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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 3

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.

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Fog Shrouds the Skyline of Brooklyn at Sunset in New York City Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

As much coverage as the Sean Marks - Steve Nash press coverage got, the question remains: What’s next, particularly with Kyrie Irving? Irving hasn’t responded (at the time of this writing) to either criticism of him by Sean Marks and Amar’e Stoudemire in his valedictory as a Nets employee. Nor has he responded to ESPN’s report about Nike’s declining interest in his sneaker line.

It would be smart to simply let it all pass. After all, he offered his own thoughts on the subject earlier in the week on The Etcs podcast with Eddie Gonzalez, acknowledging that he did feel that he was “letting the world down or letting Nets fans down, letting my teammates down” and that he was also concerned the Nets might trade him or release him.

From now forward, it would be best for the Nets, Irving — and presumably Kevin Durant — to sit down quietly with Sean Marks and Joe Tsai, as Stoudemire suggested. Negotiations will likely be based on personal relationships Irving has with Marks and both Joe and Clara Wu Tsai. The personal nature of things will also be enhanced by the fact that Irving’s agent is also his stepmother.

Relations between Irving and the Tsais are believed to be good despite all that happened this year. Clara Tsai spoke last November about how she missed speaking to Irving on the social justice issues the two both care about. Joe Tsai has spoken of his “respect” for Irving’s position of the COVID vaccine, even if he doesn’t understand it. And Irving did publicly and personally thank ownership for helping to get the city to lift mandates that had stopped him from playing. That’s not to say there haven’t been “frank” conversations, as Marks once described them, among Irving, ownership and management.

And Marks was careful to couch his language on Wednesday. While he was clearly directing criticism at Irving’s absences, his comments were not personal. They were also forward leaning, describing what he wants from Nets players, that they be “selfless” and “available,” adding “that goes not only for Kyrie but for everybody here.” Onus reduction.

With that in mind and assuming everyone including KD is on board with Irving’s return, there seems to be enough trust to get something done. As John Hollinger told Alex Schiffer in their very valuable Q. and A. this week,..

There are two other negotiating points to consider: 1) What is Irving’s alternative? and 2) What is the Nets’ alternative? It’s an interesting question because right now the answer for both is “not much.” Almost nobody has cap room this summer, and the few teams that do aren’t in the win-now business, even if they were willing to attach their hopes to the mercurial Irving.

And from the Nets’ perspective, obviously, they have no real alternative to bringing back Irving. It’s not like they’d have cap room to sign somebody else if he left; the Nets would still be over the cap even after subtracting his $37 million for next year.

Of course, Irving could respond publicly which would mean a long summer of back-and-forth that would do no one any good. It’s clear each side has issues, but it’s also clear that there are enough alternative solutions out there to get something done without (too much) drama. (It should be noted that Irving has been active on Twitch streams this week, calling out fans of his previous teams for their lame name-calling and responding to a name-drop by Kendrick Lamar.)

Other than the discussion of Irving and hopeful signs re: Ben Simmons health, there was one underappreciated piece of news from Marks. “Our team is going to look vastly different every year,” said Marks. “It’s the nature of our financials.”

What he means is that the way the Collective Bargaining Agreement works, the layout of the higher-taxed teams’ spreadsheet is always going to be top-heavy with a number of max players — for the Nets three — taking up most of the space with maybe a couple more in the mid to high range. So GMs like Marks have to fill out the back end of the rotation and the rest of the bench with rookie deals, vets minimums, the occasional taxpayer MLE, even two-ways.

A number of names have been knocked around by fans and pundits, the two most prominent being Isaiah Hartenstein of the Clippers, in a free agent signing, and Josh Richardson of the Spurs, in a trade. From what we can tell, it’s just speculation but there were reports last summer that the seven-foot Hartenstein and Brooklyn had mutual interest right up to the Paul Millsap signing. As for Richardson, he declined to disclose his vaccination status last fall. Would that affect the Nets decision-making on him or another player?

Still, whether the names are Hartenstein and Richardson or something similar, it’s an indication of just how aggressive the Nets are expected to be.

Also from what we can tell, Marks is very serious and motivated about what he said re; getting back to a grittier culture. He is, in internal discussions, just as enthusiastic and energetic as he was on the podium Wednesday, we are told. The question is can he do it?

A big question to be answered in this regard is: has the Nets’ lure, as a championship contender in the big city, been tarnished by all the tumult of the past season? Charles Barkley for one thinks it has.

“The problem they got going forward three guys are going to be making $50 million. How are they going to find those other pieces is the question,” said Barkley after the Nets got swept. “That’s going to be the question going forward. Who’s going to want to play on that team?

And what is the downside to all this change in personnel? Another wholesale change would present some of the same issues that the team, particularly Nash, faced last season, starting with continuity or more precisely, lack of same. The Nets roster at the beginning of the season had 10 new faces and with the trade deadline blockbuster it got even more volatile. By season’s end, 24 players had donned the black-and-white. The teams still surviving in the playoffs all seem to have more continuity than the Nets and will have.

There may be wholesale changes as well on the Nets coaching staff as we tweeted on Friday. That’s the word. Other than Stoudemire, who was officially a player development assistant, the Nets had eight assistants last season led by Jacque Vaughn, two consultants in Steve Clifford and Kyle Korver as well as the director of coaching analytics who also shares the bench, iPad in hand.

Marc Stein reported much the same on Saturday...

Steve Nash sat beside Sean Marks on Wednesday at the Nets’ eagerly anticipated season-ending media availability, providing an image to reinforce what we reported here on April 25: Nash is strongly expected to return for a third season as Brooklyn’s coach rather than being made the fall guy for the Nets’ humbling first-round sweep against Boston. Changes to Nash’s staff, however, are said to be looming. Nash’s former Suns teammate Amar’e Stoudemire has already announced that he has left the staff after unexpectedly giving coaching a try and there have been further strong rumbles this week that assistant coach David Vanterpool is unlikely to return.

Getting out of town

Ben Simmons is pulling up stakes in Philadelphia, selling his suburban mansion in Moorestown, NJ, for $4.55 million and offering a Center City apartment for $3 million, ESPN reports.

The South Jersey property was bought by Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos.

The house, a 10,500 square-foot mansion with six bedrooms and 6.5 bathrooms on a 1.78 acre lot, is approximately 40 minutes from Philadelphia. The house had been on the market for six months before the sale, ESPN reports.

It is, as Sportico tweeted, “lavish.”

Simmons official residence now seems to be in L.A. where a year ago, he bought a $17.5 million home in the gated community of Hidden Hills, where his neighbors include Paul George, Tyson Chandler and Dywane Wade. Real estate seems to be a big part of Simmons portfolio.

Simmons had been seen in New York before the surgery, walking on the streets with fiancee’ Maya Jama and their dog as this Maya Jama Brazilian fan site noted...

(It’s amazing the sites you have to follow in this job.)

Marks told the media Wednesday that he hopes to see Simmons at HSS once he makes the move from recovery to rehab, saying he not only wants Simmons to spend time with his teammates, but “smelling the gym” as well.

Craig Randall moving on?

On Friday, the New York Post posted a video of Craig Randall’s rise. Randall tells the well-known tale of how he put down $200 to get a tryout with the Long Island Nets, was able to make the team, then help the G League affiliate make the playoffs. He finished as the league’s second highest scorer and leader in 3-pointers...

Around the same time, Adam Zagoria tweeted out the names of free agents who worked out for the Knicks this week. Randall and a couple of other familiar names were on it...

The Nets rights to Randall extend only to the G League, not the NBA. So, he is an unrestricted free agent in NBA terms.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

You may recall that Sean Marks noted at Wednesday’s press conference that he had just come from a draft workout. He didn’t mention the names of the prospects, but our Chris Milhollen did some snooping on social media and found at least one of those who showed off his wares to Marks and Nash at HSS Training Center...

Hudgins, a native of Manhattan (Kansas), is a 6’0” junior shooting guard from Northwest Missouri State. He was the Division II Player of the Year this season, averaging 19.8 points on shooting splits of 58/51/90. So he’s a shooter. He also can facilitate, putting up 4.6 assists a game this year. He’s not on any of the big mock drafts but again, the Nets will need to fill out summer league, training camp and Long Island rosters.

Here’s some highlights from this year...

The lefty has range and knows how to use the backboard. For those reading carefully, yes, this is the second Trevor we have spotlighted in Draft Sleeper of the Week. Last we it was Trevor Keels of Duke.

Also, listen or watch for trade rumors starting up over the next few days. Teams gather in Chicago at the beginning of the week for the NBA Draft Combine which begins Wednesday and lasts through Sunday. As Woj noted recently, it’s a big confab where every team sends its top people and people can talk in person.

FYI, the NBA Draft Lottery is Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN. We have no dog in this fight.

Diamond Anniversary good deed

Over in Red Hook, as part of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary celebration, the Nets this week unveiled their Legacy Project to mark the league’s anniversary with the re-opening of the renovated Joseph Miccio Community Center Fitness Room in the Brooklyn neighborhood on New York Harbor.

Here’s a look...

The Nets supplied new equipment such as treadmills, bikes, weights, and benches, and coolest of all, new murals designed by the Nets creative team, complete with Nets logos and type font. The fitness room was damaged during Hurricane Ida in September 2021 and was unusable until the renovation.

“To commemorate the NBA’s 75th Anniversary, teams from around the league have been working hard to renovate spaces in their communities,” said Mandy Gutmann, the Nets Executive Vice President of Community Relations and Communications. “Particularly, we’re focused on spaces where youth live, learn, and play and this is a space where youth definitely learn and play, so very fitting, which is why we identified this space as our 75th Anniversary Legacy Project.”

The renovation fits neatly into two Nets initiatives: 1) helping the Brooklyn community, particularly the young as Guttman noted; and 2) marketing the team to those same youngsters. The Nets stated marketing strategy is to win over New Yorkers between 8 and 12 in order to establish team loyalty early. It all works.

Later in the week, Gutmann was asked at a Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting how much the Nets had spent on the renovation. She declined to detail the price tag. Guttman was not asked if the equipment had originally been used at the HSS Training Center.

Guttman also told neighborhood residents at the meeting that the entrance plaza outside the arena will be closed for most of the summer as the Nets undertake a renovation of the plaza, replacing paver stones and updating the lighting. The Barclays Center subway entrance will remain accessible during the renovation.

Final Note

As for what happened in Philadelphia Thursday night, we offer this tweet...

Just the facts.