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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 15

Every weekend, we’ll be updating the Nets’ off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help fans get ready for ... whatever

Nets personnel were in Miami Saturday to work out Harry Giles III, the talented but oft-injured big man who hasn’t stepped on an NBA court since January of 2022, rehabbing his latest knee injury. He’s had three knee surgeries by our count.

Before his career was betrayed by his body, Giles, 6’11” with a chiseled frame, was seen as the top big man prospect. He could shoot, rebound, pass and block. In the 2017 Draft, the same one that featured Jayson Tatum and Bam Adebayo, he was taken at No. 20, two spots ahead of Jarrett Allen. The Nets were interested back then despite his bad fortune. Since then, though, Giles has played only 142 NBA games and averaged 5.9 points and 3.8 rebounds. But he is reportedly healthy and is making the workout rounds. Moreover, it seems that he will be satisfied with a two-way. So why not? He’s still only 25.

We have no indication as to what the Nets thought about his workout, but if they take a chance on him, it will fit with their strategy so far this summer: fill out the roster with marginal players on vets minimum deals. They seem to have done well with their top priorities: re-signing Cam Johnson and getting Ben Simmons healthy. The other part of the roster rebuild has had a “why not?” aspect to it. They’ve signed one player who was waived (Trendon Watford), two players whose teams weren’t interested in re-signing them (Lonnie Walker IV and Darius Bazley) as well as a player who’s trying to restore his once gaudy reputation (Dennis Smith Jr.) and one wanting to just get back in the L (Armoni Brooks.)

In the draft, they similarly decided to take a chance on a player who had fallen from the top tier of NBA prospects because of multiple foot injuries (Dariq Whitehead.) Their most expensive signing, in fact, was Whitehead who’ll make nearly $3 million this season as the 22nd pick.

In fact, you could call the group the Brooklyn Fallen Angels. The Nets have famously taken chances on other dissed players and prospects in the past, the most notable successes being Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, D’Angelo Russell and more recently, Bruce Brown, each of whom entered HSS Training Center with big question marks about their futures and wound up with multi-year deals in the tens of millions of dollars. The same is true of Jarrett Allen, who dropped in the Draft and could be true of Nic Claxton, a second rounder, come next July. That has to be a selling point for Sean Marks & co. Work for us and your next deal could mean generational wealth! Jacque Vaughn also rejiggered his coaching staff to put more emphasis on development.

Their lack of recent resume’ entries does not mean that the Nets made random selections just to fill out the roster. Each fit a profile: They are athletic, able and young — between the ages of 22 and 25 — as one insider put it. They also have some defensive potential, particularly in the case of Smith Jr. And yes, they are cheap as the Nets try to stay under the luxury tax threshold in hopes of avoiding the repeater tax both this season and next.

They’re all are on minimum deals paying between $2.0 to $2.5 million a year. None have a second year in their contract and Watford and Bazley won’t be guaranteed at all unless and until they make the Opening Night roster on October 24. Then, they’ll only get $200,000. Brian Lewis wrote this week that the two 6’9” small ball bigs might even be in competition for one spot.

It should be noted that, at things stand now, none are going to start. Those jobs are taken. Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Nic Claxton, Ben Simmons, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith look to be the core of the Brooklyn rotation. Mix-and-match as you will. The Nets are going to live or die by those players’ talents and good fortune. Royce O’Neale, Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe will be the new guys’ main competition. Jalen Wilson maybe too. The “suffixes” — Dennis Smith Jr. and Lonnie Walker IV — seem to have the best chance of getting minutes.

As for their futures, there’s been questions about what happens if any of the new guys have a breakout season. The Nets won’t have team options or even Bird Rights on any of them come next July. The front office is willing to take that risk, noting it will be up to the players to prove their worth and if they do, the Nets should have both cap space and exceptions to sign them to deals more representative of their talents.

Bottom line now with all 15 roster spots filled is that what the Nets did this summer was basically risk-free. They’re going to pay the new guys less than $10 million combined, assuming both Watford and Bazley both make the club. So taking a long look at Harry Giles III for a two-way would seem to fit a pattern.

The tragedy of T-Will et al

When the then-New Jersey Nets took Terrence Williams 11th in the 2009 NBA Draft, Chad Ford, the draft guru then with ESPN predicted that TWill would be either an All-Star or out of the league in three years. He was that talented, that mercurial. Indeed, the latter prediction came true. He was out of the league by 2013.

What Ford didn’t predict was that in 15 years, Williams would be in federal prison. Williams was sentenced to 10 years in prison in New York on Thursday for his role in masterminding a scam of the NBA’s health care plan, one which ultimately led to the indictment of 18 NBA players including six Nets: Williams, Keyon Dooling, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Antoine Wright, C.J. Watson and Alan Anderson. Of the 18, 13 have already pleaded guilty, including Williams, Dooling and Anderson all of whom got jail time and CDR who did not.

Williams, in fact, has been in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since May 2022, In a cruel irony, the MDC is on 29th Street in Brooklyn, 10 short blocks from HSS Training Center where the Nets practice. He was jailed after prosecutors alleged that he sent threatening phone texts to a witness in the case. He will be transferred to another federal prison soon. Dooling, 43, is serving his time at a federal prison in Sumterville, Fla., with a scheduled release date of July 8, 2025. Anderson, 40, is at Terminal Island federal prison near Los Angeles until August 5, 2024, a year from now.

Williams got the longest sentence because of his key role in the scam, as AP reported.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said the defendant who played for Louisville in college recruited medical professionals and others to carry out a criminal conspiracy and maximize illegal profits.

“Williams not only lined his pockets through fraud and deceit, but he also stole the identities of others and threatened a witness to further his criminal endeavors. For his brazen criminal acts, Williams now faces years in prison.”

At least 10 of the ex-players paid kickbacks totaling about $230,000 to Williams, authorities said.

Williams, who has six children, repeatedly choked up during the sentencing and blamed an opioid addiction he said developed after he took painkillers to cope with the pain of lingering injuries from his NBA career.

The judge in the case did not spare him but instead chastised him for losing so much of his NBA earnings.

“You were yet another player who frittered away substantial earnings from the period of time when you were playing basketball professionally,” Judge Valerie E. Caproni told him. “You should have had enough money to be set for life, but you don’t.”

She even required Williams to take a course in personal finance while incarcerated.

Williams earned nearly $7 million in his three-year NBA career. The other 17 players, mostly journeymen, earned another $336 million combined.

The 6’6” wing had been in trouble with the law before on gun charges. Ten years ago, he was arrested while a member of the Boston Celtics for threatening the mother of one of his children with a gun in Kent, Wash., near where he played high school ball. According to news reports at the time, the altercation came during a scheduled visitation of Williams son, Williams exposed the gun to the woman in a downtown Kent parking lot, made threats against her and left before law enforcement could arrive. He was later arrested.

Williams best game came on April 9, 2010, the last game of the Nets horrific 12-70 season when he showed his potential by racking up a triple-double, the first since Jason Kidd had left New Jersey in January 2008. As it turned out, that was the highlight of his career, perhaps his life.

Wake up, Nets fans!

Monday night at 10:00 p.m. ET, Nets fans will be able to get a first look at Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson in Team USA colors when the young Americans play Puerto Rico. The game will air on FS1 as will the four other “friendlies” Team USA will play. Bridges started both scrimmages against USA Basketball’s Team Select Friday and Saturday. Johnson started in the first scrimmage but was replaced by Anthony Edwards on Saturday. Team USA head coach Steve Kerr says he’s keeping an open mind on his starting five.

The other “friendlies” will also have start times that respect Brooklynites sleep patterns. USA vs. Spain on August 12 and Slovenia on August 13 will air at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports. Similarly, the final tune-ups in Abu Dhabi vs. Greece on August 18 and Germany on August 20 will tip off at noon on FOX. (Special bonus for long-time Nets fans: Bill Raftery will be providing color commentary for the “friendlies.” Onions!)

However, by the time Team USA finally arrives in Manila, East Coast fans will have to prove their mettle. Games will be at odd hours. The only games scheduled so far will require some early morning coffee.

The opener on August 26 vs. New Zealand will air on ESPN at 8:40 a.m. ET as will their second game vs. Greece two days later. But Game 3 vs. Jordan on August 30 will air at 4:40 a.m. ET. And if you want to watch Patrick Gardner, the Nets 6’11” training camp signee, play for Egypt, you will have to get up before dawn twice. Egypt plays in the same arena in Manila as Team USA but on alternate days (making it easy for Sean Marks to watch all his charges.) The Egyptians take on Lithuania on August 25 at 8:30 a.m. then Montenegro and Mexico on August 27 and 29, both games having a 4:40 a.m. start time. After the first round of three games each, FIBA will post times for the next round. (Gardner has already played two “friendlies” against China and Georgia.)

The tournament will feature a total of 92 games, all of which will be broadcast on ESPN2 or ESPN+ in the United States. FIBA’s official streaming service, Courtside 1891, and Sling TV also offer a streaming option.

You should be able to follow all the way through September 10 when the World Cup finals take place. Team USA hasn’t won the cup since 2014 and four years ago, they finished ninth. Bring home the gold.

Happy in Brooklyn

As last season ended, three key Nets players had positive things to say about the franchise and the people who run it. Mikal Bridges called Sean Marks and Joe Tsai “good people,” adding that Clara Wu Tsai is “one of his favs.” Cam Johnson called the Nets front office “very very high quality people” and of course, he agreed to stay for another four years. Nic Claxton said “I would love to stay here” long term.

Last month, a source close to Ben Simmons told ESPN’s Marc J. Spears that “Brooklyn has been incredibly supportive” of Simmons rehab and Simmons seems to have reciprocated with his own positive vibe,

Now, yet another Nets player is on the record offering praise for the organization.

After spending his entire NBA career with the Dallas Mavericks, Dorian Finney-Smith was traded and started a new chapter with the Nets. It’s a change, but Finney-Smith is happy with Brooklyn.

“There’s been love there,” he told a local reporter who covered his basketball camp Friday. “I can’t wait to get started. Last year was a little wild, my first time getting traded, but I’m happy it’s to Brooklyn.”

There are few things that stuck in the organization’s collective craw as much as the perception that after the superstar deadline trades, the Nets reputation as a good place to work was tarnished, that no one would want to play in Brooklyn anymore. They were particularly incensed by Kyrie Irving’s comment after Kevin Durant was dealt to Phoenix. “I just am glad that he got out of there,” Irving said of KD’s departure.

Of course, the Nets lure for game-changing free agents probably won’t be tested till free agency in 2025 which is the next big free agent class, reminiscent of the 2019 class that produced KD and Kyrie. But insiders say that what you’re hearing publicly from those on the current roster is replicated around the league, that things were never as bad as portrayed. It is among the least of their concerns.

Camp counselor round-up

The Nets official site has been chronicling players’ camps this summer and this week, they featured mic’d up commentary by Nic Claxton, Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Wilson at their hometown camps in Greenville, S.C., Norfolk, Va. and Denton, Tex, respectively. A good time was had by all...

Final Note

The Liberty will play the biggest WNBA game in New York in years Sunday when they face off against the WNBA’s other superteam, the Las Vegas Aces, at Barclays Center. The game between the 21-6 Liberty and the 24-2 Aces will be aired on ABC at 3:00 p.m. Already the lower bowl at Barclays Center has sold out and upper bowl seats have been made available.

The Libs will be trying to avenge their worst loss of the season, a 98-81 shellacking the Aces delivered back on June 30 in Las Vegas.