There will be only one more of these this off-season. A week from Monday, we move into the pre-season. You survived this far...
In a “re-draft” of the 2021 NBA Draft this week, Bleacher Report moved Cam Thomas (originally No. 27) up four spots and Day’Ron Sharpe (originally No. 29) up one. B/R only redid the first round so all we know about they feel about Kessler Edwards. All we know is that B/R didn’t move him up to No. 30 or higher. He was taken at 44.
The Nets draft that year, considering where they picked, was more than solid. Thomas, Sharpe, Edwards and undrafted David Duke Jr. played almost 3,000 minutes last season, starting a combined total of 40 games, led by Edwards 23. You could argue that Thomas’ 28-foot dagger at MSG — to cap a 28-point comeback — was a, if not the, season highlight.
Now, after their rookie seasons and Summer League, what can fans expect from last year’s rooks? Do they get new and improved versions or do they fade in the background as others acquired in the off-season take their minutes? Brian Lewis, in his projection of minutes this season, wrote that he expected Thomas to get 1,100. He played 1,173 last season. As for Sharpe, Lewis projects he’ll get 800, more than double last season’s 384 and that makes sense. Edwards, who played 989 last season, is also due to jump to 1,100.
At this point, a little more than a week from Media Day on September 26, Thomas is one of a number of wing players, but Sharpe is the backup center ... depending on what Nets do with Ben Simmons. He is being groomed for bigger things. Still only 20, Sharpe has been the subject of a big organizational push, the Nets brass believing that he can develop more of his skills — passing and deep shooting — that he’ll need in his second year. It’s a big priority, as things stand.
Alex Schiffer, in his mailbag this week, touched on the importance of Sharpe. Asked which of last year’s rookies is likely to see the biggest impact, Schiffer responded:
I think it’s Sharpe because of the current depth chart. Thomas will likely come in occasionally (assuming everyone stays healthy), but scoring is his niche and the roster has plenty of it. I would put Kessler Edwards in second place behind Sharpe because his 3-and-D potential remains attractive for this team despite the trade for O’Neale.
Sharpe helped his standing by taking and making a few three’s (3-of-10, to be specific) in Summer League. Thomas showed off some neat playmaking (4.2 assists per game) and Duke wound up the Summer League’s 10th highest scorer (at 19.0) but he and Thomas both had problems from deep, hitting 26 and 27 percent, respectively. There was no big jump in their overall games and Thomas’ defense was again found wanting although he was praised for his effort.
An eye-test of Summer League games in Las Vegas also showed Thomas and Duke had bulked up and Sharpe slimmed down, all positives.
The Nets didn’t expect much from last year’s rookies, but a variety of bad news pushed them up the bench and into the rotation where for the most part they met the challenge. Thomas had 10 games of 20 or more points, Sharpe had four games of 10 or more rebounds, Edwards, a second rounder, started 23 games and Duke, who wasn’t even drafted, seven, both because they can play aggressive defense.
After an off-season where their development was a footnote to the larger KD and Kyrie sagas, they’re once again reserves, if a bit more experienced. Their roles will likely be different from last year when despite being untested played 2,887 NBA minutes. This season, Steve Nash knows what he’s getting.
Kevin Durant enters Texas Hall of Honor
The eyes of Texas were upon him all week at UT in Austin. He was at the Texas-Alabama game last Saturday, then worked out with the current men’s basketball team roster for several days before being inaugurated at the Texas Hall of Honor Friday night.
Whole lot of burnt orange for KD who seemed to enjoy the week to the fullest... from the honor to the nostalgia.
He could also earn some satisfaction from this tweet...
Kevin Durant & Rich Kleiman have closed their first venture fund.— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) September 13, 2022
They invested $30 million, which is now worth ~$200 million.
Combined that with @boardroom & they’re building something special! pic.twitter.com/ZaqLo1fFKQ
When can we expect him at HSS Training Center? Don’t know but at around the same time we posted this piece, Rich Kleiman tweeted this out. It’s a Jay-Z lyric from “Dirt off your shoulder”...
“Your boy back in the building; Brooklyn, we back on the map”— Ace (@richkleiman) September 17, 2022
We assume that when he starts going up and down the court, a Nets photographer will be present.
Welcome back, Cheese!
In a surprise move, the Nets signed Chris Chiozza to an Exhibit 10 deal. He played a total of 40 games over two years on Exhibit 10 and two-way deals in 2020 and 2021, becoming a fan favorite because of his grit. In those 40 games, Chiozza averaged 5.1 points and 3.0 assists in 12.8 minutes per. His shooting splits — 39/34/82 — were respectable for a third-string point guard.
One of our favorite moments in recent years was Caris LeVert’s 51-point game vs. the Celtics at TD Garden on March 3, 2020, just before the pandemic stuck. Cheese was a big part of that performance. In case you missed it or forgot it, here’s LeVert’s 37 points in the fourth quarter and OT, a number of which were facilitated by the 5’11” guard, including that beauty of a pocket pass...
Whether he makes the roster or not, it appears Chiozza will now be available to the Nets, either in Brooklyn or Long Island on an emergency basis. That’s been his history. Chiozza has already played 137 games in the G League. Last season in Santa Cruz, the Warriors affiliate, Chiozza averaged 16.3 points, 11.7 assists and 2.3 steals in two games.
As he works out at HSS, Chiozza will be able to renew old acquaintances. Still on the roster he left in 2021: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris and Nic Claxton. His spirit and wit was appreciated back then. Still is...
Chiozza becomes the fifth Nets player with a ring, having won last year with the Warriors. He joins Patty Mills (2014 with the Spurs); Kyrie Irving (2016 with the Cavaliers); Kevin Durant (2017 and 2018 with the Warriors) and Markieff Morris (2020 with the Lakers.)
David Duke Jr. also agreed to a two-way deal. Duke had been hoping for a standard deal after his strong performance in Las Vegas. The Nets wanted to maintain flexibility. The difference would have meant an extra $1 million this year.
So here’s how things stand as we approach Media Day.
—12 fully guaranteed standard NBA contracts;
—three full or partially guaranteed deals:
—two two-way contracts;
—two exhibit 10’s.
Although the other Exhibit 10 — Donovan Williams — has not been officially announced, league insiders say it’s a done deal and Williams, aka “Stretch,” has posted videos of himself at HSS Training Center.
That leaves one open position on the 20-man training camp roster. We may not find out about who gets the final deal until Media Day. That’s happened before.
Other Welcomes This Week
Meghan Triplett has joined the Nets broadcast team at YES Network, replacing Michael Grady as sideline reporter. She’ll also presumably replace Grady in the pre-game and post-game telecasts. Triplett, a Memphis native, has worked with the Grizzlies and the team’s in-house media company, Grind City Media, since 2019.
Ronnie Burrell returns to Long Island as head coach. He becomes the sixth head coach in team history, rejoining the Nets organization after spending the 2019-20 season as an assistant coach with Long Island and the season before as a player development and video assistant with Brooklyn.
Burrell spent the 2021-22 season as an assistant coach with the College Park Skyhawks in the NBA G League and the previous season as a player development coordinator with the Chicago Bulls. No word on his assistants.
Burrell as well as Long Island GM J. R. Holden and assistant GM Matt MacDonald will be at the Nets G League open tryouts today in Old Westbury. It’s more than a promotion. Last season, the Nets signed Craig Randall II after a local tryout and he became the G League’s second highest scorer and Most Improved Player. He’s playing this year in Australia’s NBL.
Free Agent foot note
A number of the Nets players from last year’s team remain unsigned and with rosters filling up, it’s starting to look like they’ll have a hard time getting a new contract. James Johnson, who was waived at the end of last season, did sign a training camp deal with the Pacers this week, but Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge remain unsigned and Howard Beck said this week on a Sports Illustrated podcast that Aldridge is likely to retire. There had been rumors that Griffin might wind up with the Clippers or Lakers, even the Heat, but nothing yet. Two other Nets from last year’s Opening Night roster are also on the list of unsigned free agents: DeAndre’ Bembry and Paul Millsap.
Kyrie Irving’s latest controversial recognition of a conspiracy theory came earlier this week, this one a 20-year-old screed from Alex Jones of InfoWars infamy that suggests something called the “New World Order” is a “tyrannical organization” infecting Americans with “diseases and viruses” as part of a larger scheme of control.
Initial reaction was strong with Kristian Winfield and Kyle Wagner of the Daily News writing this;
Merely associating with anything he has to say is enough to make Irving look ridiculous. But in digging deep into the crates for a sound bite, Irving publicly endorsed some of the most harmful ideas in modern society.
Meanwhile, The Onion, the satirical news outlet, tweeted this out on Thursday...
The link in the tweet was to a story The Onion published about Irving’s embrace of conspiracy theories a year ago. The headline: “Nets Front Office Wishes Kyrie Irving Would Stop Acting Like Kyrie Irving.”