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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 11

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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.

Here we go again. Sean Marks is remaking the Nets roster once more. After trading DeAndre Jordan in a salary dump that cost the Nets four seconds but provided an intriguing big man, then releasing Alize Johnson and getting Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge to agree to vets minimum deals, the Nets roster is at 17 players, 10 of them new.

The accounting...

  • Gone are DeAndre Jordan, Alize Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jeff Green, Reggie Perry, Mike James, Tyler Johnson, Timothe’ Luwawu-Cabarrot, Chris Chiozza and Landry Shamet. Four second rounders were also dispatched: the Nets own in 2022 (likely to be a very low pick) and 2027 as well as the Hawks pick in 2024 and the Warriors pick in 2025 and $5.78 million, the max a team can send out in cash considerations.
  • Arriving are Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge (return engagement), Sekou Doumbouya, Jahlil Okafor (at least for now), Patty Mills, James Johnson, DeAndre’ Bembry, Jevon Carter, Cam Thomas, Day-Ron Sharpe, Kessler Edwards and David Duke Jr. plus the two unsigned second rounders: Marcus Zegarowski and RaiQuan Gray.
  • Staying are Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Blake Griffin, Joe Harris, Nicolas Claxton and Bruce Brown. That’s it. Seven out of 17, two-ways included.

Beyond all that, the Nets acquired the rights to Serbian seven-footer Nikola Milutinov, one of Europe’s best big men, and created two of the largest trade exceptions in franchise history out of the Dinwiddie trade ($11.45 million) and the Jordan trade ($6.27 million). Both will expire a year from now and neither may be used because of the luxury tax implications, but if opportunities arise...

Oh yeah, they also extended the contract of the best basketball player in the world through 2026 and they plan to do the same with two more of the NBA’s ten best players later this month.

One insider said the Nets are “99 percent done,” then quickly added, “lol.” Indeed, the Nets need to sort out all those contracts and players before they arrive at Media Day on September 27, then leave that afternoon for San Diego. The Nets have not yet announced who will get the second two-way deal, joining Edwards in Uniondale. That’s one mystery. There are others. Will they sign second rounders directly to G League contracts? What’s the plan with Okafor and Doumbouya? Both are listed Saturday morning on the Nets roster page.

We could go through the roster math again, but basically, they hare 17 players on standard NBA deals, one of which is partially guaranteed (Bembry) plus one two-way (Edwards) and one Exhibit 10 training camp deal. (Duke Jr.)

At the end of a tumultuous week: you’ve seen the Nets long-term strategy up close.

Marks and his front office understand they’ll lose good players —like Dinwiddie and Green — every year and will have to replace them with other, minimum guys. It’s the nature of having a max team. The hope is that the new guys will get better simply by practicing and playing with the “Big Three.” Brown sure did. So did Green, truth be told.

Another part of the strategy is If and when they get an opportunity to get good young players in the Draft, they’ll take it. Of the five picks the Nets used in the 2021 Draft, only one — No. 27 — was their own. The others were originally the picks of the Suns, Pacers, Hawks and the Suns again. We’ve always believed that the Nets, looking at the quality of the 2021 Draft with one eye and the lack of picks going forward with the other, decided to use all five picks. They knew that kind of a haul (the most picks for a Nets GM in the 32-year history of the two-round draft) was unlikely to happen again for a long, long time. That may not have been Plan A, but it worked as a Plan B.

On the other end of the scale, as Adrian Wojnarowski points out, Brooklyn has shown “an ability to recruit top-level vet-minimum talent as a big-market title contender.” Millsap and Aldridge — and to an extent, Mills — follow in the path of Green and Griffin. Woj also argues that that ability alleviates risk of having to surrender so many draft picks over the life of the “Big Three” era. Woj also notes that the $47 million in luxury tax savings from the DJ trade “can be reinvested into free agents at mid-level exception, buying future seconds.”

Then the end game: as superstars age, the hope is that others will appreciate the culture, take their place ... with minimum down time along the way.

The aggressive off-season also shows that Marks trusts Steve Nash and his newly reconstituted staff to establish a new chemistry capable of a title run. That will be critical. Cultures are only as good as their leaders. There will also likely to be some battles for minutes in camp and beyond. Claxton vs. Aldridge vs. Millsap vs. Griffin. Maybe Bembry vs. Doumbouya. And how many minutes will Cam Thomas steal?

Finally, at the core of any long term strategy to sustain success — yes, to create a dynasty — is ownership: Joe Tsai, the governor, and his wife, Clara Wu Tsai. The deca-billionaires (more than $10 billion) have given fans every confidence they’re ready to devote resources to their NBA team. Some fans may quibble about this deal or that, but the extensions for the “Big Three” alone will cost the Family Tsai more than a half a billion dollars. (But Tsai will save $47 million on the Jordan trade.)

Was it good timing or bad timing?

On Thursday, about 28 hours before the Pistons traded Sekou Doumbouya, Bryce Simon of Detroit Bad Boys, our Pistons counterpart, posted a film study on the young Piston, He offered his assessment of what Doumbouya could do to win back fans who expected more from the 15th pick in the 2019 Draft.

Simon thought rotation level minutes would help, something he might have gotten in Detroit but won’t under almost any conceivable circumstance here. Still, the Film Study is very thorough and if he had waited two days, we could have published it!

Here’s his summary of how Doumbouya could win back fans favor ... forgetting how wild speculation was on Draft Night two years ago...

I am very much aware how polarizing a player Sekou is, and that a lot of Pistons fans are ready for to move on from the “project” player. Quite frankly, I understand it. But I think we should shift our mindset away from the ceiling many projected when he was first selected (Siakam, or Giannis eek) and focus more on the realistic outcomes for Sekou. Maybe those outcomes are not what fans wanted from Sekou or from a guy drafted No. 15 overall, BUT those outcomes can fill a very important role on a good team, and I would love it if Sekou got the chance to showcase that this season…...all season.

Oh, how things can change. We have now posted the DBB story on ND since it’s now more relevant to Nets fans.

Tsai Hoops Scholars

Joe Tsai was also active this week in establishing a scholarship fund for young Chinese basketball players. Some hope the move, coupled with others, will help soften Chinese resistance to airing NBA games on CCTV-5, the national sports channel, and restore normalcy to the league’s relationship with its second biggest audience.

Tsai launched the scholarship program, which will provide an opportunity for 10 young mainland basketball players to compete and study at U.S. boarding schools, on Thursday. Tsai is a graduate of one of those boarding schools, Lawrenceville School outside Princeton.

The players will be between the ages of 13 and 15. The scholarship program was previously run by the Chinese Basketball Association and funded by Tsai. But the new program will be more extensive with 10 scholars instead of four and under Tsai’s tutelage. Tsai has invited previous recipients to Brooklyn for a Nets game.

The arrangement was praised by the CBA chairman, Yao Ming.

“I would like to thank Mr. Tsai for his support toward China’s basketball. I’m sure this Scholarship will provide whole new experiences for our basketball-loving kids.” said Yao.

“The best way to develop basketball talent is to compete at the highest level,” Tsai said in a statement. “The students we select into our program will have the opportunity to play with some of the best cohorts in their age group. They will also have access to a great education in a rigorous academic environment and learn life lessons when they are away from home.”

Applications can be submitted from September 1 to October 15, 2021, through official channels such as the Foundation website and the Scholarship WeChat page. The final recipients will be announced in April, 2022, and join the fall semester enrollment in the U.S.

In previous discussions of the frozen relations between the league and China, authorities in the People’s Republic have suggested a need for “good-will” gestures, presumably like the scholarship fund. Of course, there are a lot more difficult issues to resolve.

While some NBA games are streamed in China, CCTV-5 has not aired any games — other than a couple in the Orlando “bubble” — nationally since Daryl Morey, then with the Rockets, tweeted out his support for Hong Kong democracy in October 2019. Will CCTV-5 air games this season? What will it take?

Tsai of course is in a unique position to get things back on board for the NBA. Not only is he Chinese by heritage and a citizen of Hong Kong, he was the one NBA owner who publicly criticized Morey’s position, citing Chinese history.

Also, Brooklyn ranks No. 1 in social media engagement among all NBA teams, surpassing the Los Angeles Lakers, whose fandom has been sustained in China through Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as well as the Rockets, home of Yao Ming, before the Morey tweet,

For the NBA, the renewal of CCTV coverage would mitigate a long-term financial concern. As Sportico reported this week, after talking to Tsai and his team, the NBA sees long-term growth in Asia and increased TV revenues. That doesn’t happen unless the two sides can make a deal.

In July, Adam Silver said he wants the NBA to play a positive role in the larger feud between the governments of the United States and China.

“I do think it remains important, that particularly when tensions are high between governments, that we foster these sports, educational, cultural relationships,” Silver said.

TV on the plaza

We’ve written before about the difficulties of re-creating Milwaukee’s Deer District on the Barclays Center during big games. It might seem like the “Deer District” could be replicated but the area is much smaller and much more congested than the now famous overflow district outside Fiserv Forum.

Still, as Norman Oder, the well-known critic and chronicler of the arena and surrounding Atlantic Yards, has reported, there was a moment during Game 7 of the Bucks series when a crowd gathered outside the sold-out arena to watch the big LED screen at the front of arena. Without doubt, they were there because they wanted to be as close as possible to the drama as possible. As the final seconds of regulation ticked down, Kevin Durant rewarded their loyalty, setting off a loud celebration. Oder recorded the moment...

(Note how the oculus reflected the drama, turning orange a moment after the KD shot that tied the game.)

Oder estimated there were around 150 fans on hand that June night. His coverage of the scene led to questions about whether the Nets and the arena would permit live broadcasts on the oculus that in turn would lead to more and bigger gatherings, ad hoc or not.

So Oder asked arena management for an update. He got answers this week. Here’s the exchange...

Questions:

How often were Nets games broadcasted on the arena plaza?

How much of each game?

Will that continue with the NY Liberty?

If so, how much?

Will that continue next year with the Nets?

If so, how much?

The response:

Small portions, approximately 1 minute per quarter of live clips and replays, of Nets games were shown on the atrium glass display. The arena will look to continue this for the next season. For the Liberty, highlights will be shown selectively as well.

So there you have it. No continuous gamecast but there will be live clips.

The plaza of course has become a bit of Brooklyn’s town square, with everything from George Floyd murder protests to vaccination and voter registration drives to pop-up food banks taking their place. With the Nets likely to sell out a lot of big games this season, controlling the plaza on game nights will be an interesting challenge. Be prepared.

Brian Taylor gets honored back home

Brian Taylor was an underrated member of the New York Nets ABA title contenders from the early 1970’s. After a career at Princeton, he began his professional career with the ABA Nets. He played four seasons with the team that called Nassau Coliseum home He was the Rookie of the Year in 1973, a two-time ABA All-Star and a two-time ABA champ next to Julius Erving. Later, he became the only player to ever lead both leagues in 3-point shooting, with New York in 1976, then with San Diego in 1981.

Last week, when his hometown of Perth Amboy, N.J. honored him by naming the court where he played as a kid the “Brian Taylor Basketball Courts,” the Nets played an unpublicized role. They ran a clinic at the dedication ceremony, helped with the court’s design and the logos for the dedication. Plus, they sent Herb Turetzky, who was their scorekeeper in the ABA days just as he is today. He appeared with Brian and two brothers, also star athletes...

Suzanne Russell/CentralNewJersey.com

Once a Net, always a Net? The connection is not just historical. Taylor served as a mentor to Devin Cannady, another former Princeton shooting guard, when Cannady played for Long Island two years ago. The two shared a lot but Cannady said the best advice he got from Taylor was to enjoy the moment at the Old Barn. He did.

Tough guys train together

Jimmy Butler and new Net James Johnson are two tough-as-nails competitors who played together in Miami two years ago. The duo was pictured on an image a Heat fan site posted on Instagram.

“Once in the trenches with me, always in the trenches with me,” noted Butler.

Royal Ivey coaching debut a major success

South Sudan is the world’s youngest nation and one always on guard in the volatile East Africa region. It’s also become an incubator for NBA prospects. Many have wound up in the U.S., U.K. and Australia as refugees.

This year, the two-year-old country took another step in creating a national culture when it debuted in AfroBasket 2021, the FIBA regional event held in Kigali, Rwanda. South Sudan’s head coach, Royal Ivey, took time off from his Nets duties to lead the national team. Expectations were low. They were well exceeded.

South Sudan finished 3-2, advancing to the quarter-finals — something African power Nigeria couldn’t do — before losing, 80-65, to the eventual and defending champ Tunisia on Thursday.

Ivey was full of praise for his players post-game Thursday.

“I am lost for words because these guys did everything I asked them to do from day one,” Ivey told BBC Sport Africa. “We have been here for almost a month, they sacrificed time with their family, they sacrificed their freedom being in the bubble and these guys work hard. And if I asked them to run through the wall, they will do it.

“And I am so appreciative. This young team - we got a lot to be proud of. I told these guys back in the locker room, ‘don’t hold your head,’ they are hurting right now, I am hurting right now, it is a tough loss you know.”

Ivey also hinted he’d like to be there when things come to fruition.

“We will be back. We will better. We will be stronger. We will be faster. We will be older. So, looking forward to it.”

Ivey also thinks he may have found a player who can help lead the national team in the future, Dhieu Abwok Deing, a 6’4’ shooting guard who plays for Dodge City Community College in Kansas. He was the South Sudanese star at age 20.

Ivey said of Deing: “He can play!!! He put on a show today for the world to see that he is going to be around on this national team for time to come. He is just a gamer; he wants the big moments.”

Dieng may never make it to the NBA. Chances aren’t great. But Africa is the NBA’s new scouting ground and for the Nets to have one of their assistants so intertwined with FIBA Africa has got to be an advantage.

Final note

We are — and we aren’t — beyond all those stories about how Sean Marks got the Nets not just back on track but way ahead of the pack in his five years as a GM. It is a bit of old news by now, but then again, the last couple of days reminds us fans of Brooklyn’s startling turnaround ... and the sheer fun of wondering what Marks and his front office will do next! Getting Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge for trinkets and baubles and trading Jordan for a possible asset going forward... Well, that sure wasn’t expected a month ago when free agency opened! Of course, no one expected Cam Thomas to set Summer League scoring records and win Co-MVP either!

Of course, it will all be put to the test starting in three weeks when the Nets gather first in Brooklyn, then San Diego for camp, then begin their quest for Brooklyn’s first title since the 1955 Dodgers. What’s more fun than watching Marks put together a roster? Watching that roster win.