An Exclusive Look Inside the Nets 2014 Draft Room

BROOKLYN — A large boardroom table dominated the player’s lounge adjacent to the Brooklyn Nets locker room in Barclays Center Thursday night.
 
Seven land line phones were spread from one end of the table to the other. Bottles of water and cans of soda dotted the tabletop.
 
An array of men with laptops, binders and notebooks took up every seat around that table. Sports coats and suit jackets were draped on back of chairs.
 
It looked a little like the jury room in 12 Angry Men. But these men weren’t angry, they were focused and determined to make the Nets a better team.
 
This was the Brooklyn Nets 2014 NBA Draft Room.
 
Nets G.M. Billy King sat at the head of the table, like, well, a King overseeing his court, but he does not rule with like a monarch. This is a democracy, draft form.
 
Behind King stood a large grease board, the Nets ‘big board.’ It listed the draft order as the Nets thought it would play out.
 
To King’s left was another grease board which listed the team’s depth chart and draft-eligible players rated by position.
 
To King’s right was a third grease board, this one listing potential trade partners.
 
There were two televisions tuned to the NBA Draft and a third that was hard-wired to a computer. That TV-turned-monitor displayed the draft, pick-by-pick.
 
On the right side of that monitor was a list of available players ranked by the Nets scouting team. The players the Nets would consider buying into the draft for are noted with $ signs.
 
Players with four $ signs are the most desired. The Nets would get two of those players. 
 
A single L.E.D. display shows the numerals 5:00, the five-minute time allotted between picks in the first round.
 
When it began counting down, a little after 7:30, a calmness overtook the room. This was not a time for emotion to rule. It wouldn’t.
 
Nets coach Jason Kidd entered the room but stood off to the side. He had just finished taping videos aimed at convincing free agents Paul Pierce, Alan Anderson and Shaun Livingston to return.
 
Mason Plumlee took a seat slightly behind and to the left of King. A year ago, he had no idea what really takes place in the NBA draft room. A year ago he was in the stands at Barclays Center, waiting to be the 22nd player taken.
 
The Cleveland Cavs made Andrew Wiggins the first pick in the draft. Plumlee grinned, reliving the moment when his name was called.
 
The draft, without surprises, continued to unfold. But midway through the first round, the first serious discussion about a player gets the room buzzing.
 
King asks a flurry of questions about the player’s college career, health and puts together a potential trade package he wonders might get him into the first round.

King settles the conversation by determining the package the Nets can offer isn’t enough incentive to wrestle a first-round pick. The room settles down again.
 
At 9:15 King’s cell phone rings. He engages in a quick business-like discussion. King shares the guts of the call and several team members lean back in their chairs.
 
For the first time the intensity in the room flirts with tension. King turns to Plumlee and says, “Mase, how do you feel about going to BLANK?’’ 
 
The question has the desired effect. The room breaks into laughter.
 
Several of the Nets braintrust are on their cell phones. The landlines on the table ring. King has one of his assistants answer. His best friend this night is his cell phone.
 
The end of the first round is close and King has resigned himself to the probability he will not get a first-round pick. But the phone rings again.
 
There isn’t much time left on the L.E.D. clock. There’s one last chance to possibly get a 1st-rounder. But the price isn’t cheap.
 
King asks, “Is it too rich?’’ He can feel the sentiment in the room jives with what he’s thinking: Too high a price, too high.
 
King uses a line from Godfather III to express his frustration at coming this close to getting a first-rounder.
 
“Just when I thought I was out,’’ he says, “they pull me back in.’’
 
The second round, with two minutes between picks, is conducted at a brisk pace. 
 
After the first eight picks are made, King looks at his big board.
 
He counts seven players he covets. The Nets have been in discussions with the Timberwolves in recent days and earlier in the night. 
 
Minnesota is willing to part with the 44th pick. The asking price is $1.1 million. The Nets have $2 million to spend under CBA rules.
 
“One point one?’’ King repeats.
 
He looks around the room, nodding his approval. The immediate charge of excitement in the room confirms his belief to buy the pick.
 
Assistant GM, Frank Zanin, is on the phone with a Minnesota official. He repeats the number: one, point, one. 
 
At 11:13, the deal is agreed to. The Nets just became players in the 2014 NBA Draft.
 
Three minutes later, with the 44th pick now in hand, there is talk about moving up. Another scenario outlining a deal is discussed. 
 
Again, the room gets intense, bordering on tense. Again, King breaks the mood by asking Plumlee if he’d like to be traded to another team. Again there is laughter.
 
When the Atlanta Hawks use the No.43 pick on center Walter Tavares, there is one player left on the Nets board that has four $ signs next to his name – Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown.
 
The Nets know they have their man. There are cheers and some applause.
 
“I said, ‘No quit, didn’t I?’’ says King.
 
King doesn’t quit. 
 
He buys the 59th pick from the Toronto Raptors and the Nets pick Xavier Thames, the former San Diego State point guard who impressed the Nets in a workout on Wednesday.

Then King buys the 60th pick from the Philadelphia 76ers and the Nets select forward Cory Jefferson of Baylor, who worked out for the team on Tuesday. At 6-9, 220 pounds, he could be a hybrid forward.
 
All three draftees will come to Orlando next week for the Nets Summer League games. The Nets started the night with no picks. They ended it with three intriguing prospects.
 
King goes out to address the media. One by one the occupants of the Draft Room close their computers, pack up their binders and exit. Finally, none of the phones are ringing.