Summer League is over and Sean Marks is on vacation. So there you have it. Two and a half weeks after Kevin Durant asked for a trade and Kyrie Irving announced he had opted in, they are still Nets, still under contract for four years and one year, respectively. The trade rumors seem less newsy and everyone seems to believe that ownership and management want to at least play it out, if not run it back. Of course, things can change, but that seems unlikely in the short run. So for however long the Marks family is enjoying their summer holiday, don’t expect that much. (Of course, it should be noted that assistant GM Jeff Peterson also carries a phone.)
There was a flurry of controversy on Friday when Kristian Winfield of the Daily News reported that Marks had been extended. The Nets denied it within minutes, in some cases before reporters could even ask for comment.
Is it possible that the report was merely premature? That might make some sense. Mikhail Prokhorov signed Marks to his first deal, reportedly for four years in 2016, then extended him three years into the deal. It’s been three years since then and so it would make sense that talks have started up again under Joe Tsai. Tsai elevated Marks to NBA “alternate governor” status in 2021, making him one of the league’s few GMs with that title.
Marks has taken some heavy criticism along with Tsai this summer on both the KD/Kyrie front, first for playing hardball with Irving, then letting KD’s unhappiness get to the point where he asked for a trade. More than one pundit called it the worst organizational failure in NBA history.
Some fans have joined that chorus, understandably so. The Nets after all may wind up losing three Hall of Famers — Durant, Irving and James Harden — in a matter of months with the return still uncertain.
However, other fans, weary of Irving’s historic lack of commitment, cheered on Marks and Tsai, and noted their appreciation for what Marks has done over the long-term, taking on a near-impossible rebuild six years ago and getting the Nets to within a couple of inches of the Eastern Conference Finals — and maybe more.
Zach Lowe earlier this week offered a bit of a defense pf Marks and his team, suggesting fortune played a role in what happened with the Nets (as it does in any success or failure), that the idea of superteams may not be dead.
Harden was 31 — still in his prime — when the Nets gambled their future to team him with Durant and Kyrie Irving. Harden stormed back into the MVP conversation in Brooklyn. The Nets’ superteam looks like a historic failure now — and objectively it was — but it’s also possible two ill-timed injuries (one to Harden, one to Irving) in the 2021 playoffs and one black swan event (the pandemic, combined with a local vaccination mandate that prohibited Irving from playing home games) undid a well-constructed juggernaut. The Nets understood the stormy personalities involved — and thus the risks — but I’m not sure the results are some ironclad indictment of their thinking in putting the team together.
Depending on the ultimate outcome, the Nets’ desire to abandon their young players and a treasure of draft picks for a superteam will be studied by GMs and owners for years. That, of course, is academic and doesn’t do much for the fanbase who’s been battered and beaten by recent events. And as Brian Lewis reported on Saturday in a little noticed item, the uncertainty may also be hurting the team’s ability to recruit.
[I]t’s fair to question whether the chaos caused by the Durant and Irving situations have hurt recruiting.
Two separate agents that represent playoff-tested veterans that had been in contact with Brooklyn said their clients had wanted to see what the roster was going to look like, and ended up taking offers elsewhere.
Not to mention Goran Dragic’s commentary in Slovenia about how “difficult” it was playing in Brooklyn and how some on the team were more into individual stats instead of that team.
Indeed, the Nets have not used their main recruitment asset — the $6.5 million taxpayers MLE which can be used sign players for up to three years — and are unlikely to, considering how much the market for players worth the TMLE has dwindled since free agency began. Perhaps they have someone in mind or perhaps they just want the added flexibility but at this point, it seems a wasted asset. The TMLE can be broken up, meaning players who might command more than the vets minimum can be signed to a deal for $3 million or $4 million. It can also be used at any point in the season, but after January 10, its value drops every day.
Meanwhile, the team’s two biggest free agency acquisitions — former Pacers T.J. Warren and Edmond Sumner — will be arriving in Brooklyn not having played in a year. Sumner, we learned this week, is only partially guaranteed. He got a $250,000 guarantee on signing, will get another $500,000 if he makes the roster in October. He, like all players on non-guaranteed and partially guaranteed deals, will become fully guaranteed on January 10.
As of Sunday, the Nets have 12 players on fully guaranteed deals, Sumner on his partially guaranteed contract and Alondes Williams on a two-way. That leaves a few spots open. It appears David Duke Jr. will join Williams as a two-way after his solid performance — 19 points, five rebounds and four assists a game — in Summer League. The Nets can bring 20 players into camp and if the Nets do trade Durant or Irving, there will no doubt be more players arriving than departing. So keeping those spots open for that eventuality gives the Nets flexibility.
It should also be noted that they did bring back three of their own free agents — Nic Claxton at $20 million over two years ($17.25 million plus $2.6 million in unlikely incentives), Patty Mills at $14.5 million, also over two (and also with $1.2 million in incentives), and Kessler Edwards who has a two-year vets minimum deal (with second year a team option.) They also brought in a solid 3-and-D type in Royce O’Neale (whose second year is only partially guaranteed.) Those moves all got lost — rightfully so — amidst the superstar controversies. And as positive as those moves are, they aren’t moving the needle unless one or both superstars return ... and Ben Simmons is healthy.
Speaking of Simmons, he made his first public comments since the season ended in a short video posted by the Nets, perhaps to let everyone know the Nets do have a 25-year-old, three-time All-Star, two-time first team All-Defense and one-time All-NBA player in the fold.
Nothing but love from the squad— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) July 13, 2022
Good to see the vets out in Vegas. pic.twitter.com/orUm28Jq9Z
Simmons talked about how he was “locking in” in the gym, the first real indication he’s back on the court. He added he was “blocking out all the noise” and “excited to see everyone here working.”
In another possible example of Simmons expanding role, O’Neale told Chris Carrino this week that Simmons was the first Nets player to reach out to him after he was traded. The two also sat together at Summer League. In listing others who given him encouragement, O’Neale did not mention Durant or Irving.
So, we wait and hope Sean Marks can pull off another miracle in Brooklyn either by convincing KD and maybe Kyrie that “it’s not that bad here,” as Joe Johnson famously said and/or get back a king’s ransom in assets for one or both of them. It will not be easy.
Was Kyrie expected for Drew League?
The final slate of Summer League games wasn’t the big hoops news Saturday. It was LeBron James showing up for the Drew League ... and Kyrie Irving not showing up. Confusion reigned. Irving’s appearance at the L.A.-based pro-am was advertised and fans showed up early...
The scene inside @DrewLeague. Kyrie Irving was scheduled to play at 11 am PT. But Drew League commissioner Dino Smiley told me there’s no update on when he’ll arrive. pic.twitter.com/vFUGFPYyi4— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) July 16, 2022
As the day wore on, still no Kyrie, but LeBron made up for it when he showed up and put on a show for the fans in the California equivalent of Rucker Park Tournament in Harlem. The game was not televised but a live feed from a fan’s phone at one point had 100,000 concurrent viewers!
100,000 concurrent viewers watching a game from a handheld device that Kyrie did not play in (yet) pic.twitter.com/1kTuekkO8G— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) July 16, 2022
Drew League Commissioner Dino Smiley said he had expected Irving and suggested that maybe he would show up for later games in the league.
Drew League commissioner Dino Smiley to ESPN when asked about Kyrie Irving: “We still have a couple games left today and then six tomorrow. So, (we’ll see). But that sounded like it was going to be a sure bet but I don’t know what happened.”— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) July 17, 2022
Drew League Commissioner Dino Smiley on Kyrie Irving's no-show today: "I don’t know. They were pretty sure he was coming. But you know how Kyrie is. I guess he changed his mind in the middle of it." Dino said there is a possibility that Kyrie plays in a game on Sunday.— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) July 17, 2022
So where was Irving? He was in L.A., helping out his buddy and Lakers assistant Phil Handy at his camp.
Everyone wanted to know why Kyrie Irving wasn’t at the Drew League with LeBron James and DeMar DeRozan.— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) July 16, 2022
Here he is a few hours ago helping Lakers coach Phil Handy with his camp
(via @karismajeanofficial/IG) pic.twitter.com/JbMi0HSXSP
One person at the camp told Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson that Irving was specifically working with young girls at Handy’s camp.
“He was at our girls camp being so hands on and teaching them it was amazing. I haven’t seen many interact at that level,” Robinson tweeted.
LeBron wound up with 42 points and 16 boards and was joined by the Bulls DeMar DeRozan. So fans got more than they expected.
Whether Irving made a commitment or not is hardly a big deal. There are always rumors at events like the Drew or Rucker Park that this megastar or that will show up. But as more than one pundit noted, Dino Smiley now knows how Sean Marks feels. (We see you, Nick Friedell.)
For those who keep track of these things and for fans who might want to rock a Royce O’Neal, T.J. Warren or Edmond Sumner jersey come October, here are their new uniform numbers as revealed this week.
- O’Neale will wear No. 00, last worn by Rodions Kurucs;
- Warren will wear No. 1, last worn by Bruce Brown; and
- Sumner will wear No. 4, last worn by replacement player Shaq Harrison (and before that, Jay-Z when he opened Barclays Center 10 years ago.)
Netaverse creator leaving BSE Global
Travis Sampson, who has been vice president of technology for BSE Global, has left the company for a new job in Los Angeles. He is taking on a more expanded role as senior vice-president and chief technology officer of Sofi Stadium and Hollywood Park.
While in Brooklyn, Sampson led technology across all BSE Global properties and teams, including BSE Global’s corporate offices and the HSS Training Facility in Industry City, Barclays Center, Brooklyn Nets, New York Liberty and their NBA G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets, and the Nets’ NBA 2K League team, NetsGC.
He also was the key executive behind the Netaverse, the video system that used over 100 high resolution cameras surrounding the Barclays Center court to feed Canon’s 3-D video system that in turn generates life-like 3-D renderings in a matter of seconds. The technology was used sparingly by YES Network this season, but the Nets plan on expanded use in the future and even trademarked it.
Sofi Stadium is generally seen as the most technologically advanced venue in pro sports. Sampson had been with the Nets and Barclays Center for since the arena opened in 2012.
In front of their largest home crowd of the season Thursday morning, nearly 10,000 strong, the New York Liberty got scrambled by the Las Vegas Aces, 108-74. In truth, it wasn’t that close.
So post-game, our Brian Fleurantin asked Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello who has a WNBA ring as head coach of the Phoenix Mercury, whether she saw any positives. Brondello, in her Australian accent, called it straight.
Sandy Brondello was asked what positives they could glean from today's game, and she was quiet for a moment, before giving a wry smile: "Zero. Minus. That was an absolute shit game, and I had to sit through it unfortunately." (Q: @busyxb) #OwnTheCrown #WNBA— Myles (@MylesEhrlich) July 14, 2022
Truth in coaching.
Meanwhile, Aces head coach Becky Hammon, the former Spurs assistant, said she had a hard time turning down Joe and Clara Tsai who interviewed her for the Liberty job when it opened up over the winter.
“It was either going to be Vegas or New York,” the Aces coach said while in New York. “I felt it was time for me to leave and to grow and have a different challenge. It was one or the other.”
Hammon eventually signed with Las Vegas on a $1 million a year contract, the first seven-figure deal in the WNBA.