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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 7

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.

The Nets keep working out prospects at HSS Training Center (despite currently having no picks in either round) and there’s only been speculation — no leaks — out of any free agent negotiations that might be going on, which is a good thing. It’s all in house.

So, with things a bit calm, we look at other aspects of NetsWorld while waiting for hell to break loose.

Another Aussie on the horizon?

Xavier Cooks has so many Nets connections, it’s just too easy to project that he’ll be in black-and-white at some point.

First, some background...

At 26 years old, the hyperathletic 6’8” Australian forward — with a 7-foot wingspan — is about to enter the prime of his career. Earlier this month, he was the MVP of the NBL Grand Final, the Aussie league’s equivalent of the NBA Finals. Although he signed a three-year renewal of his deal with the Sydney Kings this week, the contract has an “NBA out,” meaning that if he gets an offer from an NBA team, he can opt out of his new deal and head to the U.S. On signing with Sydney, he noted that he had had “good talks” recently with the Nets and Warriors.

Not a great shooter, he is solid defender — chase down blocks being his specialty — and good at other things, like facilitating. He shouldn’t be seen as a big help, a rotation player, but more of a role player.

After signing, Cooks said he had “good talks” with both the Nets and Warriors and remains hopeful that he may get a call this summer.

“Obviously, I’m very hopeful,” he told the Daily Telegraph in Sydney. “I have an NBA out if that call does come. It’s been a big dream of mine forever. I had a two-way offer that fell through in the end and a lot of good talks with Golden State, Brooklyn and a couple of other teams.”

Cooks did not say where the two-way offer came from. The Nets finished the regular season with an open two-way slot after James Johnson was waived and Kessler Edwards was converted to a standard NBA deal. Cooks thinks that he anticipates he might get a chance after the Draft and Summer League.

“A lot of teams will wait until Draft Night, see who they draft, see what happens in the Summer League,” he told reporters.

Cooks suggested he had Summer League offers but said he’s already twice gone that route with the Warriors and Suns and think he’s proven himself.

So what are the connections, other than the obvious ones in Patty Mills and Ben Simmons, both of whom he knows from Team Australia. He’s a graduate of the Australia Centre of Excellence where he was coached by Adam Caporn, now head coach of the Long Island Nets. His first two years at Sydney, he was coached by Will Weaver who was a Nets assistant and head coach of Long Island in 2019.

Like Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving, he is the son of an American college player who went to Australia to play pro ball, then came to the U.S. to play college ball (Winthrop University.) Like the two of them, he was born in the Melbourne area. Like Daniel Jones, Nets head of strength and conditioning, he grew up in Ballarat, a small city near Melbourne.

Too easy.

Steph watches Seth

Tuesday afternoon, Steph Curry was asked an intriguing question.

“Who outside of yourself, do you watch on YouTube shooting?”

“I go back and watch Ray Allen clips, obviously Reggie, Seth Curry,” Curry shared. “That’s the top of the list. I might throw some old Virginia Tech Dell Curry highlights in without the three-point line.”

It’s not just brotherly love that draws Seth to Steph.

It may be because Seth’s career regular season 3-point percentage of 43.95 percent is higher than Steph’s 42.75. Seth in fact ranks third all-time in career 3-point percentage behind Steve Kerr and Hubert Davis. Joe Harris at 43.90 is fourth. Steph, the career leader in 3-pointers made, is 12th

In the playoffs, the disparity is greater: Seth at 47.46 percent compared to Steph’s 40.00. Seth is fourth, Steph 50th. Joe Harris, at 38.14 percent in the post season, is 109th.

And about pere Curry, Dell? He ranks No. 40 all-time regular season rankings at 40.19 percent, and No. 228 in the post-season at 35.04 percent.

And no, we are not saying Seth is a better shooter than Steph. Everyone knows the difference, but Seth Curry and Joe Harris (assuming both are back) could form a deadly twosome making threes.

New Boss at Barclays

Sam Zussman, a veteran sports and entertainment executive, was named Friday the new CEO of BSE Global, the parent company of the Brooklyn Nets, Long Island Nets, Nets Gaming Crew and Barclays Center. The Liberty, under CEO Keia Clarke, reports directly to Joe and Clara Wu Tsai.

Sussman is an Israeli with two degrees for Tel Aviv University and an MBA from Stanford. That means the top echelon on the company is foreign born. Joe Tsai is a native of Taiwan and a citizen of both Canada, where he lived as a boy, and Hong Kong, where he lives now (when he’s not in San Diego or New York.) Sean Marks, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was born in New Zealand. Steve Nash, of course, is Canadian who was born in South Africa.

But a fan asks, what about Black men (and women) in the executive ranks? Of the top 10 executives including Zussman — CEO and executive vice presidents — four are Black, three men and one woman. Dropping down another five through senior veep, you get to five Blacks out of 15 executives. Both the Liberty’s Clarke and Alton Byrd, the senior vice president in charge of Long Island and the NetsGC, are Black.

On the basketball side, Sean Marks’ No. 2, assistant GM Jeff Peterson, is Black as are several other key players but unlike the business side, basketball operations doesn’t publish a directory, hasn’t since Marks became GM in 2016. As for the coaching staff, we will have to wait a while to see how that plays out. It’s in flux, as they say.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

On Thursday, the Nets worked out Kofi Cockburn, a 7’1” center out of Illinois, at HSS Training Center. The Jamaican-born big who grew up in Queens is projected as just out of the second round by ESPN. In our analysis of who’s been in for workouts, Cockburn is unique. In the 40 or so prospects we’ve tracked, he is the only legitimate 5 who’s been in. The majority of those who’ve worked out have been shooters.

Cockburn is a big man as well as a big man. He has a 7’4” wingspan and weighs in at 285 pounds. He is a traditional back-to-the-basket big man. Cockburn averaged a double-double for the Illini: 20.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. A two-time consensus first team All-American, he was the only player in college basketball to average over 20 and 10. He sees himself as a physically dominant center.

“The NBA values players like Steven Adams and Jonas Valanciunas — guys who set great screens, who know the pick and roll game, how to slip and seal, how to be a physical defender and rebounder who blocks shots,” he told ESPN when he decided to declare for the Draft. “My size can be a major advantage in the NBA. I don’t need the ball to be happy.”

He is moving up in the ESPN rankings. At the time he decided to come out, he was ranked 89th in the ESPN Big Board, He’s now at 67. He has one interesting Nets connection. He and Cam Thomas played together at Oak Hill Academy (as did Cole Anthony.)

Here’s some highlights...

Blake Griffin has some fun ... at Steve Nash’s expense?

In a back-and-forth with Bruce Brown on Brown’s IG Story late this week, Blake Griffin was asked about his workout regimen. Griffin, who barely played near the end of the season then had a productive cameo in Game 3 of the Nets first round sweep, took advantage of the opportunity...

A slap at Steve Nash? Sure looks like it. Earlier in the off-season, Griffin liked a fan’s suggestion on Twitter that he return to the Clippers, the team that drafted him.

KD’s arena taking shape

As we reported last November, Baltimore’s downtown arena is undergoing a $150 million renovation. Thirty-Five Ventures, Kevin Durant’s holding company, and facility operator Oak View Group are partnering on the project. Durant is a native of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The arena, known as the Baltimore Civic Center when opened 60 years ago, was the home of the Baltimore Bullets — now the Washington Wizards — for 10 years between 1963 and 1973, a time when the Bullets featured Hall of Famers Earl Monroe, Wesley Unseld and Elvin Hayes.

Now, there are some neat architect’s renderings of the final product...

Looks like a swell place for a NBA preseason game! It can seat up to 14,000 fans and should be ready to receive guests in January.

...and Ben Simmons Ferrari, too

Simmons has long had one of the NBA’s biggest and best car collections, as AutoEvolution reports.

NBA star Ben Simmons is no stranger to expensive supercars. Over the years, his garage hosted a Rolls-Royce Cullinan and a Wraith, but this wouldn’t be the first time he’ll be adding a Prancing Horse to his collection. The NBA star had a Ferrari 488 Pista and also a 488 Spider. And he owned a model from the Maranello’s brand competition, a Lamborghini Urus, as well.

AutoEvolution suggests the first picture, showing Simmons at a design console, is from the Tailor Made department in Maranello, home of Ferrari, in northern Italy. It’s undated. Simmons and his fiancée were at Barclays Center Tuesday.

Later, Simmons confirmed that he’s working on an 812 Ferrari. As Maya Jama joked in her IG Story, “He’s in heaven right now,”

‘We are BG’

Brittney Greiner is arguably the WNBA’s best player, having won a WNBA championship with the Phoenix Mercury and an Olympic gold in Tokyo last summer. But the 6’9” center isn’t playing this summer. Instead, she’s been stuck in a Russian jail since February 17 on a drug charge. She was reportedly found with a vaping pen containing hash oil in her luggage while boarding a flight home. The U.S. State Department recently declared her “wrongfully detained.”

Initially, the WNBA and its supporters took a low-key approach as the U.S. tried diplomatic efforts to get her freed. Indeed, Bill Richardson, the former U.S. Ambassador the the U.N. with a long list of successes in such situations, said he is “optimistic” about Griner’s return adding that he hoped it will “happen soon”.

As the New York Times reported on May 28, that changed recently.

The delay in starting the campaign was strategic: Griner’s camp was worried that publicity could make the situation worse because of tensions between Russia and the United States, including the war in Ukraine. But the delay has also been a source of frustration for women’s basketball players known for their social justice advocacy. Their approach has changed since the State Department said on May 3 that it had determined that Griner had been “wrongfully detained.”

The efforts have since gone viral on social media, on WNBA courts and in various gears all of it tagged, #WeAreBG. Among those NBA players who have taken up Griner’s cause are the Nets Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, both of whom have a strong record of supporting women’s sports in general and the WNBA in particular...

Of course, the Liberty is doing its share too...

While Richardson has expressed optimism, there are impediments that are unique, starting with the war in Ukraine where the U.S. is helping Ukrainian forces battle a brutal Russian invasion. Also, there have been reports in the Russian media that Russia will only accept a trade involving Viktor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer who was jailed in 2008 after a decade long hunt by various federal agents. The U.S. would be hard-pressed to go along with that kind of trade. The Russian position could also be just a negotiating gambit.

There is some positive news. Griner has been able to receive emails and letters from WNBA players during her detainment in Russia.

Prokhorov’s passport?

Back in March, around a month after Russia invaded Ukraine, there were reports that Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian oligarch who owned the Nets between 2010 and 2019, had flown from Switzerland to Israel hoping to obtain an Israeli passport. Prokhorov’s grandmother was Jewish permitting him to apply for a second passport in addition to his Russian one.

Prokhorov’s spokesperson denied that the purpose of the trip was political despite reports in the Israeli press. Then, this week, this showed up on a European news site...

Prokhorov remains unsanctioned and his yacht, the Palladium, remains docked in Barcelona. Prokhorov ran for President of Russia in 2012 against Vladimir Putin, tallying 8.8 percent nationwide but 25 percent in Moscow. His attempt to set up a political party after the loss was slapped down by the Kremlin as was his plan to run for mayor of Moscow.

Final Note

HanSanity? Han Xu, the Liberty’s 6’10” center and the tallest player in the WNBA, is getting a lot of attention back in China. And the Nets Chinese language site on Weibo (which has the same number of viewers as the Nets English language site on Instagram) is using the NBA off-season to promote Han back home as she develops at Barclays Center. She had 15 points and five rebounds off the bench on Wednesday and is now averaging 10 five for the Liberty.

She’s not just getting attention back home. She’s become a fan favorite in Brooklyn, just as Jeremy Lin did a decade ago in another borough. Here’s some pics of her with some young fans Wednesday night.

In an interview with China Daily, a mainland paper owned by the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party, Han spoke of how her development has been aided by increasingly familiarity with the WNBA and New York.

“I think it’s because I’ve got used to everything in the league better and quicker this time,” said the 22-year-old, who was selected by the Liberty 14th overall in the 2019 draft.

“A lot of the credit goes to my coach and teammates, who helped me a lot on and off the court to get familiar with the training schemes, our plays and life around the league.

“Ultimately, I now feel more comfortable playing and living here.”