NetsDaily Off-Season Report – No. 14

As one NetsDaily commenter suggested, the last two days have looked like the soft rollout of a new and improved product. The “product” being Kyrie Irving.

Over the last week, we’ve seen Joe Tsai praise Irving with a one-word retweet after being silent on all things Nets for a month. Then, Thursday night, the Nets covered Irving’s “More than a Run” at Kean College with posts, both stills and video, to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Weibo (the Chinese social media site) and their official website. A marketing extravaganza. Moreover, at least five teammates traveled to Central Jersey to root for him. There were also reports that assistant coaches were on hand for the event.

It’s no longer about reading tea leaves or consulting Ouija boards. There is now little doubt that not only does Irving have “every intention” of playing for Brooklyn this season, as a source close to him told Brian Lewis, but he will be welcomed back. Maybe the Nets get an offer for Irving that is too hard to pass up, but at this point that doesn’t seem likely … for a number of reasons all too familiar to Nets (and Lakers) fans.

Does that bode well for a Kevin Durant return as well? There’s been nothing on the scale of the Nets attention to Irving that we’ve seen other than a single report that he and Joe Tsai were planning to meet last week. No word on whether the two did meet up or whether the report was accurate. Tracking the two men at the end of last week, KD was in St. Tropez on the French Riviera while Tsai was in Hong Kong. (A video posted on Overtime, ironically a site owned in part by Durant, showing him and Ben Simmons in LA was from 2019.)

But if Durant didn’t like the way Irving was treated in contract negotiations, among other things, that complaint seems to have been addressed at least in a small way. Is there more going on behind the scenes and is that enough? Don’t know. Several reports back in June and July indicated that Durant’s problems with the Nets were broader and deeper, that he had “lost confidence” in the front office. It’s going to take more than the Nets marketing team traveling to Union, NJ for that to be rectified. But a start is a start.

Royce O’Neale gaining fans

Royce O’Neale has been everywhere this past week, at two New York Liberty games, at Kyrie Irving’s event at Kean University, at a Nets Basketball Academy camp at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. He even attended a Red Bull game. It’s gotten noticed by fans and O’Neale has become a favorite.

The 6’5” 3-and-D wingman was traded for a first round pick in 2023 on the same day that Durant issued his trade request. So it got lost in the bigger news of the day. He has been around since then, and getting acclimated to the Brooklyn basketball and community scene.

We also learned this fun fact about the Baylor product. He gets open.

Considering Ben Simmons proved at finding open 3-point shooters, that’s a good thing.

Here’s another thing: As we noted, O’Neale was acquired from the Jazz for a first rounder with the Nets using the trade exception generated by the James Harden trade. Right now, the pick is the worst of the Nets, Rockets and 76ers picks. So with that trade and Andre Drummond signing with the Bulls and Paul Millsap likely to retire, here’s the current state of the Nets – Sixers trade from February.

Nets get: Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Royce O’Neale and a protected Sixer pick in 2027. They still have two trade exceptions for $2.1 million, the remainder of the Harden TPE and $1.7 million, equal to Millsap’s salary. Neither are likely to be used because both are so small.

76ers got: James Harden.

Joe and Clara Wu Tsai honored

In the latest indication that Joe and Clara Wu Tsai are ensconced in New York City, Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic have named the main auditorium at Geffen Hall (formerly Avery Fischer Hall) for the couple.

As the New York Times noted, the honor was in part the result of the Tsais’ gift to the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center in the darkest days of the pandemic.

In late 2020, as coronavirus infections surged and cultural institutions shuttered, the fate of the long-delayed renovation of David Geffen Hall, the home of the New York Philharmonic, was uncertain.

Then came a $50 million gift from Joseph Tsai, a Taiwanese-born billionaire co-founder of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, and his wife, Clara Wu Tsai, a philanthropist. The donation moved the project forward, accelerating construction so the hall could reopen in October, a year and a half ahead of schedule.

So when the Philharmonic opens on October 7 with a presentation of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” city emergency medical staff and construction workers will enter the Wu Tsai Theater. Also, named for the Tsais, per the Times, “a concert series aimed at increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the arts and bringing together performers of different genres.”

“My dream is that we have a full hall of diverse audiences and that we get programming in there that really showcases the versatility and flexibility that the hall was created to offer,” said Clara who’s on the board of Lincoln Center.

The gift and honor is just the latest in the Tsais’ involvement in the life of the city. They are funding a $50 million Social Justice Fund for Brooklyn; a New York City schools program to study the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat; and Asia Society programs. (The Basquiat curriculum will be featured at a Barclays Center art gallery on Monday and Tuesday.)

During the early days of the pandemic, of course, they spent millions of dollars to acquire and airlift 2,000 ventilators, 1.5 million N95 respirators, 1.45 million surgical masks and 170,000 medical goggles, 65 percent of which went to Brooklyn hospitals. They also arranged for Barclays Center to host food banks and opened the arena entrance plaza to George Floyd protest rallies. Both Tsais are fixtures at Barclays Center whether it’s the Nets or Liberty playing … much more so than previous owners.

“My wife Clara and I have always felt that we are very deep-rooted in New York,” Joe said at the time of the ventilator shipments. “The people in New York are resilient, they are tough.”

Indeed, the two met and were married in the city when he worked at Sullivan & Cromwell, the big New York law firm, and she for American Express. While they maintain residences in Hong Kong and LaJolla, California, they recently purchased two apartments, one the penthouse, at 220 Central Park South. They’ll be around.

Overseas hires

As our Chris Milholen tweeted this week, the Nets are working out their young players at HSS Training Center, That includes several from the Nets Summer League roster. They’re not confining themselves to the Industry City facility. In the recent past, we’ve seen Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe, David Duke Jr., Kessler Edwards, Alondes Williams and RaiQuan Gray at one or more events, from Liberty games to Kyrie Irving’s “More than a run” to Basketball Academy events.

Three of their Summer League teammates will not be joining them, having decided to play overseas: Taze Moore with BG Göttingen in the German League; Yves Pons with ASVEL in the French league and Brison Gresham with Larnaca AEK in the Cyrpriot league.

Ben Simmons Real Estate Watch

Earlier this off-season, we updated Ben Simmons digs, how he sold his sprawling mansion in Moorestown, NJ, and put up for sale both his Center City condo in Philly and a Hidden Hills property in Los Angeles. So where’s he living now? It appears from a fan site devoted to his fiancée Maya Jama that the couple has moved into what appears to an apartment in SoHo, judging from the view…

This is apparently the apartment that’s been under construction for months.

Final Note

Other than the near daily rumors on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s status, things are slow. The Nets haven’t made a roster move in weeks. The last move was the signing of Edmond Sumner a month ago. The roster remains the same: 12 fully guaranteed contracts, a partially guaranteed deal (Sumner) and a two-way (Alondes Williams.) The Nets can bring up to 20 players into camp and must be down to 17 — 15 standard deals and two two-ways — the day before Opening Night. There’s a lot more that could happen.

Speaking of Opening Night, expect the 2022-23 schedule to be released in a little more than a week.

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