In letter to fans about future plans, Nets conspicuously leave out Deron Williams, Joe Johnson

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Joe Johnson is set to make $24.9 million next season. He led the Brooklyn Nets in scoring last season, averaging 14.4 points per game, then upped that to 16.5 points per game in the playoffs.

Deron Williams is set to make $21 million next season (and $22.3 million the season after that). The Nets’ point guard, he averaged 13 points and 6.6 assists per game.

They are owners of two of the worst contracts in the NBA, deals that are anchors on the rebuilding of the Brooklyn Nets. These were guys sold as part of a “big three” a couple years ago but now are not part of the future — in fact they are two guys the Nets would love to trade this summer. They will be shopped. Hard.

So maybe it shouldn’t be a shock that when the Nets sent a letter to season ticket holders this week, Williams and Johnson didn’t get mentioned, reports the New York Post.

(GM Billy) King and (CEO Brett) Yormark stated the Nets have plans to re-sign Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young “to keep our core leadership together.” They stated they wanted to “build on our emerging young core,” mentioning Mason Plumlee, Bojan Bogdanovic, Markel Brown and Sergey Karasev. They mentioned their two draft picks — Nos. 29 and 41 — and a desire in “purchasing’’ another pick.

But King and Yormark made no mention of Williams and Johnson — omissions that can be taken as an ominous sign for the duo. It’s unclear if either Williams or Johnson has requested a trade.

Whether they’ve requested one or not, the implication the duo will not be back is clear. And that’s the right move. Blame injuries or whatever you wish, the Nets have not gotten the Williams they thought they traded for. Johnson had a contract everyone around the league knew would be bad in those final couple years.

However, finding a trade partner is not going to be that simple.

Johnson will be the easier to move — and it’s not going to be that easy. He’s in the final year of his contract, and while expiring deals mean less under the current CBA than the previous one, a team that takes him on wouldn’t be stuck with him. Plus Johnson can still produce, still knock down shots, and has done so in big moments. Still, there are not a lot of teams with the cap space to take him on, fewer still would send anything back to Brooklyn of real quality. Rather, most will want to dump their own bad deals. One team to watch is Charlotte, with Lance Stephenson coming home to Brooklyn (that deal was discussed last trade deadline). If I were a team contacted, I would be asking for a young player or picks to sweeten this deal, Johnson alone is not enough.

Williams will be even harder to move because he is owed money for two more seasons, plus he has a lengthy injury history, his game is in decline, and he’s on the wrong side of 30. Never say never, but the Nets don’t have the young assets are willing to part with to get another team to take on Williams.

But expect the rumors about those two to be flying this summer.

Arizona State leading scoring Remy Martin declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Arizona State junior Remy Martin has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot point guard took on more of scoring role in his third season with the Sun Devils than he had in his first two seasons. Martin averaged 19.1 points per game on 43.2% shooting from the field. Martin also dished out 4.1 assists per game, after averaging 5.0 assists as a sophomore.

Arizona State’s leading scoring may just be testing the waters, as he’s expected to go undrafted. NBA scouts have concerns over Martin’s size at the NBA level. One concern is his ability to hold up defensively, as NBA point guards are trending bigger and bigger in recent years.

As a smaller guard, Martin was one of the players who could have benefited from the traditional pre-draft process. With in-person workouts on hold, and potentially cancelled entirely, players have limited opportunities to improve their draft stock. Teams may be drafting off previous in-person scouting and off of tape.

NBA players reportedly to take part in televised NBA 2K tournament Friday

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If we can’t watch NBA players on the court, at least we can watch them control their digital selves and teammates in a live basketball tournament.

ESPN plans to broadcast an NBA 2K tournament with only NBA players at the controllers, a story broken by Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports. The hope is to have it air Friday, with the players competing from their homes around the country.

The NBA is planning a players-only NBA 2K tournament that will feature the league’s sharpest video gamers and it will be broadcast on ESPN, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

Players competing against their peers in the comfort of their own homes could offer a distraction for fans who are missing the game and a little competition.

Esports are incredibly popular and growing as a spectator sport, both in person and on Twitch and other platforms. With there being a pent-up demand for sports programming, this seems a smart attempt to draw eyeballs. Even people who are non-esports viewers could tune in just to check it out, because it’s that or rewatching Tiger King.

You can bet that if it works, we will see a lot more of it in the future.

(Inside baseball note: I would love to see the emails/texts flying around ESPN about Yahoo breaking a story about what is coming in their network.)

 

Shaquille O’Neal: I had no idea what was happening with Joe Exotic of Tiger King

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On a recent episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq” former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal said that “he had no idea” what was happening at the zoo run by Joe Exotic. Joe Exotic was recently made famous through the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”.

Footage of O’Neal appeared in the first episode of the show and was shown taking photographs with the animals.

The documentary also showed a cut of O’Neal on TNT saying “Shoutout to Exotic Joe. I got two more tigers.”

On his podcast, O’Neal explained:

“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe. We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. We take pictures with (the) tigers. We went back a couple times. Then we go back another time and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of 19 different charges. Those charges included murder-for-hire plot, illegally selling endangered species and other animal-related offenses.

O’Neal clarified that he never bought any animals, but often donates to charities that help animals. He also made it clear that he’s not friends with Joe Exotic, nor anyone involved in the trade of endangered species.

“I don’t harm tigers,” O’Neal said. “I love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time. Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers. Listen, people are going to make their own opinions, but, again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”

Report: Brooklyn Nets looking to hire a blue-chip head coach

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When the Brooklyn Nets and Kenny Atkinson parted ways in early-March, the team installed Jacque Vaughn as the interim head coach.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that’s a short-term appointment. On his podcast “Brian Windhorst and The Hoop Collective”, the reporter said the Nets are looking to hire a coach with a track record of NBA success.

“One of the things that has been expressed sort of the grapevine, that’s the way I’m going to say it to protect myself from the aggregators, is that Durant and Irving would like a blue-chip coach. I don’t know what this says about the way they thought about Atkinson, but they want a big-name coach.”

Names linked to the Brooklyn opening are Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, and both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.

Atkinson leaving Brooklyn was a surprise, considering he had led the Nets back to the playoffs in 2019. That success came after a three-year rebuild. That process was kicked off when general manager Sean Marks hired Atkinson to lead the on-court development. Under Marks and Atkinson, the Nets developed several players who had been given up on by other teams.

Brooklyn was 28-34 when Atkinson was let go. The Nets had gone 2-0 under Vaughn before the NBA suspended play in mid-March.