Tough week for Nets fans. The KyrieCrisis is fast replacing the MeloDrama and the Dwightmare in the history of the franchise. The airwaves have been filled with news and punditry about the franchise’s imminent collapse and each day brings more news, most of it bad. The Nets did not move up into the Draft although at least one of the four undrafted players they signed, point guard Alondes Williams (A-Will?), could easily have been a late second round pick. They retained all their future picks and for the first time in Sean Marks career as GM did not make a trade within 48 hours of the Draft.
So, this week as we await news, we’ll try to look at things from 30,000 feet, both good and day...
Joe Tsai’s quandary
For Joe Tsai, the Warriors have always been the model. The first Nets game he attended after buying a minority stake in the Nets three years ago was Brooklyn vs. Golden State in San Francisco.
And why not? They’ve been to the NBA Finals six times in the last eight years, winning four of them and they generate more revenue on a per game basis than any other team. As Brian Lewis reports Saturday, Golden State averages $4,175,356 per game at the gate, according to internal league figures obtained by The Post, followed by the Lakers at $3 million and the Knicks at $2.9 million. The Nets rank fourth at $2,145,182.
The Warriors also lead the league in two other categories. This year, they generated an estimated $589 million, 40 percent better the Nets estimate of $343 million. Joe Tsai has told Sportico in recent weeks that he wants to get to $500 million annually within three years and $1 billion over seven. But as Forbes has argued that doesn’t happen without winning ... and yes, stars. Lots of winning, lots of stars. Now, of course, that appears to be in jeopardy. The second category is luxury tax payments. Joe Lacob and his partners in San Francisco will pay out $170 million in luxury taxes this year, almost twice the $98 million Tsai will pay (which would be the second highest ever.)
“We wouldn’t have spent that kind of money on the roster if we didn’t think we had a chance to win,” Warriors governor Joe Lacob said after their NBA Finals after their fourth Larry O’Brien Trophy. “When you do think you have a chance to go far and compete for a championship, our belief is to do everything we can, to use every last dollar. A lot of teams can’t do that, or won’t do that, I guess.”
One has to spend money to make money, but unlike the Warriors, the Nets have neither made money nor made the Finals. In the three years since the Clean Sweep — the anniversary is next week — the Nets have won exactly one post-game series. Part of that has to do with injuries to key players but it also has a lot to do with Irving’s lack of availability. Meanwhile, the losses for the Nets and Barclays Center have mounted.
Depending on which spreadsheet you read — or have access to — the two main components of BSE Global, Tsai’s holding company, have lost between $50 and $100 million annually. (Tsai told NetsDaily that the team would’ve been profitable without the luxury tax payments which he sees as an investment. Doing the math, that would mean the Nets lost by an amount equal to the luxury tax or roughly $100 million.)
Can Tsai afford to lose Irving ... and worse case scenario, Durant ... no matter what they get back in return? Not likely in the short run. The loss of good will — the hope engendered by the Clean Sweep — will likely turn off all but the most loyal fans. Good will matters.
Of course, it could all be resolved by a compromise in the next 10 days or so. But with Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that talks between the Nets and Irving have turned “acrimonious” that seems less and less likely. And depending on how things work out next season, the Nets return to grace could take some time.
Some will say focusing on the worst-case scenario is foolhardy. Things change, etc. But judging by last season’s experience, with Irving sitting out all but 29 games due to a political position; KD down for six weeks with a strained MCL: James Harden demanding a trade, Ben Simmons physical and mental issues and the ignominious loss to the Celtics, it seems worst case is just around the corner, again. Oh yeah, did we mention COVID? Anything else? Probably. In short, we are exhausted, again; disappointed again, buffeted back-and-forth, again. And for season ticket holders, there’s also the question of our personal spreadsheets.
For Tsai, getting to that half-billion revenue goal is not totally dependent on the Nets. There are a number of elements that could break in his favor over those next three years. The national TV and streaming rights package could triple, expansion could bring a windfall to the other 30 owners maybe as much as $5 billion for each new team. And a new naming rights deal for Barclays Center, a bargain for the British bank at $10 million per year, could add further revenues. Not to mention gambling revenues, now mostly in ad revenues from sports book.
As Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report notes, Tsai in recent interviews has spoken about other opportunities related to Barclays Center specifically sponsorship. “Tsai sees revenue coming from “upstart players: (hm, WeBull, SeatGeek) in “E-commerce, music and streaming.”
But, again, if the Nets succeed on and off the court, it will require a certain stability in star power on the roster. There is also, in our humble opinion, a need to reconnect to the fans, explain to them what’s going on. If this all goes south, it will take some time and a lot of effort. Tsai’s new CEO, Sam Zussman, as Jabari Young of Forbes notes, “will need to repair the team’s image, fix an arena that’s good for little profit and navigate the Nets out of the joke mill.”
Of course, one should never underestimate Joe Tsai or Sean Marks. They have proven track records. Tsai created a whole new engine for China’s middle class. And Marks did turn the Nets from the worst team in the NBA to a championship contender (at least on paper.) Marks will tell people that no one needs to remind him there’s work to be done.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is the biggest crisis the Nets have faced in Tsai and Marks tenure in Brooklyn. It has to work out for everyone or more than good will be lost. So will a dream.
Frank Isola opines
As we have said many times, pay attention to what the Nets broadcasters are saying. They often have inside information as a function of YES Network’s deal with the Nets. So when Frank Isola went on the Dan Patrick Show Friday, we took note. (And not just that. Isola is one of the best basketball minds in New York and well beyond the city limits.)
Here’s an excerpt, talking about Kevin Durant’s podcast with The Etcs released Friday...
“The way he answered those questions and the way he spoke about it leads me to believe that Kevin Durant wants Kyrie there, but ‘don’t necessarily attach my future to what he might do,’” said Isola when Patrick answered him to separate fact from fiction.
“So come on, Joe Tsai the owner and Sean Marks the General Manager, these discussions have to take place with Kevin Durant,” said Isola, the latest writer to suggest that the two haven’t really had a sitdown on Irving yet. (Also, over the weekend, Logan Murdock of The Ringer said KD hasn’t talked to the team in weeks.)
Still, there’s that contract commitment. “In my mind, he’s already committed four years to this organization. I’ve said it before that one of the most underrated stories in the NBA last year was Kevin Durant signed up for four more years. If Kyrie is back, I’m sure Kevin Durant will be happy with that, but if you can get something for Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant’s going to think, ‘Let’s go, game on, let’s play.’
Isola also said that it appears the Nets are “steadfast” in their unwillingness to give him anything other than a “short term contract.”
Moreover, he thinks negotiations could be complicated by the fact that the negotiations are a family affair for Irving.His stepmother, Shetellia Riley Irving, is his agent and if the normal back-and-forth in business becomes personal — a family affair, it becomes more difficult, something that you don’t have with an experienced agent advising a player.
Isola said as well that while Irving thinks he commands the max, his lack of availability hurts his negotiating position.
“The guy just isn’t available enough,” he argued. “Yes, we all know about the grit, the great shot he hit for Cleveland against Golden State. We’re now beyond six years of that happening. And what has he done since then? He thinks of himself as a top 75 player (all-time). That’s all great but you haven’t played enough for the Brooklyn Nets.”
As for Irving’s potential landing spots, Isola said Irving “needs to go to a team where he’s not the best player.”
“He was the best player for a while in Cleveland and they weren’t any good. He was the best player before Jason Tatum emerged in Boston and you know they did better without Kyrie than they did with him,” Isola added. “So I would say the Lakers but I still think the best situation for him is Brooklyn. Remember Joe Harris is going to be coming back. That’s a great shooter. Ben Simmons. I don’t know what to expect out of him but he is talented.”
Isola also laughed off the suggestion that Irving is really interested in joining the 76ers.
“We all know he and James Harden had a big-time falling out,” said Isola. “It’s almost Kyrie’s way of trying to the spin the story. ‘I want to go to Philadelphia. You guys were all saying I didn’t get along with James Harden.’ Come on now, we all know they didn’t get along with James Harden.”
Coaching staff news
Steve Clifford who was a consultant to the Nets last year has decided to join the Hornets as head coach on a three-year deal, one year longer than Kenny Atkinson was supposed to get before he decided not to take the job.
For Clifford, it’s a return to Michael Jordan’s grace and a full-time job again after a year off as Steve Nash’s consultant. Clifford spent most of time with Nash at home, but occasionally flew with the team. He was not a visible as Kyle Korver, who was also a consultant last season, working with shooters.
Clifford, 60, led the Hornets to two playoff appearances in a five-year run that ended in 2018. He moved on to Orlando before being dumped in 2021. The Hornets also strongly considered Mike D’Antoni, who interviewed with Jordan recently, Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
The Nets also lost Jordan Ott, their longest serving assistant, when he decided to take a better job with the Lakers. Ott is known as a particularly hardworking assistant and has many fans among Nets players. The signing is less newsworthy than the loss of Clifford but far, far more important.
Meanwhile, expect to see clarity on the Nets assistant coaches later in the week as well. Contracts in the NBA run July 1 through June 30. A check of the assistants on LinkedIn shows that all who have accounts still list themselves as current employees. That may change on Thursday. So far, only three names have been mentioned as possible replacements for those who didn’t make it — Igor Kokoskov, James Borrego and Adam Caporn. The Nets had the league’s largest contingent of assistant coaches last year with eight, plus player development assistant Amar’e Stoudemire.
Meanwhile, Logan Murdock reports on the Midmatch podcast that Durant is unhappy with the Nets decision to dump Adam Harrington, the assistant coach who’s also been the Nets development director for six years. Harrington and KD go back to Oklahoma City.
Goran Dragic returns to the court ... in Europe.
In the NBA’s never-ending season, now that the Draft is over, attention turns to FIBA Qualifiers around the world. National teams are competing for positions in the World Cup which takes place in Serbia next year.
This weekend, Goran Dragic joined Luka Doncic on the court for Slovenia. In a mismatch with the Italian national team, Dragic had 11 points (3-of-5 overall with four assists) in the game played at the Allianz Dome in Trieste, Italy. The game was what FIBA calls “friendlies,” that is an exhibition game.
No word yet on whether he will return to Nets, but we wouldn’t count on it.
‘The most athletic player in college ball’ is now a Net ... at least for Summer League
Taze (pronounced Tah-zay) Moore signed what appears to be an Exhibit 10 deal with the Nets. A 6’5” shooting guard who played for both Cal State Bakersfield and the University of Houston, has been called “the most athletic player in college ball.” His numbers at the NCAA are respectable. At UH, the soon-to-be 24-year-old averaged 10.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists with shooting splits of 44/32/73. But the prior year, at Cal State Bakersfield, he shot 51 percent from deep.
But the big number for Moore is 50, as in a 50” inch max vertical which if accurate would be historic. Since Moore did not get an invite to the NBA Combine so it’s not official. But it is stunning. Here’s some video highlights...
The still from the video says it all, you would think. But it doesn’t. Moore isn’t just athletic. He’s a medical miracle as Paper City, a Texas website, noted back in April...
Taze Moore’s body is a road map of everything he’s been through. What he likes to call his Million Dollar Leg — the one that took five surgeries and more screws than you’ll find in a Home Depot to be put back together again...
Moore knows what it’s like to be hurting. He went 634 days between basketball games (finally returning in the 2018-19 season after graduating from high school in 2016) after a horrific right leg injury that left with him with two shattered bones.
“Five surgeries,” Moore tells PaperCity. “They did everything. Taking out screws. Putting screws back in. Taking out bones in my hip (to help rebuild the leg).
That 634-day layoff is the big reason why he’s so much older than other prospects. He turns 24 Wednesday. So, if he makes the final roster, he’ll be older than Day’Ron Sharpe, Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards, David Duke Jr., and Nic Claxton.
That long cycle of surgery, rehab, repeat is also evidence of his love of the game, how despite setbacks, he wanted it oh, so bad. This is what he told Paper City’s Chris Baldwin about how far he had come from a tough childhood in Southaven, Mississippi.
“I never even thought I’d leave my town.” he told Paper City. “I just thought I’d work at a factory or something like that. Be the world’s most athletic Amazon worker.”
Moore is only signed for the Summer League, but he could easily wind up with Long Island. More thrills for the Uniondale crowd.
This is a crucial week and next month is a crucial month for a lot of Nets fans. A rebuild or refurbishment or whatever they would call it following the hope of 2019, both during that season and in the off-season, won’t cut it for a lot of us. We don’t want this to be the last time we run a story topped by an image of Kevin Durant practicing in a Nets uniform.