By John Torenli
The Nets don't have time to sit around and lament the fact that they lost their first-round draft pick to Portland during last week's NBA Draft Lottery.
Rather than lick their wounds, the organization's top talent evaluators — general manager Billy King, head coach Avery Johnson and assistant GM Bobby Marks — are in Chicago this week for the league's annual Draft Combine, which gives them an opportunity to poke, prod and pour over the information regarding players who will potentially be available to them during the June 28 NBA Draft.
"We're going to interview 18 kids and I don't know if we're going to draft one," noted Marks, who will help King and Johnson evaluate players with the help of team physicans, scouts and even a psychologist. "But you'll always be ahead of the game [if you attend]. You'll be prepared; if it's not now, it could be next year in a trade; could it be one of these kids doesn't get drafted? Could it be four years from now, when they're a free agent? You can say, 'We interviewed him — he had a great interview; he's a stand-up guy; we already have the background.' It's not always about 'the now' — it's down the road. The main goal is to have a library on every possible NBA player who's in the league."
The Nets' library is about a dozen books short of a full stack right now as the team only has four players signed for their much-anticipated inaugural campaign at the state-of-the-art Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn. With pending free agents like All-Star point guard Deron Williams and power forward Gerald Wallace still undecided if they'll return to our borough's first major pro sports franchise since 1957, the Nets will be under the gun to make good on their only draft choice, 57th overall, or orchestrate a big draft-day deal to move up in the NBA's annual selection show.
King and company will do their due dilligence in picking players' brains as well as measuring their physical capabilities during a series of medical evaluations, five-on-five scrimmages and one-on-one interviews.
"The interview process is a good setting, just because you really don't know much besides what you've done background on; you've never really met these kids," Marks revealed. "And you get to see the other people who are in your position, GM-wise, and get the dialogue going toward the Draft and free agency. It's more about gathering a lot of intelligence and a lot of information."
The Nets were slotted sixth in last week's lottery, based on their last-place 22-44 finish in the Atlantic Division and missing the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. The pick, which was top-three protected, was dealt to Portland in last February's deal for Wallace, which many felt was reactionary in the wake of the team's failure to pull off a deal for Orlando center Dwight Howard. If the Nets' lottery ball had come up in the top 3, they would have retained the pick, but they came out sixth, therefore surrendering it to the Blazers.
Highly touted future NBAers like Kansas' Thomas Robinson and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger are expected to attend the three-day event, which began Thursday morning, but those players will not be available when the Nets pick in the second round. The Nets held pre-draft free-agent workouts of their own in East Rutherford, N.J., last month.
"I think fans have got to look at it and have faith that we're going to do our work," insisted King following the lottery. "If there are players we can add in the draft, we're going to do it. But if not, there are free agents out there that we're going to go after, and we have the ability to sign them because we have cap room."