Sunday is the last day of the off-season. Monday — Media Day — is the first day of preseason. So this will be the last OSR of 2021, an eventful one that saw the Nets make some surprising decisions, like using all five of their Draft picks, getting LaMarcus Aldridge back and completely overhauling their bench.
THAT, of course, wasn’t the story.
Going into this week and this preseason and this season, Brooklyn is still all about their “Big Three” of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden ... and yes, Joe Harris. They are the core, the guys they pay the big bucks to. Right now, all are healthy and ready to go. When that group works, NetsWorld is a happy, happenin’ place. If not, it’s weeping and gnashing of teeth. End of story.
Monday’s Media Day and training camp should hold some answers on the remaining questions of the off-season:
- Are all 19 players in compliance with the NBA and New York City’s regulations that would permit all of them to play and practice at home?
- Will the Nets add a 20th player to camp? The Nets have not committed to a 20th player and there’s no active rumors on who it might be if they add one more. The Nets will release the camp roster Monday morning.
- Who will get that elusive second two-way contract, joining Kessler Edwards. The Nets have two Exhibit 10 deals in David Duke Jr. and Devontae Cacok.
- And will we get word on the status of extensions for Irving and Harden? Sean Marks said in early August he expected to have both “signed, sealed and delivered” by the opening of training camp, but on Tuesday he suggested that things might be extended (We see what we did there.) “We’re looking forward to sitting down with them over the course of the next week, two weeks, and furthering those discussions,” said Marks, noting that ownership will, of course, be part of those discussions. So maybe we see things break while the Nets and the Tsais are breaking bread in San Diego?
YES Network will air full coverage of Brooklyn Nets Media Day from 10 a.m. to 12 noon ET on Monday.
Kyrie, Kyrie, Kyrie
As we noted in our updated story about Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status Sunday morning, expect some news by Monday. There are of course several possibilities: he’s either fully vaccinated or not; he’s gotten the first shot but not the second or he’s received a religious or medical exemption. (One possible grounds for a medical exemption could be a recent infection. Individuals who get infected with COVID can’t be jabbed for 90 days.)
All we may know is whether everyone is in compliance with local regs. HIPAA laws will prevent any discussion of who got vaccinated.
We will leave that news till Monday, but as for the other Kyrie news from last week — Stephen A. Smith’s assertion that Nets were interested in trading him for Philadelphia prodigal Ben Simmons until Kevin Durant stopped them? Not so. We are told authoritatively nothing of Stephen A’s commentary is accurate. Nothing, nada, zip, zero.
Long Island fills out staff, adds point guard
It’s not that a big of a deal but Adam Caporn, the Long Island Nets new head coach, filled out his coaching staff this week, adding James Maye from the Charlotte Hornets organization, and elevating Lance Harris, who served as a Nets player development/video assistant and G League “bubble” assistant last year. Jimmie Oakman, who was an assistant the last two years, remains with the club.
The Maye and Harris hires are interesting in that they are moving up NBA development ranks after spending more than a decade each in Europe. The Nets seems to value that level of experience.
Prior to assistant coaching gigs with the Hornets and Wizards G League teams, Maye played 14 professional seasons (2003-17), mainly overseas and for one season (2006-07) in the G League with the Dakota Wizards. He is a product of UNC Greensboro, where he earned his bachelors degree. He later earned a MBA from the American College of Thessaloniki in Greece. Not mentioned in the bio provided by the team is that Maye played for the New Jersey Nets entry in the 2007 Orlando Magic Summer League. He is a native of Long Island as well, having been born in Coppague before moving to Georgia.
Harris, like Maye, was a European vagabond before joining the Nets last season. Thirteen years, 14 teams, nine countries in all! And just before he decided to move into the Nets front office, he had an offer from a team in Croatia! Specifically, Harris played in Slovenia, then Greece, Bosnia, Greece again, Italy, Ukraine, Italy again, Russia, Turkey, France, Slovenia again, before finishing up in Montenegro, a tiny country on the Adriatic Sea in 2020. He’s a Kansas State product.
We profiled Harris in Off-Season Report No. 5. He described his duties in Brooklyn this way to a podcaster...
“On the floor we help with the players. Sometimes we work out them out. Sometimes we just help them with just rebounding and I had the opportunity in February to go to the (G League) ‘bubble’ with our two-way player,” he said of Reggie Perry, last year’s rookie. “I went there for 30 days with him. to make sure he got everything he needed. I was also on the (Long Island Nets) coaching staff as a G League coach for 30 days — that was cool — and write scouting reports. I was able to write scouting reports as well.”
The Nets bring in a small number of player development/video assistants every season to work primarily with younger players. You won’t see their names on any directory but they are critical to development and often, like Harris, they get promoted up the chain.
Also, this week, Long Island raised the possibility of an All-LSU backcourt when they acquired G League veteran Josh Gray from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in exchange for the returning player rights to Justin Anderson. Gray, a 6’1” point guard out of Louisiana State, might play alongside fellow Tiger Cam Thomas if the Nets rookie needs to get minutes on Long Island. This past season, Gray averaged 13.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 28.9 minutes per game.
This should be an interesting season for Long Island. Adam Caporn, the head coach, and Matt Riccardi, the GM, both have excellent reputations in developing players (Caporn) and finding them (Riccardi.) Now, they should reap the benefits of all those draft picks and Exhibit 10 signings. And we’ll have exclusive coverage of their Open Call workout on Long Island later Sunday.
Congratulations to Tiago Splitter
Tiago Splitter and the Brazilian basketball federation announced this week that he’s taking on additional duties as an assistant coach on his home country’s national team.
Splitter is a veteran of international basketball having been one of Brazil’s leading players. He won gold medals with the senior Brazilian national basketball team at the 2003 FIBA South American Championship, the 2003 Pan American Games, the 2005 FIBA AmeriCup, the 2009 FIBA AmeriCup, and the 2011 FIBA AmeriCup. With Brazil, he also played at the 2002 FIBA World Cup, the 2006 FIBA World Cup, the 2010 FIBA World Cup, the 2012 Summer Olympics, and the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
He also won an NBA ring with the Spurs in 2014 and multiple titles in Spain before that.
Other Nets assistants have coached internationally: Royal Ivey served as head coach of South Sudan in FIBA’s African Basketball championships and Jordan Ott was an assistant coach with the Dominican Republic national team in the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico City working with head coach Kenny Atkinson.
Congratulations to the Liberty too!
In the end, after the fast start and the late collapse, the Liberty made the WNBA playoffs for the first time in four years and the first time under the ownership of Joe and Clara Wu Tsai. (While the couple is referred to as Brooklyn Nets “co-owners,” they are “co-governors” of the Liberty, a more official title.)
The Libs lost by one point to the Phoenix Mercury on Thursday night, but the team established itself as a young team whose headliner is only 23: Sabrina Ionescu. The Liberty could also boast the unanimous choice Rookie of the Year, Michaela Onyenwere, and fellow All-Rookie team member, Didi Richards. Both are 22. Expect Laney to garner some honors later this week as other awards are announced. Next year, the Liberty could also get 6’9” Han Xu back next season. The 21-year-old stayed in China this season for health reasons.
New York does have one problem: their attendance at Barclays Center. The Liberty averaged a little than 1,800 fans a home game. They ranked ninth in a 12-team league There are a lot of reasons why the Liberty are attracting only about a fifth of what they were seeing at Madison Square Garden before James Dolan moved the Liberty to Westchester in 2018.
COVID has limited attendance of course and the Liberty have been a bit of a vagabond, playing in FIVE different venues over the last decade. They played three seasons at Prudential Center in 2011, 2012, and 2013 before returning to the Garden for the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons. In 2018 and 2019, they were in Westchester, 2020 in the WNBA’s “wubble” in Bradenton, Florida, then finally putting down roots in Brooklyn this season.
As Brian Lewis reported in 2019, the Liberty finished in the top four in WNBA attendance in all 18 seasons they played at the Garden, averaging 9,888 in 2017, the season before the move to 90-year-old Westchester County Center. Attendance plummeted to roughly one quarter that number in the two Westchester years, 2,822 in 2018 and 2,362 in 2019. That’s still nearly thousand more than what they garnered this year.
The WNBA desperately need the Liberty, as the big city legacy team to be good —- and to draw. For example, the drop in attendance caused by the move to Westchester accounted for approximately half of the whole league’s drop in attendance in 2018!
Expect next season, with all the hope derived from this year’s run and a fresh start, to be a crucial one for the WNBA club on the court and in the stands.
One week from Sunday, the Nets will play the Lakers in a preseason game at Staples Center. So, as the Brooklyns embark on the 2021-22 season, certainly their most anticipated in franchise history, we offer only piece of advise and encouragement:
WIN THE LAST GAME!!!