Nets Rumors

New York Notes: Russell, Atkinson, Cunningham, Thomas

The Nets started D’Angelo Russell for the first time since mid-November in their second-half opener against the Hornets. Russell played 32 minutes, his most since November, and his recent play indicates he’s slowly shaking off the rust.

Bryan Fonseca of NetsDaily relays that starting Russell alongside Spencer Dinwiddie — an all-point-guard backcourt — was not so much planned as it was based on his instinct.

“I think it was a feel, kind of my feel,” Atkinson said. “Talking with the medical team and performance (team). I think it was mostly basketball, just him getting his rhythm, and I felt like that Indiana game he really showed me – I felt like he was getting there.”

Atkinson is unsure of when Russell will be back at full health, but feels the former second overall pick is trending in the right direction.

Check out more news and notes from New York’s basketball teams:

  • Under Atkinson’s watch, the Nets have been in rebuild mode and have stressed the future. While the team is improved from last year’s league-worst 20-62 record, Brooklyn has lost 12 of its last 13 and is trending downward, Fonseca writes in a separate piece. “I’ve said that, we’re better, that’s what’s frustrating,” Atkinson said. “We’re on pace for a 30-something win season and then we hit this skid and it’s like, man – I’m optimistic, I’m hungry to get back on track. Now, that being said, we’ve got a tough schedule coming up, we’re going to be on the road awhile, but it’s great.”
  • The longevity of Dante Cunningham‘s stint in Brooklyn is uncertain, but he’s enjoying his time with the Nets, Fonseca writes. The veteran was acquired by Brooklyn before the trade deadline and has played well thus far. “I’m old in here,” Cunningham said with a smile. “I look around the locker room and see a lot of young guys, but hungry guys and I love it. I love that I’m the older guy that they kind of look up to and kind of ask, ‘So what’s this like or what’s that like?’ So that’s kind of fun, it’s a different side.”
  • Lance Thomas‘ numbers in the box score will not merit much attention, but his visible defensive impact is a game-changer for the Knicks, Fred Kerber of the New York Post writes. “He’s kind of that guy, it doesn’t matter if he’s on the 1, 2, 3 or 4. When he’s at the 4 spot, then we also have the ability to switch some too because you’re not afraid of Lance switching off on a point guard,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “You saw him pick up guys full court. He knocked one away and ended up ending the game with a steal. Lance is the guy that, if you read a stat line, you’re not going see his value. … He does his role.”

Ntilikina Still Viewed As Long-Term Piece Despite Acquisitions

  • D’Angelo Russell made his first start for the Nets since mid-November on Thursday and the plan to have him and Spencer Dinwiddie share the backcourt is in full-swing, Brian Lewis of the New York Post relays. “We’ve started to do it more, get a sample size. It’s something similar to Jeremy [Lin] and D’Angelo in the beginning,” Atkinson said. “I do like that. I do like having two guards that can really handle the ball.”
  • Michael Scotto of The Athletic (subscription required and recommended) takes a look at Sean Marks‘ reign as Nets general manager and the organization’s transformation in two years under Marks’ watch.

New York Notes: Jack, Noah, Knicks, Nets

In the view of Marc Berman of The New York Post, it may be time for the Knicks to cut ties with Jarrett Jack. The veteran point guard has been solid this season, but he’s expected to cede playing time to Emmanuel Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina, and Trey Burke down the stretch. So if his agents sense that there would any interest in Jack from playoff teams, cutting him by March 1 and letting him catch on with another team would be the right thing to do, Berman says.

Among Berman’s other late-season tips for the Knicks? Reduce Kyle O’Quinn‘s minutes and explore bringing Joakim Noah back into the fold. Even if Noah isn’t part of the team’s long-term plans, getting him some playing time and showing other teams that he still has something left in the tank could improve the Knicks’ chances of eventually moving him in a trade.

Here are a few more notes out of New York:

Nets Sale To Joe Tsai Will Reportedly Be Finalized In Coming Weeks

  • The deal between Mikhail Prokhorov and Joe Tsai for a 49% stake in the Nets will reportedly be finalized in the coming weeks, sources tell Net Income at NetsDaily. Per the reported details, Tsai will initially gain control of 49% of the Nets with an option to take full control in 2022.

Dinwiddie Can't Cash In Right Away

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie added to his breakout season Saturday by winning the Skills Challenge, but it’s going to be a while before he can cash in on his success. Dinwiddie is making the league minimum of $1,524,305 this season with a team option for next season at the minimum of $1,656,092.

As detailed recently by Danny Leroux of Real GM, the three-year contract Dinwiddie signed in December of 2016 limits Brooklyn’s options. It can’t be renegotiated and extended under the latest CBA because it’s shorter than four years, and the Nets don’t want to decline the option and risk losing Dinwiddie in free agency. It would be possible to extend the deal without a renegotiation, which would get him to about $45MM over four seasons, but Dinwiddie may be able to do far better by waiting another year for free agency.

Brooklyn can offer Dinwiddie a larger extension on the second anniversary of his signing date, as the Sixers did with Robert Covington, but that wouldn’t change his salary for next season. It would also cut into the Nets’ cap ahead of 2019 free agency, when the team is hoping to be a major player.

  • Even though they’ll be one of the few teams with significant cap room, the Nets won’t feel compelled to make a splash in free agency this summer, GM Sean Marks tells NetsDaily.com. Brooklyn isn’t committed to a repeat of last July when it made a $100MM offer to Otto Porter, only to see it matched by the Wizards. “So what’s next,” Marks asked. “It’s not ‘We didn’t get Otto Porter so let’s go spend a lot of money in this direction, in that direction,’ knowing these are the non-negotiables that we’ve put out there on why we’re signing guys, why we’re not signing guys, stick to that plan.”

Nets Try Tweaking Lineup To Stop Slide

  • The Nets will need to shore up their defense and rebounding if they want to turn a recent losing skid around after the All-Star Break, Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes. “We’re trying the best we can to find the right lineups that work out there,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We’ve tried a bunch of stuff. We’ve gone small a ton, we’ve tried bigger lineups, we’ve tried two-guard lineups. We’re still searching.

Atlantic Notes: Okafor, Crabbe, Casey, Celtics

The Nets‘ acquisition of Jahlil Okafor signaled a change of scenery for a talented yet displaced player. With 24 games left in the season, however, the Nets seem to be wasting their opportunity to audition Okafor as a potential long-term commodity, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes.

Since being traded to Brooklyn, Okafor has appeared in 22 games while averaging 6.2 PPG and 3.0 PPG. Okafor’s playing time has been inconsistent, which makes it difficult to assess both his value and interest in retaining him beyond this season.

“Getting on the floor is very important,” Okafor said. “As a basketball player we all want to be on the court. My minutes have been fluctuating up and down, but the coaches say it’s nothing on my end.”

Head coach Kenny Atkinson noted that the team feels comfortable with 19-year-old Jarrett Allen playing at power forward with Okafor at center. As it stands, the team will have a decision to make in terms of Okafor’s playing time and future.

Check out other notes from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets shooting guard Allen Crabbe has been on a tear, averaging 25.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG over the team’s last four games. It has taken a while but Crabbe is finally playing and scoring the way the Nets hoped he would, Brian Lewis of the New York Post relays.
  • Dwane Casey is headed to Los Angeles to coach Team LeBron this weekend, but his proudest accomplishment is entering the break with the Raptors wielding the best record in the Eastern Conference. Despite the improvements the franchise has enjoyed under Casey, there always seems to be a perception that the Raptors head coach is on the hot seat, Chris Mannix of Yahoo! Sports writes.
  • After a rough stretch in which they’ve lost nine of their last 15 games, the Celtics may explore changing their lineup after the All-Star break, Chris Forsberg of ESPN writes.

Nets Looking To Stay Positive Amid Losing Streak

  • The Nets have lost six games in a row and nine of their last 10, and are now only one game ahead of the last-place Hawks, who are tied with Dallas and Phoenix for the worst record in the NBA. Despite the losing streak, head coach Kenny Atkinson is working hard to build a winning culture in the locker room, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

New York Notes: Prigioni, Knicks, Ntilikina, Nets

The Knicks are considering a reunion with old friend Pablo Prigioni, but as a developmental coach rather than as a player, two industry sources tell Marc Berman of The New York Post. Prigioni, who played for the Knicks from 2012 to 2015, has retired as a player and was named the coach of Spanish team Baskonia last summer, but had to step down after just eight games due to family issues, a source tells Berman.

Now, Prigioni is back in New York, with a source telling Berman that the former NBA point guard is spending the week with the Nets to learn about Brooklyn’s basketball operation. While it’s unclear whether the Nets are also interested in hiring Prigioni, the 40-year-old is “exploring” whether he wants to become a personnel man, says Berman.

As we wait to see whether Prigioni returns stateside to take a job with one of the NBA’s New York teams, let’s round up a few more notes on those two clubs…

  • New Knicks point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is excited to develop alongside rookie Frank Ntilikina, as Berman details for The New York Post. “We’re going to grow together,” Mudiay said. “At least that’s what I know is the plan right now. He’s 19, I’m 21, so we’re both kind of close in age. He speaks French. I speak French. It’s going to be fun, just trying to see how we feel each other out on the court.”
  • Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report outlines why the two trades the Knicks made last week are representative of GM Scott Perry‘s plan for the franchise. Weitzman also cites league sources who say that the Knicks turned away numerous trade proposals for Ntilikina prior to last Thursday’s deadline.
  • The Nets‘ acquisition of Dante Cunningham last week was a move that flew under the radar, but GM Sean Marks says he expects Cunningham to fill a key positional need in Brooklyn. Tom Dowd of BrooklynNets.com has the story.
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