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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 12

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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

Never Forget.

For those of us alive and cognizant back on September 11, 2001, it is a defining moment. For some, unfortunately, the defining moment. Let us honor those who suffered and died that day and those who did their damnedest to rescue and help people recover. The list is long and their sacrifices should never be forgotten.

Moving on...

Getting closer

The long journey from “90 percent done” (Sean Marks quote from August 7) to 100 percent done is not done. Since Marks press conference that day, the Nets have...

  • Re-signed Blake Griffin to a one-year, vets minimum deal (August 9);
  • Signed Patty Mills to a two-year, TMLE, with second year a player option (August 10);
  • Signed F Kessler Edwards to a two-way contract. (August 16);
  • Signed C LaMarcus Aldridge to a one-year vets minimum deal (September 3, 2021)
  • Acquired Sekou Doumbouya and Jahill Okafor from Detroit in exchange for DeAndre Jordan, four second rounders and $5.78 million in cash, generating a $6.3 million TPE and saving $47 million in projected luxury taxes. (September 4);
  • Waived Okakor, saving $6.7 million in luxury taxes (September 10);
  • Signed Paul Millsap to a one-year vets minimum (September 10).

Now, supposedly, they’re “99 percent done” per an insider. As we noted Friday, there are still a lot of decisions left, starting with paring down the roster from 16 standard NBA deals to 15 by October 18, identifying the second two-way player and of course getting Kyrie Irving and James Harden’s signatures on extensions that will take them — and Kevin Durant — on the roster through 2026.

They still have some assets left to get things done. While they can’t trade a first rounder till 2028 because of the Harden trade last January 13, they still have three seconds available in 2024, 2026 and 2028, They also have five stashes, led by Nikola Milutinov and Isaia Cordinier (unless he becomes the second two-way) to facilitate or sweeten deals. They also have three TPE’s valued at $11.4 million (Spencer Dinwiddie S&T), $6.3 million (Jordan salary dump) and $118,342 (difference between Landry Shamet and Jevon Carter contracts.) It’s unlikely they’ll use them with their luxury tax situation. They don’t have any cash considerations left, having used it all in the Jordan deal with Detroit.

And they are not hard-capped despite all of that, offering them a tiny bit more flexibility.

What’s next? The Long Island Nets no doubt are filling out their roster. Will Marcus Zegarowski and RaiQuan Gray be on it? The second two-way has to get done as well.

Still, with two weeks and three days before Media Day, you’d have to say things are in good shape.

‘Clean Sweep’ history

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report knows his stuff. He’s right up there with Woj, Shams and Chris Haynes. So when he and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic spoke late this week on the Halftime app, we listened. He said a lot of things, which we will get into later, but the one revelation we found intriguing was about how leading up to the “Clean Sweep,” the Nets did not want DeAndre Jordan for four years.

“I have been told that Brooklyn never wanted to sign DeAndre to a four-year contract and that it got announced….in the madness, excitement of landing Kevin and Kyrie. It was basically told to Brooklyn in hindsight, after they kind of even agreed to a two-year deal, that no, if you want these other guys, you are taking DeAndre at this four-year contract,” Fischer said.

“I think has also been a source of tension and something that’s bubbled beneath the surface for a long-time now as well.”

Fischer didn’t say where the tension lay, whether between the Nets front office types and DJ or between them and their superstars. Certainly, in the days leading up to the “Clean Sweep,” there was a great deal of discussion about how to fit Jordan into Brooklyn’s cap space with agents for the three players talking among themselves about who would get what when it came time to sign with the Nets.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving agreed to take less money, but in the end, because of a fortunate phone call from Golden State to Brooklyn, the sacrifices were not as big as originally anticipated. As Bobby Marks pointed out back in September 2019, the key was getting an S&T done for D’Angelo Russell.

Because there was not a sign-and-trade agreement in place for D’Angelo Russell when Brooklyn’s new stars committed on June 30, both Irving and Durant at first were set to have $4-5 million in unlikely bonuses in their contracts. That extra $10 million — generated because unlikely bonuses don’t count toward the salary cap — would have allowed the team to sign Irving and Durant outright and use the remaining room on free agent DeAndre Jordan and second-round pick Nicolas Claxton.

However, both players caught a financial break when Golden State approached Brooklyn later that night about the possibility of acquiring Russell in a sign-and-trade for Durant. Because cap space was not required to sign Durant, Brooklyn only needed to structure $1 million in unlikely bonuses for Irving to still have room for Jordan and Claxton. In total, Durant and Irving could have opened the door to lose a combined $16 million had the Warriors not stepped in at the last minute.

The $1 million in unlikely incentives for Irving are broken into eight $125,000 bonuses, ranging from games played, statistical benchmarks and offensive/defensive rating. All eight are deemed unlikely for cap purposes since they weren’t achieved in 2018-19.

In that S&T, the Nets got two picks from Golden State, a 2020 first protected 1-10, which off course couldn’t be exercised because of the Warriors injury-plagued season, and a 2025 second that was one of the four picks sent to Detroit for Jordan. A bit of irony there.

Of course, things could be mitigated a bit IF Sekou Doumbouya becomes a rotation piece but some damage is already done. The Nets bowed to DJ and his friends’ wishes by playing him ahead of Jarrett Allen in 2019-20. The Nets ultimately traded Allen away in the Harden deal.

Kevin Durant biopic coming soon

Add another date to your Nets calendar: October 29. As movie site Collider notes...

Swagger, a new series inspired by NBA star Kevin Durant’s life, is set to globally debut next month on AppleTV+. Created by Reggie Rock Bythewood - who is also showrunner, writer, and director - and executive produced by Durant and Brian Grazer, the first season of this drama series will be comprised of 10 episodes, with the first three episodes debuting on October 29th.

Produced by Thirty Five Ventures, Imagine Television Studios, CBS Studios and Undisputed Cinema, Swagger follows Durant’s experiences as he strives to enter the world of basketball. It aims to explore the world of youth basketball, both from a collective as well as an individual perspective, on the court and off. It also deals with the ambitions and dreams of aspiring professional players and their relationship with the coaches, their families, and the American society they grew up in.

After those first three episodes are released on October 29, the remaining episodes will debut on a weekly basis, every Friday until December 17. The Nets play the Pacers on October 29 so set time aside for binge-watching. A trailer is expected to be out soon.

Jake Fischer Tell-All

As we noted above, Jake Fischer laid out how getting out from under DeAndre Jordan’s final two years was satisfying for the Nets. But that wasn’t the end of his Nets revelations. Our friend BX.JR listened to the full Halftime broadcast Fischer did with Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Here’s some of his notes... annotated

  • The signing of LaMarcus Aldridge was an FOK-influenced move. Kevin Durant wanted him on the Nets. When San Antonio bought LMA out in late March, only Miami was a true contender for his services. But when he was cleared in August and came out of retirement, he was only going to sign with Nets.
  • Patty Mills signing was all about the Sean Marks factor and the Nets’ Spursian culture.
  • Fischer thinks that Paul Millsap is the Nets most underrated off-season move, not Mills. He said Millsap wasn’t coming Brooklyn if the Nets couldn’t get rid of DeAndre Jordan. Millsap needed a defined role and minutes before signing. So no surprise that Millsap agreed to sign not very long after the DJ trade was announced. (So can we add Millsap to the Nets take in that trade and forget Marc Berman’s head-scratching article?)
  • Once the James Harden trade took place, he was surveying who could play and who couldn’t play. Jordan was a big issue with him.
  • Jordan was being shopped at the deadline and at the Draft (with reports that the Nets were willing to give up one or both of the first rounders to dump his salary). He had no trade value.
  • In one trade scenario this off-season, the Nets were looking at getting Mason Plumlee from the Pistons in a deal for Jordan, but then Detroit traded Plumlee to the Hornets in a salary dump.
  • Nets view of a big man is someone who’s able to space the floor. They tried it with Jarrett Allen, but that did not work out. They have tried it with Nic Claxton and it hasn’t worked as they would’ve like, at least so far. That’s why they drafted Day’Ron Sharpe who they believe has potential as a shooter.
  • The starting five will remain basically intact, but expect a battle at the 3. The “Big Three” of course will start and for now at least, Blake Griffin is your starting 5. Joe Harris and Bruce Brown will battle it out at small forward.
  • The Nets were looking to acquire Sekou Doumbouya during last summer’s three-team deal with the Pistons and Clippers that produced Brown and Landry Shamet-Brown but Pistons ultimately pulled Doumbouya from the deal. No details on how a bigger, restructured deal would have worked. Still, Fischer thinks Doumbouya is no lock to make the Nets final roster (In an another Halftime session after the trade, Fischer raised issues about the Guinea-born Doumbouya’s age.)
  • Brooklyn views Jevon Carter as the third point guard behind Harden and Mills. They originally viewed him as an insurance if Brown left. They wanted an upgrade over Mike James, who they didn’t want to keep. (FYI, James secured his buyout from CSKA Moscow Saturday. He is expected to sign with AC Monaco where he’d play with Donta Hall, the Nets center in the Orlando “bubble.”)

That of course is quite a take. Some of it was known, some suggested, but it shows Fischer is not without sources inside the Nets organization.

Harden and Jordan, a look back

Let’s take a longer look at what Jake Fischer said about the relationship between James Harden and DeAndre Jordan. As we chronicled back in March, the two had a number of animated conversations in the early days of Harden’s tenure at Nets point guard.

Three times, cameras found the two going back-and-forth. The first, on February 9 vs. Detroit, just three weeks after Harden arrived in Brooklyn...

Then, a month later, on March 13, also vs. the Pistons...

And two days after that vs. the Knicks...

Ten days after later, LaMarcus Aldridge was bought out by the Spurs, then signed with the Nets. He immediately replaced Jordan in the starting lineup and Jordan’s career with the Nets was essentially over.

Harden is more than a floor general on the court. He is also a taskmaster. As Sean Marks said back then...

“He’s always trying to improve the group offensively and defensively. He has no problem calling things out and discussing them. He does it in a way that can be demanding but that the same time, he brings guys back in and isn’t one of those guys that turn his back on someone for making a mistake. He is going to demand more but then he is going to encourage and build that bond with them.”

Indeed.

The biggest upset in NBA (betting) history?

Mike Mazzeo, writing for the sports gambling site PlayNY.com, took a look recently at a Nets game that would have produced few, if any, memories if it wasn’t for its status as the biggest NBA upset in nearly 30 years. There was no one there to watch it since it took place in the Orlando “bubble” on August 4, 2020.

As Mazzeo wrote...

Brooklyn was a 19-point underdog against Milwaukee. But a motley crew of castoffs and no-names carried the Nets to a shocking 119-116 victory over the heavily favored Bucks on Disney’s Campus.

According to ESPN, it was the largest point-spread upset in the NBA since 1993.

Maybe it isn’t the Miracle on Ice. Or Leicester City winning the Premier League. Or Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson. Or Eli Manning lobbing it to Plaxico Burress in the back of the end zone against the 18-0 Patriots.

Still, it was quite memorable.

For those who remember, the Nets had lost a ton of players to COVID and injury before heading to the “bubble” with what Mazzeo described as “mostly rag-tag bunch of players with something to prove.” Out that afternoon were Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen for a variety of reasons. Not one player from that game is still with the team, DJ being the last to go.

Despite all that, at least one bettor made a killing. The Nets were big underdogs, A William Hill bettor plunked down a $2,159 wager on the Nets at 15-1 odds to win more than $32,000. He could thank Timothe’ Luwawu-Cabarrot who played perhaps the best basketball of his life, scoring 26 points to lead the Nets and Justin Anderson who survived false positives and inconclusive COVID tests before getting to play. He had the play of the game, a dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“We were getting a lot of trash talk from all angles,” Justin Anderson (11 points) told PlayNY. “Before we became ‘The Bubble Nets,’ I think I saw people comparing us to Jackie Moon and the Flint Tropics (from Semi-Pro).”

“You had a lot of guys that were playing for their basketball lives,” Nets’ radio broadcaster Chris Carrino, who called the game remotely from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, told PlayNY.

In the end, the game meant little. It did help the Nets get into the “bubble” playoffs. Not everyone was a winner however as Mazzeo points out. BetMGM’s sportsbook took an $11,000 bet that the Bucks would win the first quarter. But Brooklyn outscored Milwaukee 40-34 in the opening 12 minutes.

Nikola Milutinov back with CSKA

We know more about the Nets interest in Isaia Cordinier than we do in their (only) other highly ranked stash, Nikola Milutinov, whose draft rights were acquired by the Nets as a footnote in the Spencer Dinwiddie sign-and-trade. The 26-year-old Serbian seven-footer is the single first round draft stash held by any NBA team and he’s only two years older than Cordinier.

We don’t know if the Nets have had anything other than perfunctory contact with Milutinov since the trade. The Nets normally bring in a stash after they’ve acquired him, but Milutinov was recovering from shoulder surgery this summer. And we don’t know if he’s open to the NBA. He’s said he might be interested down the line and that the Spurs were never serious about brining him over. He has a year left with CSKA after this season, but as we learned with Mike James, things can change.

He’s back on the court with CSKA Moscow, his shoulder healed. In preseason exhibition games, he looks good, but it should be noted that Milutinov is a traditional European center. He’s physically and mentally tough with good footwork and passing skills, but he’s neither a 3-point shooter nor a rim protector. He is a brute force. Here’s some highlights from this week’s CSKA win over Italy’s Parma. Milutinov had 12 points and five rebounds in the exhibition game...

We’ll be monitoring the Nets stashes progress on an occasional basis. They currently have five: Milutinov, Cordinier, Juan Pablo Vaulet, Nemanja Dangubic and Aaron White. Google them all.

Speaking of stashes, we note the speculation about whether Cordinier was in this week, based primarily on this internet sleuthing...

The main basis of the investigative work is Cordinier’s hair style, But as Chris Milholen points out, Cordinier’s most recent styling has been more conservative braiding, as shown in this picture during his time with the French national team.

Of course, all things, including hairstyles, can change from day to day. Cordinier rocked an Afro when he was with the Nets Summer League two years ago. We’ll know soon enough.

Final Note

Peace.