Posted by John Schuhmann
Timing is everything, right?
According to multiple reports, the New Jersey Nets will be the first team to meet with LeBron James in Akron on Thursday morning. And that’s a pretty good position to be in, because the Nets will get to set the bar when it comes to selling James on their team.
But does the Nets being first mean that James is seriously considering them? Maybe, maybe not. The timing of the Nets’ meeting may have more to do with Jay-Z’s schedule than LeBron’s preferences.
The minority owner of the Nets and a good friend of James, will be part of the group that travels to Akron aboard owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s Gulfstream jet. But he probably won’t be around when the Nets meet with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on Friday, because he’ll be performing at a music festival in Belfort, France.
The Nets probably don’t want the other free agents to think they’re getting lesser treatment than LeBron, so maybe Ellen Page can help them set up a video conference with Jay in Europe. He’ll be performing at another festival in London on Sunday.
But of course, those other free agents are secondary. James is the big fish and fortunately for the Nets, he was able to accommodate them at a time when his friend was available.
There are two other aspects of great timing in regards to the Nets’ pitch, both of which the team controls. And from the looks of things, when Prokhorov and his team set the bar tomorrow morning, they will set it high.
On Tuesday, the Nets began painting an enormous advertisement in Manhattan, featuring Prokhorov and Jay-Z … high above Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks. It was incomplete as of Wednesday morning, but you can imagine that a photo of it will be part of the presentation that Nets C.E.O Brett Yormark (their marketing guy) makes to James. Heck, the Nets could even say that it’s incomplete because they’re waiting to paint James into it as well.
Also on Tuesday, the Nets announced that they have begun pouring the foundation for the new Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.
One of the things that might keep a free agent from signing with the Nets this summer is their temporary move to the Prudential Center in Newark. But come Thursday morning, the Nets will be able to show players that construction is indeed underway at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.
The other thing the Nets did Tuesday is trade Yi Jianlian to Washington for Quinton Ross, a move that gives them $2.9 million of extra cap space and puts them very close to having enough room to sign two max free agents. The deal puts them exactly where they want to be, but it has a downside.
Yi has been inconsistent at best in his three years in the league, and as far as the Nets’ depth chart is concerned, he’s excess baggage. So the trade doesn’t really hurt them from a basketball perspective.
But there’s no denying that Yi could have helped Prokhorov sell the idea of the Nets being a “global team.” Russia is the biggest country in the world, but it has about 1/10th the population of China.
James is popular in China already, but when the U.S. Olympic team was there in 2008, Kobe Bryant got a much bigger reception than any of his teammates. So James still has work to do there, and having Yi as a teammate could have helped.
Of course, James’ decision will be about more than just marketing. And when it comes to basketball, the Nets are in decent shape. Their existing core of Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams and No. 3 pick Derrick Favors is pretty strong compared to the other teams trying to pry James away from Cleveland.
But this is still a team that won just 12 games last season. And it’s also a team that’s losing its well-respected president.
When it comes to timing, those are the two negatives on the Nets’ scorecard.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Follow him on twitter.