Lopez and Young hit open market
Nets Eager to Bring Back Free Agent Center and Power Forward
Now that he’s done with his draft night wheeling and dealing, Nets general manager Billy King can officially get down to his main order of offseason business.
King has been adamant that the Nets’ plan for the immediate future relies heavily on the signing of recently declared free agents Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, both of whom were eligible to receive offers as of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Though neither player can be officially inked until July 9, according to NBA guidelines, King is expected to at least reach a verbal agreement with his 7-foot former All-Star center and slashing power forward within the next several days, if not sooner.
King’s confidence that he can bring both Lopez and Young back was evident when he dealt away backup center Mason Plumlee during last Thursday night’s NBA Draft at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
The Nets acquired the rights to forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (selected 23rd overall by Portland) and veteran point guard Steve Blake from the Trail Blazers in exchange for Plumlee, who served the Nets well before Young’s arrival at the trade deadline and during Lopez’s absence due to injury.
“We are very excited to add Rondae to our roster,” said King, who grabbed the Arizona alum in the hopes that he could shore up the Nets’ defense. “He is the type of athletic wing we were looking for, and we felt he was the best defensive player in the draft.
“I also wanted to thank Mason for his time with the Nets and wish him the best with his new team,” King added of his fellow Duke graduate. “Mason worked extremely hard from the first time he stepped on the court in training camp last year, and I am sure he will have a long and successful career.”
Now that the cupboard is virtually bare of big men, King must re-sign the tandem that spearheaded the Nets’ charge to a third consecutive postseason berth last season.
Lopez averaged 17.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and nearly two blocks per contest last season, but he especially shined when the Nets needed him most.
During Brooklyn’s 11-5 finish to the regular season, which barely got them into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, Lopez put up at least 30 points on five occasions and netted just over 20 points and nine rebounds per night in April.
“Without Brook Lopez there’s no way we even get to where we got to,” King gushed, pointing to Lopez’s gaudy post-All-Star break numbers of 19.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
“When you got a guy that’s getting double doubles, there’s not a lot of guys in the league that can do that,” King added.
Young, whom King acquired from Minnesota for future Hall of Fame power forward Kevin Garnett in February, averaged 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds in 20 regular-season contests for Brooklyn, working extremely well in tandem with Lopez along the interior.
“We’ve got to retain those guys,” King insisted. “They say they want to be here, we want them here because then you can build around them and build with them. Every indication we’ve gotten from both of them, they want to be here, we want them here.”
But keeping them here will come at a cost, approximately $110 million or so.
Lopez, likely to receive $60 million over the next three seasons, and Young, rumored to be in the four-year, $50 million neighborhood, will apply more pressure on King to unload one, if not both, of his high-priced guards, if there are any takers.
With Joe Johnson scheduled to receive nearly $25 million next year, and Deron Williams locked in for $43 over the next two campaigns, the Nets aren’t likely to find their way under the luxury-tax threshold (set at about $90 million) without making a cost-cutting deal.
Owners of the biggest payroll in the league the past two years, the Nets haven’t exactly gotten their money’s worth, falling in the Eastern Conference semifinals two seasons ago and flaming out in the opening round last year following a disappointing but not quite disastrous regular season.
“We’re going to explore all options we have,” King noted last month. “Will there be a trade? There could be. But we’re going to look at every option to get better.”
Getting better begins Wednesday morning with bringing back the two big men who prevented Brooklyn from suffering its first non-playoff season since arriving in our fair borough.
Nothing But Net: The Nets also acquired the draft rights to forward Juan Pablo Vaulet from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for a 2018 second round pick, the Nets’ 2019 second-round pick and cash considerations last Thursday night. Vaulet is a native of Cordoba, Argentina who has been playing for Weber Bahia Estudiantes of the Liga Nacional de Basquet in Argentina. The 19-year-old averaged 7.2 points and 4.1 rebounds in 16.9 minutes over 34 games this past season. … Brooklyn also requested waivers on guard Darius Morris this week. Morris, originally signed as a free agent by the Nets on Dec. 11, 2014, appeared in 38 games with Brooklyn during the 2014-15 season, averaging 2.2 points and 1.3 assists in 7.9 minutes per game. The 41st overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, Morris has appeared in 132 career games (17 starts) with Brooklyn, Memphis, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia and the Lakers, posting averages of 3.3 points and 1.4 assists in 11.1 minutes per game. … The Nets announced their 2015 Summer League roster and schedule Monday. They will compete in both the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League, as well as the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Brooklyn’s Summer League team will feature rookie Hollis-Jefferson, as well as returning Nets players second-year guard Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson. Brooklyn will kick off its summer slate on July 4 vs. Memphis in Orlando at 5 p.m.
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