Slow news week but that’s not surprising. Memorial Day Weekend is upon us and even front offices and pundits take time off. The Draft is four Thursdays away and as we noted many times, it’s traditionally Sean Marks busiest time. And with the new CBA promising a heavy trading season, expect a lot of juicy rumors, some of which will have the added benefit of being true!
At the moment, though, the big rumor is that the Nets have “heavy interest” in Damian Lillard per a league source we spoke with. But that same source thinks the starting price for the 32-year seven-time All-NBA star is Nic Claxton, probably four of the Nets first rounders and maybe even Cam Johnson in a sign-and-trade. Sounds steep, but some of our most knowledgeable fans and writers think it would be a wise move.
Brian Lewis cites his sources as saying the Nets have “genuine interest” In Lillard, but he too hears the price would be high.
If Durant fetched four first-round picks, the Blazers would likely start there.
They would try to begin the roster-plucking with Bridges, though that probably would be a non-starter. Next likely would be Claxton as the centerpiece.
In order to keep Bridges, the Nets would instead need to include either Simmons for salary-matching purposes (with more sweeteners to make it palatable for Portland) or a pair such as Dinwiddie and Royce O’Neale.
Could they include Dorian Finney-Smith to keep Claxton, a perfect defensive complement for Lillard? Could they land him, and moreover, should they?
Alex Schiffer thinks that the Nets should think long and hard about going for Lillard.
I don’t think the Nets have the assets to get Lillard and frankly, I don’t think a deal for him is worth it. He’s almost 33 and isn’t going to win a title in Brooklyn. At least I don’t think so without the landscape around the rest of the league changing. What’s the Nets’ ceiling with him if the East stays as is? I’d say the second round. If he asks out, I think Lillard should go to Miami, where the Heat can hide his defensive liabilities and have him just score. They can win the East with that team. They’re already on the brink of winning it without him.
Also on the negative side of the Lillard Ledger is his contract. He has four years and $216.1 million left on his deal and extension and that final year, at $63.2 million would be a record breaker, at age 37. By comparison, Kevin Durant will earn $10 million less in his age 37 year. Now, as Lewis points out, the new TV/streaming rights deal kicks in in 2025-26 and expansion could be another windfall for the already quite solvent NBA. Estimates are that the two new ownership groups, whether in Seattle, Las Vegas or somewhere else, will wind up having to pay as much as $10 billion to the 30 current governors in a one-time payment.
Still, even with all that cash flowing into league coffers, $63.2 million is still $63.2 million.
There are indeed indications that Lillard likes what he sees in Brooklyn. Mikal Bridges is, in his words, the best all-around small forward in the NBA and the two work out together in the summer. Hell, Lillard is even a New York Liberty fan!
Damian Lillard on @nyliberty:— Landon Buford (@LandonBuford) May 28, 2023
“The New York Liberty got squad they got Courtney Vandersloot, Sabrina Ionescu, and Stewie. Do Jonquel Jones play for the Liberty now ? Who know ?”Says @Dame_Lillard.
Once he was informed that Jones was also a member of the Liberty, he added “Damn… pic.twitter.com/Lt0kfLw7fr
Put aside the speculation about Lillard and feel good about one aspect of the speculation: The Nets culture still has some life. If Lillard has positive feelings about Brooklyn — and Bridges and Johnson (and even Bruce Brown) are on the record loving the front office and ownership, one of the big concerns about the off-season seems overblown.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
There may be as many as four French prospects taken in the first round of the NBA Draft led, of course, by 7’4” Victor Wembanyama. There’s also Rayan Rupert, the 6’7” guard Sean Marks scouted in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year; Sidy Cissoko, the 6’5” shooting guard who played for G League Ignite; and Wemby’s teammate in Paris, 6’8” wing Bilal Coulibaly who is a fast riser, his skills getting noticed by scouts sent to France to look at Wembanyama. He’s also been linked to Brooklyn in a number of mock drafts.
Jonathan Givony, the ESPN/Draft Express writer profiled Coulibaly last month.
Since last summer, Coulibaly has been on a steady ascent, having a strong showing with the French national team at the FIBA U18 European Championship and outdueling Bronny James in an exhibition game in Paris several weeks later in August by scoring 25 points, mostly in the second half, in a come-from-behind win.
“I got better physically and technically,” Coulibaly said. “I’m focusing on my jump shot, but really I work on everything to be as complete a player as I can. The key has been just being confident and implementing in games what I learn in practice...
“My defensive abilities allowed me to get on the court and impact the team in a positive way,”
He has ideal dimensions for a 3-and-D prospect — 6’8” with a 7’2” wingspan — and may not be done growing. He is among the youngest players in the Draft and won’t turn 19 until after the Draft. He was 5’11” less than three years ago.
As the video of this season’s highlights shows, Coulibaly may be known for his defensive skills, but his athleticism should allow him to develop at the other end as well.
And here’s the latest from Hoopshype on who the Nets have worked out. It’s all from public sources...
The Family Edemeka
The Nets last week took note of the Edemeka family, Bobby, founder of the Brooklyn Brigade; his three triplet brothers, David, Donald and Dennis. and sister Didi.
Bobby, Dennis, and Donald have made up the Edemeka family presence at Barclays Center since the Nets’ first game in Brooklyn in 2012. Born and raised in Brooklyn, the brothers wasted no time securing season tickets once the Nets made the move to Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue.… pic.twitter.com/Eb82DvslWW— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) May 24, 2023
As the Nets Twitter team noted, they have been part of scene at Barclays Center since the Nets moved in a decade ago. It’s a family thing, which Bobby explained. “It’s been a strong bonding experience for us, Nets games have been an anchor activity for us,” Bobby said of his family’s embrace of the Nets.
It’s part of a Nets social media initiative, telling short Twitter stories of the team’s most fabled fans, like Mr. Whammy and Henry Hall Jr. as well as the intrepid travelers, Dawn and Johnson. The Edemekas are at or near the top of our list!
A bit of (recent) Nets history
From Pete Botte at the very end of a story this week on Steve Nash being a candidate for the open Toronto Raptors head coaching job...
The 49-year-old Nash, a two-time NBA MVP, has one year worth nearly $9 million remaining on his contract with the Nets.
Clara is everywhere
We don’t know if Nets P.R. is putting out Clara Wu Tsai or is her new found fame organic. Whichever it is, it’s working. As we noted last week in Off-Season Report No. 3, she was the subject of a nearly seven-minute interview on GMA about her role in producing “Unfinished Business,” the documentary on the history of the WNBA and the Liberty’s role in it as well as the subject of two lengthy stories on the Liberty’s rise in the New York Times and ESPN. Robin Roberts of GMA called Wu Tsai “one of the most powerful women in sports.”
The interview caught the attention of Mikal Bridges who retweeted a link and added, “She’s literally one of my favs.”
Then, last weekend, there was more. She sat courtside with Bridges at the Liberty’s home opener...
Then, on Tuesday, she was honored, along with among others, Angela Davis, the 60’s activist, and Crystal McGrary. the entertainment lawyer, TV producer and author (as well as Cole Anthony’s mother) by the Gordon Parks Foundation, named for the photographer, cinematographer and civil rights pioneer. Here’s one of the publicity pictures...
Wu Tsai was specifically honored for her work on social justice, including the $50 million Brooklyn Social Justice Fund and the REFORM Alliance which is involved in criminal justice reform. She is a founding partner and major benefactor of the Meek Mill-inspired alliance.
Wu Tsai is also a serious basketball fan. She was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, where her father was a professor at the University of Kansas and she was a big fan of the Jayhawk star at the time, one Danny Manning. (Can’t get more American than Kansas as fellow Kansan, Superman, used to say.)
She is, as Bridges notes, a favorite of the Nets players, from Kyrie Irving, with whom she shared social justice concerns, to the Liberty players who she’s championed as co-governor of the WNBA club.
Frankly, Clara Wu Tsai does not have baggage her husband Joe Tsai has been saddled with, fairly or unfairly, from the nasty departures of KD, Kyrie and James Harden to the controversy over his company’s investments in technology used by Chinese authorities against Muslims in Xinyang. DO NOT, on the other hand, think Joe is taking a back seat. It’s just that Clara’s role is becoming more publicized. On such calculi are public relations decisions made.
Joe Tsai on sports
Early in the week, Joe Tsai was on a symposium in New York called, On the Rise: The 2023 Asian American and Pacific Islander Sports and Culture Symposium, which was held at the NBA’s New York office.
Tsai spoke about the family connections of fandom, how two uncles, one in Dallas and the other, made him a fan of Cowboys and Mets fan, respectively and he kept those affiliations. He also spoke about how sports, both at the Lawrenceville School outside Princeton and Yale helped him. He specifically mentioned not making the Lawrenceville School baseball team was a character builder.
“The true moral of this story is, I think sports is a part of my experience that taught me to pursue my dream,” Tsai said. “If you think about it, if you play sports, every season there is a dream, the dream of beating a rival, the dream of winning a championship, the dream of scoring that last-minute buzzer beater. Those are the dreams that every kid can live through.
“... I don’t think you can realize your dream in the classroom. In the classroom, it’s like if you received a B- for the whole year and then you take the final exam, it’s not like you can ace it and it gets you back to an A+.
“In sports, it’s very different. You can be the eighth seed and still be in contention for a championship. So the dream stays alive. You have to be good enough during the regular season to get into the playoffs. But once you are in the playoffs, you can pursue your dreams.”
Sounds like Tsai expects his team to at least make the playoffs.
Wondering about this hug?
Other than game recognizing game, Gasol and Ionescu have a connection through Kobe Bryant. Both were good friends of the Laker legend and spoke at his memorial.