The sun has broken through the clouds and all is right in NetsWorld ... or something like that.
After seven weeks of uncertainty and worse, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are officially back in the Nets fold and according to reports, both are excited about the Nets possibilities.
Call it the Treaty of Los Angeles, if you will. After a meeting Monday in the City of Angels, the Nets and Kevin Durant agreed “to move forward with our partnership,” adding, “We are focusing on basketball, with one collective goal in mind: build a lasting franchise to bring a championship to Brooklyn.”
Perhaps the key phrase in that 48-word announcement didn’t get as much notice as it is deserves: “build a lasting championship.” What that means is that KD is committed over the long term, four years and $198 million. No options. No trade kicker. As a senior Nets source explained to Brian Lewis shortly after Tuesday’s announcement, “We want to build a lasting franchise, so this is not just about this year,”
It was not quite as exciting as the “Clean Sweep” announcement of June 30, 2019, but a huge relief nonetheless.
No more speculation about which of the 15 or so NBA teams have the best offer for the best player in the world. No more transcribing Brian Windhorst or Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN nor Shams Charania on the Pat McAfee Show. No more refreshing the trade machine or learning, once again, that the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement has as many nooks and crannies as a Thomas’ English Muffin. (If you knew about the designated rookie extension’s restriction before July 1, raise your hand ... Liar!). No more co-pays on therapy sessions!
Now, we can focus on training camp ... and what moves Sean Marks might make between now and then, what assets he might want to move, etc. etc., the normal things we all do every off-season in anticipation of Opening Night which in case you’ve forgotten is October 19 in Brooklyn vs. the Pelicans.
Word that David Duke Jr. will sign his second two-way deal at some point soon will no doubt be followed by other news on who will fill the final roster spots. Will Markieff Morris get one of those two standard deals left as Chris Milholen reported this week (from Portugal!)? Will there be a trade for a big man? Will the Nets go into camp with the luxury of having the NBA’s two best 3-point shooters by percentage or will Seth Curry or Joe Harris get moved?
Then, there are the questions we’ve thought about since KD’s trade request on June 30? Will Ben Simmons really play a lot of minutes at the 5? Will T.J. Warren return to his pre-injury form (same with Edmond Sumner) and is Royce O’Neale as good a defender as cracked up to be or has he dropped off, as Kevin Pelton of ESPN and Shannon Sharpe have suggested? Which of the Nets sophomores will have the biggest breakout? How about their only rookie, Alondes Williams, the Wake Forest point guard who the Nets signed as a two-way after the Draft?
Then the big question, will everyone get along despite what has transpired? Every Steve Nash move will be scrutinized. A simple frown from KD or a smirk from Kyrie will be analyzed to death. If the Nets get off to a slow start, will we be hearing trade rumors or reports that Nash is on the proverbial hot seat? (For the record, the Nets have the fewest home games in their first 20 games — eight — among Eastern Conference teams as well as the lowest number of rest dates.)
There are also things we do not (yet) know about the meeting in L.A. and subsequent agreement. Were there concessions by either side? Will there be new negotiations between the Nets and Irving on an extension? Is there a list of players KD would like to see the Nets sign or trade for? Just how will things work on major decisions going forward. In the past? Durant, Irving, James Harden and Joe Harris were consulted on every major and even some minor moves.
All that said, things are a lot better than they were the last time we posted an Off-Season Report when we were confined to reading tea leaves. So we carry on.
We don’t know what the final roster will look like, but it appears that it will have one big difference from last years: more continuity. At the beginning of last season, the Nets 17-man roster — 15 standard deals and two two-ways — contained 10 new faces. The year before, the number was seven. This year, as of Saturday, there are only four: Royce O’Neale, T.J. Warren, Edmond Sumner and Alondes Williams, five if you want to count Ben Simmons. Simmons may not have played for the Nets last season, but at least he was around the team and organization from February on.
Nash who had to deal with a LOT of issues last year, made mention of the lack of continuity multiple times last season. And in the NBA, continuity matters. Ask the Warriors or Celtics fans. Ask the Lakers fans. Ask the Nets fans!
With all the changes, all the injuries, all the COVID-related issues — from Kyrie Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated to the loss of players to health and safety protocols, etc., there was little cushion for Nash to rely on. The Nets led the league in the number of different starting lineups (43) and players lost to health and safety protocols (10) during the regular season. They had 24 different players wear the Nets uniform, not quite what what it was in 2020-21 (28) but close enough. The Nets were 14th in games lost to injury but that didn’t count Irving’s missed games. The team’s most historically durable player, Joe Harris, missed 58 games after missing a total of 16 in the previous four seasons.
As Jacque Vaughn said near the end of the season:
“There are some units out there that haven’t really played together, and so that’s a part of this process,” said Vaughn, the Nets’ acting head coach when Nash himself was in COVID protocols. “We’ll get together and continue to put units together. We’ve got to figure this thing out quickly.”
They never did figure it out.
Integrating players — meshing their skill sets, work habits and personalities — takes time ... and takes years off coaches’ lives. Of course, when you have a roster heavy with max deals as the Nets do, you have to rely on players at the beginning (rookie scale) or end of their careers (vets minimum) to fill out the roster. Still, last year was an aberration the Nets apparently want to avoid this time around.
Meanwhile, the Nets two remaining free agents from last season — Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge — remain unsigned. They along with Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard are the “most decorated” — as Marc Stein put it — in the free agent pool. Stein thinks that those players will likely need to be patient. At this point, there are only 15 open standard deals available across the league.
It would appear that some (if not all) of the former All-Stars might have to wait until the season starts for a roster opening not currently available to materialize.
Mike Scotto reported this week that the Nets are not currently interested in either Melo or Howard, but suggested that Tristan Thompson might have some lure for Brooklyn. Thompson, now 31, would be reuniting with Irving and Harris, both members of the 2016 Cavs roster, if that came to be.
Who’s been seen working out at HSS recently? Ben Simmons, Joe Harris, Patty Mills, Nic Claxton, TJ Warren, Edmond Sumner, Royce O’Neale, Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe, Kessler Edwards, David Duke Jr., Alondes Williams.
Here’s some social media from the Nets accounts this week showing them sweating it out or supporting each other, the franchise, the Brooklyn community or their Tsai Sisters on the Liberty...
Like we said, continuity matters.
Party on, Nic
As we noted two weeks back, Nic Claxton held a party at an undisclosed location to celebrate his new two-year, $20 million ($17.5 million guaranteed) contract. It seemed like a pretty fun affair according to his Instagram account.
The young guy at the party who bears a striking resemblance to Claxton is his brother Chase, a 6’7” forward on the Winthrop University Eagles.
Joe Tsai, Steve Nash and Nets players have been dropping some dimes on start-ups of late.
Fast Break Labs, developer of a basketball simulation game called the Virtual Basketball League, has raised a $6 million seed funding round. Tsai and Sacramento Kings co-owner Aneel Ranadive, son of Kings governor Vivek Ranadive —also invested in the round, per Sports Techie.
CTRL Media, founded by Nash, produces “transformative sports content,” including Rex Chapman’s podcast. It’s producing a reality show on the East Asia Super League, the startup basketball league featuring competition between clubs from across mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, per Yahoo! Finance. (Tsai and Nash are partners in Tsai’s Las Vegas Desert Dogs lacrosse franchise.)
Uplift Labs, an Artificial intelligence (AI) motion capture startup firm that wants to develop mobile phone-based performance analytics platform, has attracted the interest and investment of Seth Curry and his wife, Callie Rivers Curry, per SportsPro Media
Meanwhile, Andrew Petcash, who follows investments by pro athletes, selected Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in his top 10 of NBA investors, Irving at No. 10...
And Kevin Durant at No. 1 and nearly a billionaire, beating out LeBron James...
Re Irving’s “signature brand” sneaker deal with Nike, a big piece of his endorsement income, there were reports in May that Nike is unwilling to extend Irving’s deal beyond the end of the 2022-23 season. We’ve not seen anything on the deal since then. So, barring news we’re unaware of, Irving will be playing on two expiring deals this season, the one with the Nets and the one with Nike.
Long Island looks for another gem
In other news, the Long Island Nets will host their annual local player tryouts on Saturday, September. 17, at LIU Post in Brookville, New York
The two tryouts will occur on the same day — 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Both tryouts will be attended by Brooklyn and Long Island basketball operations personnel.
All tryout participants must pre-register online, be eligible to play in the NBA G League, be at least 18 years old and be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to attend. Registration is $225. Here’s all the details including a link to register.
Last year, the Nets hit gold in the open tryouts. Craig Randall II was signed off his tryout and was named G League Most Improved Player and Player of the Month. Randall averaged 26.7 points a game for Long Island, second in the G League. He signed with the Adelaide 36ers of Australia’s NBL earlier this month.
We still haven’t seen YES Network plans for covering the Nets four-game preseason schedule but we can report that the second game, Nets vs. Heat at Barclays Center on October 6, will air on ESPN.
Former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather may be 90 years old, but he can still bring the heat.
I would guess that Mar-a-Lago is about as "secure" as a Knicks lead at halftime.— Dan Rather (@DanRather) August 26, 2022