Summer ended Friday night at 9:03 p.m. ET. The Nets Media Day begins at 11:00 a.m. ET Monday. So summer and the off-season are over. Our work here is done. This is the last Off-Season Report. Thank whatever deity you worship.
It’s been one month since the Nets and Kevin Durant agreed to “move forward with our partnership,” two months since Kyrie Irving said he wanted back in Brooklyn ... with or without Durant, three months since KD requested a trade, four months since Sean Marks said he wanted “selfless and available” players, five months since the Nets off-season began following a four-game sweep at the hands of the Celtics. It’s been, um, newsy.
Now, Brooklyn is purportedly in a good place. There are, as far as we know, no injuries that need extensive recovery or rehab. The team has gone with continuity and brought back seven of their top 10 players from last year and despite all the drama, there is potential and hope out there.
There are also remaining questions, a lot of which will be answered on Monday. Hope for continued kumbaya but don’t be surprised if there’s one or two or more controversial comments that could lead SportsCenter. There might other surprises too. The Nets training camp roster has yet to be released and as of Sunday, morning there were still two unfilled spots. (You can watch it all on YES Network starting at 11 a,m. ET. Under the format, players will take questions first, then Marks and Steve Nash. A good first question might be, “What the hell happened?”)
KD will be asked why he asked for a trade and why he rescinded it. Kyrie will be asked about his contract status ... and his latest social media posts whatever they may be. Ben10 (copyright pending) has probably been asked just about everything by J.J. Redick but you never know. Simmons, Joe Harris, Seth Curry, T.J. Warren, Edmond Sumner will be asked about various ligaments and tendons in their back, ankles, feet and achilles, etc. And Marks and Nash will be asked how can they work with a superstar who (reportedly) wanted them both fired.
Expect a contingent of Japanese reporters to question Yuta Watanabe, some from Australia too and more than a handful of national writers. Until this last week, the Nets led the league in off-season dysfunction. Thanks, Celtics! You, too, Suns!
When reporters put down their notebooks, close their laptops and switch from their recorder apps to maybe some music, we will know more we do now. Hope so.
Ben Simmons and Shaq back at it
Ben Simmons surprised a lot of us with his openness in talking with J.J. Redick and Tommy Alter this week. In one answer, Simmons criticized his fellow LSU alumni, Shaquille O’Neal, who criticized him, calling him “soft” and “a cry baby,”
“When I was dealing with everything going on, I actually messaged [Shaquille O’Neal], and he put it out, and I was like, alright,” Simmons said. “I DM’d him. I was like, ‘Why are you saying this if you don’t even know the story?’ ‘Cause he always wants to say, ‘Yo, we’re LSU brothers. You’re my brother.’ All this, that, if you’re my LSU brother, you would have reached out by now, and it’s been months since I been dealing with this. You ain’t reached out once and say, ‘Hey, you okay? What’s going on?’”
Shaq being Shaq, he responded. Per TalkBasket.
“First of all, these young players you need to understand Shaquille O’Neal don’t need to hate on you,” the four-time NBA champ said. “Everything you’re doing I’d have done it a hundred times over.
“First of all, if you play at 9.30 and we come on at 10 and we say something, it’s just what we see. The mental thing ain’t come out until everybody start bashing you, then you let people know you have mental health problems.
“And if you go back, Donzel is a witness he’s a producer on the show, I think I ever did it one the show. I did on you I told the world, I said ‘He did DM me he told me he’s going through some problems,’ and I said I was going to back up and then I told him in the DM ‘Okay, the reason why people don’t know what’s going on because you ain’t talking.’
“But as far as what I saw and I speak on what I know, I know how to get to that next level. He knows that and yes, you can be my brother, but I ain’t gonna always sugarcoat things, I’m gonna tell you the real. I ain’t never sugarcoat. I want you to get to the level, to the level, to the level. But you can’t say I’m hating because all the stuff you’re doing it because you saw me do it… If you’re greater, you can’t be a hater.”
Sigh. Shaq, of course, has this kind of response in his repertoire, but his accusation that Simmons used his mental health as a crutch makes him sound more like a Philly fan. Moreover, why did Simmons publicly need to address his mental health issues? is there anything more personal? Of course, Shaq publicly criticizes young players all the time on the spur of the moment. Who can forget his comments to Donovan Mitchell in 2021:
“I said tonight that you are one of my favorite players but you don’t have what it takes to get to the next level. I said it on purpose. I wanted you to hear it,” O’Neal told Mitchell. “What do you have to say about that?” Carry on. (Wonder how fellow LSU product Cam Thomas feels.)
“Aight,” the Jazzman responded.
“That’s it?” O’Neal asked.
“That’s it,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been hearing that since my rookie year. You know, I’m just going to get better and do what I do.”
Shaq has his resume’ which is pretty much unparalleled among bigs in the modern era, but all he did was confirm Simmons accusation that he speaks before he gets the full story.
Ben Simmons Real Estate Watch
As we reported, Ben Simmons is purchasing a $13 million apartment in The Olympia, a glass tower in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. Simmons also noted in his interview with J.J. Redick that he still owns a condo in Philly, a residence in the Ritz Carlton that he’s put up for sale at a $3.1 million asking price. He sold his 10,500-square-foot Moorestown, N.J. mansion near the 76ers training facility in May for $4.55 million to the Phillies’ Nick Castellanos. That was double what he paid for it. He also listed his “farmhouse” in the exclusive Hidden Hills community of Los Angeles for $23 million, roughly $5.5 million more than he paid for it. No word on that sale.
Why does all this matter? It’s evidence that the 26-year-old Simmons who has three years left on his contract is consolidating in Brooklyn. It also could indicate that he did very well in his settlement with the Sixers. He filed a grievance over the summer trying to get Philly to return $19+ million in fines. The monetary details of the settlement were not revealed.
Do pay attention to the man behind the curtain
Everyone knows the faces and voices of Ian Eagle, Sarah Kustok, Ryan Ruocco, Richard Jefferson and Michael Grady. Soon, it will be the same with Meghan Triplett who’s replacing Grady as the Nets sideline reporter.
But the guy who puts it all together is the producer, the guy in the truck. Call the producer the man behind the curtain if you wish. But producers are the soul of the machine. And Frank DiGraci who is entering his 20th season producing the Nets games on YES fits that description and is now getting recognition ... beyond his raft of Emmys...
Congratulations to Frank DiGraci who was named the 2022 recipient of the Todd Harris Spirit Award at the NBA’s Broadcasting meetings this week.— Sports Video Group (@sportsvideo) September 24, 2022
DiGraci is entering his 20th season producing @BrooklynNets games on @YESNetwork. pic.twitter.com/X5kMQZ9NrN
The award recognizes an NBA broadcaster or executive who “is the ultimate team player and inspires people to make every day brighter.”
DiGraci’s accomplishments are many but his best moves have been in recruiting and promoting on-air talent. In addition to partnering with Ian Eagle for two decades, it was DiGraci who elevated Sarah Kustok as the first female full-time analyst for an NBA team’s local TV broadcasts, developed Ryan Ruocco and Michael Grady and for years peppered Richard Jefferson with notes reminding him there was a chair at Barclays Center reserved just for him.
So congratulations to DiGraci on the award and thanks for his hard work and creativity. He’ll be running the show Monday when YES broadcasts Media Day and in a few weeks the Nets 2022-23 season, his 20th.
A fun list
Who are the best players in the NBA at getting off — and making — at the end of the shot clock? The Swoops fantasy sports site came up with a fun list this week that made us smile: the top players at making shots with 0-to-4 seconds left.
1. Kyrie Irving — 54.2%
2. Klay Thompson — 52.6%
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo — 48.7%
4. C.J. McCollum — 47.7%
5. Kevin Durant — 46.2%
That’s one reason we remain hopeful in light of all the issues we’ve seen this summer.
Sebastian Poirier has been around HSS Training Center for six years, brought in by Sean Marks shortly after he took over back in 2016. For two years, he was assistant athletic trainer, then the last four as the head guy. This week it was announced that Poirier will be joining the Pistons as Senior Medical Director. The timing seems odd but Poirier is getting what looks like a bigger job. No word on his replacement but his assistant the last few years, Phil Nguyen, has the respect of Nets players.
New plaza nearing completion
For anyone who’s been near Barclays Center this summer, the Nets have been rebuilding. Not so much the team. They’re going the continuity route as we’ve reported. It’s the Seat Geek Plaza. After 10 years of wear-and-tear, the pavers on the plaza (which were the last piece to be installed before the arena was opened) are being replaced.
Norm Oder, the long-time chronicler and critic of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, reported this week on the progress. It appears that the plaza project will not be complete in time for the Nets two preseason games on October 3 and 6, but should be done by Opening Night on October 19 vs. the Pelicans.
”We are trying as fast as possible to get that done in time for October 19.” said Mandy Gutmann, the nets EVP for Communications and Community Relations, at a community meeting Oder covered.
What will it look like? a lot like the old plaza but with blocks from previous plaza sponsors like the New York Daily News and Resorts World removed. Oder did a before-and-after picture.
Yeah, that’s wear-and-tear.
In the meantime, there will be fencing to funnel fans from the Barclays Center subway entrance and Atlantic Avenue LIRR station to the arena.
Questions, questions, questions, more than a fan should be faced with. But considering where things were at the beginning of the summer, we are in a better place that we had a right to expect. After all, on June 30, Adrian Wojnarowski said this on ESPN, “I think it’s likely that not only Kevin Durant — but also Kyrie Irving — has played his last game with Brooklyn.”
And so we leave you with the lasting image of the off-season...
Thanks for reading.