s one of the better players I’ve evaluated at such an early age of being able to re-align his body after planting and rising for a jumper in mid-air. Regardless of how he lands in the midrange in regard to footwork, from any angle or spot, he can get a reasonable look up toward the rim. He can pull up going toward the rim, or getting to his step-back game. His balance is superb, and he has great touch as a shooter. He has a floater package, in addition to a genuine three-level pull-up game. He moves well without the ball to find empty spaces.

He led the Las Vegas Summer League in scoring, after finishing fourth in the country in college basketball in scoring as a freshman, after becoming Oak Hill Academy’s all-time leading scorer, after leading the Nike EYBL in scoring during the summer between in his junior and senior years of high school. Every single step of the way, Thomas has not just been a good scorer, he’s been an utterly elite scorer.

He also goes into Thomas’s weaknesses...

I’ve also never evaluated a prospect who is genuinely so good at scoring the ball and also just displays such a complete and utter lack of interest in any other aspect of the game. He doesn’t pass the ball unless he has to in an escape situation because he’s stuck. He’s trying to score first, second, third and fourth, then maybe he’ll pass if someone is wide open. To say he’s lackadaisical defensively would be an understatement.

The level to which he’d have to be elite as a scorer to make up for being a 1-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio guard and a non-defender is so high. And the crazy thing is, he might be able to reach that threshold! Honestly, Thomas is probably one of those guys who evaluators either love, or they just don’t want on their team.

Then, Vecenie sums it all up — what any Nets fan who watched him in Summer League knows — this kid is confident with a capital “C.”

Legitimately, he plays like he thinks he’s the best scoring option on the court regardless of who else is out there with him. I love it so much. As human beings, we all aspire to the confidence level Thomas has when the basketball is in his hands.

Bottom line for Vecenie: he could envision Thomas averaging 12 points a game this season and 25 a game five years from now! That of course assumes he corrects and improves his game and doesn’t drive the “Big Three” crazy by taking their shots!

So, there it is, your Cam Thomas fix. Enjoy.

Final Note

It’s a long, long time till training camp, like we said at the top of the Report. We will try to continue our record of producing new content every day. It’s been more than five years since we missed a day. Here’s to news!