The Nets are in the process of building a new arena in Brooklyn and trying to build their team into a playoff contender. On Sunday, they added a farm club, as they officially took over the basketball operations of their NBA Development League affiliate, the Springfield Armor.
The Nets don’t own the Armor. This “hybrid affiliation,” means the Nets are in charge of the basketball operations and pay for expenses related to that, as existing local owners pay for the off-the-court costs of doing business.
It may not seem like a big deal, but it is significant in many ways. The biggest one is it’s another example of how serious and committed owner Mikhail Prokhorov is about spending money to improve the overall operation and how the Nets are run.
“We’re doing things to help build a solid foundation,” Nets general manager Billy King said.
Most fans are more concerned with Deron Williams’ future with the team, whether the Nets can put together a package to land Dwight Howard, and what kind of offseason moves they can make to improve the club quickly. And they should be.
Those fans should know that the Nets’ priority is building a team that doesn’t just sneak into the playoffs, but one with Williams as the centerpiece that is a contender every year and can win a championship in the next four years.
That was Prokhorov’s edict – within five years the Nets would be a championship team. He’s wants them to get there, as do King and coach Avery Johnson. This management team is committed as evidenced by their pursuit of Carmelo Anthony and ultimate acquisition of Williams.
They’re going to improve through the draft, through trades, through free agency – the three usual ways. But the Nets also will put some of their attention into building a minor league system that helps develop players and coaches and prepare them for the NBA. It will make it easier when the Nets call them up to the pros.
“It gives you a chance to work with the players, so the system they’re running and practices are the same ones Avery is running,” King said.
That way, when someone gets called up, when Johnson calls a play, that guy will know exactly what the play is. The Nets don’t have to limit their play calls or just use the player in case of an emergency.
They also can move the Springfield head coach and put him on Johnson’s staff if one of his assistants gets another job. Then the Armor assistant can move up to head coach of the team.
It’s a total minor league system with players, coaches and trainers all picked by the Nets. King is putting together a list of candidates for the head coaching position.
“Guys will want to come and play for our team because we’re up and coming,” King said. “Coaches will want to come. I think it will be a great opportunity.”
This move also is significant because most NBA teams don’t own or run their own Development League squad. The several that do are among the best run organizations.
The Houston Rockets are the only other team with a “hybrid” affiliation (Rio Grande Valley Vipers). The Spurs (Austin Toros), Thunder (Tulsa 66ers) and Mavericks (Texas Legends) fully own and operate their D-League teams.
For the Nets, this is another step in their organizational transformation. And who knows - it could become a league-wide trend.
“I’d rather have a chance to develop a team and a roster and maybe find a young guy or find a young coach and have control over them because at some point it will become like Major League Baseball where you have an affiliate,” King said. “If it does I want to be in the front of the order and not be in the middle and try and learn it on the fly.”
Brook Lopez, the Nets’ leading scorer the past two seasons, had surgery Wednesday to remove bone mass and calcium deposits from his upper arm. He’s expected to begin rehab in about two weeks and should be able to resume basketball activities in roughly six weeks.
The Nets’ center has played every game of his three-year NBA career.
It should be a busy weekend at the Nets’ practice facility, as they will host a combine Saturday and Sunday for 44 NBA Draft eligible players.
The Nets, Knicks and Rockets joined forces for this workout, which won’t feature any lottery picks but could - and we stress the word could - produce some late first-round and second-round picks. Coaches and personnel evaluators from about 27 of the 30 NBA teams are expected to be on hand.
The Nets own Lakers’ first-round pick (No. 27) and either the 35th or 36th pick in the second round.
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Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)