NetsDaily Off-Season Report #14

Every Sunday, we’ll be updating the Nets’ off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help take the edge off missing the playoffs, relying on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who have slipped interesting data into larger stories and blogs.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving.

When Jason Kidd left, everyone was excited about two of the assets the Nets received in return: Devin Harris and the two first round picks. Some were also excited about DeSagana Diop too, but it would be hard to find anyone so excited they were willing to give him $32 million over the next five years. That’s what Dallas has agreed to pay him.

Obviously, people remain excited about Harris...it should be noted that the three jerseys under glass in the lobby of the Nets' practice facility are, in order, #34 (Harris), #15 (Vince Carter) and #9 (Yi Jianlian).

The first of the Dallas picks turned into Ryan Anderson who the Nets liked a lot in the draft and in Orlando. He sure looked exactly what they were looking for, a young, deep shooting big man with better athleticism that expected.

But three of the assets didn’t get a lot of attention at the time: the $3 million in cash, the $3.3 million trade exception and Keith Van Horn's expiring contract. They were a bit arcane for the average fan.

Not any more.

With the trade for Keyon Dooling imminent, the Nets have turned two of the three into a solid bench player. Dooling, 28, is being acquired in a sign-and-trade using the $3.3 million trade exception. By using the TE, the Nets won't have to include any players. And that $3 million in cash? It could very well be what the Nets are sending the Magic in the sign-and-trade.

So Dooling and Anderson become late benefits to the biggest trade in Nets history. Essentially, after the draft and three weeks of free agency, the deal looks like this:

The Nets get Devin Harris, Maurice Ager, Trenton Hassell, Keith Van Horn, Ryan Anderson, Keyon Dooling and the Mavs’ 2010 first round pick. In return, the Mavs get Jason Kidd and Antoine Wright. We could add DeSagana Diop to the Mavs list too.

Now, can the KVH contract become a benefit as well? Fred Kerber wrote this week that the contract is worth $4.326 million. That's more than has been suggested and worth about $5.5 million in a trade. To make KVH's contract work, the other team would have to be looking to send the Nets a longer term contract in a salary dump and the Nets would have to be willing to take on that longer term contract. (KVH has a small buyout, but the Nets could easily include "cash considerations" in any deal to defray the cost of the buyout...it's not likely to be more than a half million dollars.)

The team can wait while before it has to make that decision. Al Iannazzone has reported the Nets have until October to work a deal. That's when KVH will either have to waived or left on the roster for another year. (The longer KVH sits in limbo, the great likelihood the league will look askance at using his contract in a deal.)

Looking for Mr. Big.

It’s been hard keeping up with all the comings and goings of big men since the end of last season, and it’s hard to tell who will still be around when the Nets face off in Europe during preseason. Nenad Krstic’s status is likely to dealt with this week. Krstic, who turns 25 on Friday, is expected to get several offers. Iannazzone reports that at least four teams are interested: Memphis, Cleveland, Milwaukee and the Knicks. Memphis has the most cap space. In fact, Memphis is the only team in that group that has any cap space. Cleveland is the only team with their MLE still intact so the chances of those teams signing him outright is small. The more likely outcome would be a sign-and-trade involving multiple players...so the Nets could reduce the number of players they have on their roster.

The Nets keep insisting they don’t want to lose the oft-injured seven-footer who they thought could develop into a reliable 18-and-8 player. It would be risky to think he can never return to pre-injury form.

Assuming he stays, here is the current mix, always subject to change, of the big men and their prospects for this season:

Brook Lopez – 7’1", 260, 20 years old. The only really true center on the roster. He looked great-–on offense—in the summer league, averaging 19.5 ppg in five games, and getting better with each game. He is tough, his athleticism has been underrated—same vertical leap as DeAndre Jordan, and he can shoot out to the college or even NBA three point line. Yes, he was a steal, BUT he is a rookie and a young rookie. He is likely to see games where he's charged with three fouls in five minutes. How will he handle that? Analysts note his defense in general is a work in progress, his lower body strength leaves something to be desired and he didn’t exactly get a reputation for rebounding the ball in Orlando. Everyone who sees him upclose remarks about how big—"HUGE"—he is.

Nenad Krstic – 7’0", 260, 25 years old. As noted, Curly or "Krle" as he’s known in Serbia, was on his way toward all-Star status until he blew out his knee. He keeps saying the knee is fine, but as Jarvis Hayes said this week, "they say it takes a year and a half" to deal with the mental aspect of such a devastating injury. IF he can come back and IF he and the Nets reach an agreement that makes everyone happy, he could be very important to the team. He has post skills as well as a deep jumper. As proven when he teamed up with Jason Collins, he can play the four as well as the five, at least on offense.

Yi Jianlian – 7’0", 235, 20 years old. We’ll know more about Yi, the mysterious visitor from the East, very soon. He will be facing off against some of the biggest names in basketball in the Olympics, in China, in front of the world. There’ll be Carlos Boozer of the US; Andrew Bogut of Australia—his former teammate; Andrei Kirilenko of Russia; Dirk Nowitzki of Germany; all looking to take him down low. Can he handle them? Can they handle him when he moves outside. In our most pleasant daydreams, we are reminded of Drazen Petrovic, another international star who played elsewhere before joining the Nets and blooming as a bona fide NBA superstar. Yi plays the four, but may be best suited as a three. Again, his defense is questionable, at best.

Josh Boone – 6’10", 245, 23 years old. Big improvement last year with more double-doubles than anyone in his draft class, and that includes LaMarcus Aldridge. He is reportedly working feverishly on his upper body strength and outside shooting. Remember, this is a kid who has yet to practice in camp or train most of the summer. In 2006, he tore his labrum in the last game of summer league and was restricted to the exercise bike and other lower body exercises, no shooting. In 2007, he needed knee surgery right after the season. Again, his routine was set back. He can play the five and with better range on his jumper (like beyond five feet), he could play the four. His defense is better than his teammates, but that's not saying much.

Sean Williams – 6’10". 240, 21 years old. So much potential, so much trade value. David Thorpe of ESPN calls him "a special talent" but maybe one without a true NBA position. No one can doubt his athleticism. His rookie teammates marvel at what he can do. His defense on Michael Beasley was superb…but he didn’t dominate the Summer League as second year players normally do. How much focus does he have? How much of a motor? Carter and Jefferson were constantly on him last season, pushing him, on the court and in the locker room. Lawrence Frank reluctantly gave him a starting spot and initially he proved worthy of the promotion. Then, he hit the wall and disappeared into rotation hell. He claimed not to know why. Carter disabused him of that notion. He isn’t a five, can play the four and there are some in Netsland who think he should try the three.

Ryan Anderson – 6’10", 230, 20 years old. As noted, the youngest Net player in a quarter century. Reminiscent of Van Horn, minus the high whites. He was picked for that deep shooting range and his ability to get points however he can. He, like Lopez, proved that he is more athletic than given credit for, twice shocking people with driving two hand dunks through the lane. Fred Kerber wrote that Pacer coach Jim O'Brien thinks he's "physically immature", which could mean he is still growing but is more likely a way of saying, "Mr. Anderson, meet Mr. Dalatri, your new best friend." Did we mention he is the youngest Net in 25 years? That is not said to encourage a belief he is ready right now. He can play the four and the three and in college, after Devin Hardin went down, he played the five. Can’t imagine him doing that in the NBA.

Stromile Swift – 6’10", 235, 28 years old. There is nothing so exasperating in sports as a player who was given all the physical tools to perform at a high level, but not the manual on how to use them. In short, Swift is a tease, someone who on a given night looks like a player who deserved that overall #2 pick in the 2000 draft, but on most doesn’t come close. If he stays, the one hope the Nets could rely on is that he's in his contract year. At his age, the next contract he signs will be his last. He needs to show just how good he is. It’s no longer a case of potential. It’s about performance. He is essentially limited to the four.

That’s seven big men, but two or three of them can be pressed to play the three. Too many? The Nets carried five bigs last season and everyone in the front office said the team had to get bigger. The Nets obviously are looking to make a deal or two. They've contacted the agents for Kwame Brown and Francisco Elson, possibly for inclusion after other deals are made. And what about Darius Miles, who the Nets worked out before anyone else did?

Draft Night Decisions

Okay, let’s suppose Brook Lopez wasn’t there at #10, that Charlotte had taken him instead of D.J. Augustin (another reason to thank MJ)? Who would the Nets have taken? In a meeting with season ticket-holders, a key team official offered no hesitation. Jerryd Bayless of Arizona was the answer. In spite of his similarities to Harris, the Nets felt Bayless was the best player available and as one Net official put it, "at that level, you go for the best player."

And what about #21? Was there another contender for the Nets’ affections there? Indeed, and surprise, it was Courtney Lee of Western Kentucky, not one of the lesser bigs, like Darrell Arthur, Donte Green or DeAndre Jordan, all of whom were available. (One has to assume that if the Nets had taken Bayless at #10, they wouldn’t have taken Lee at #21.)

While almost everyone agrees the Nets got "steals" with Brook Lopez and Chris Douglas-Roberts, they feel they did just as well taking Anderson. And while CDR gets a lot of attention for his anger at being picked at #40, do not dismiss how pissed off Lopez is about being picked at #10. "He thought he should have gone in the top five…and wants to prove it," said the same official.

Catching Up with Devin Harris

Harris is back in Milwaukee with a side trip to his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, in Madison.

Harris told the local papers he is adjusting to being the Nets’ "point guard of the future" (not now?), a bit upset by the Richard Jefferson trade, but excited in general.

So what’s he been doing? He told the Madison Times that he is concentrating on working on his form and shooting a higher percentage from the field. "I've been working on my pull-up [jumpers] off the dribble from 15 feet out to make sure that that is a knockdown, 100 percent of the time bucket," Harris said. "As always, I'm working on reading the floor and, really, just getting stronger, to keep my body healthy to make it through a full season."

With the addition of Dooling, the Nets have two defensively oriented guards. Both can shoot a bit as well…and both, as noted above, are the product of the Kidd trade.

Harris, who practiced against Team USA last summer, won’t be in Vegas this summer. He had been chosen as an alternate for the NBA Select Team but wasn’t called.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim Considers Retirement.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim admitted this week that his troubled right knee could cause him to retire.

"I think at the end of the day with something like this, it'll make the decision for you," he told the Sacramento Bee. "Anyone's body is only going to let you do what it's going to let you do. That's the thing. I haven't really mentally started adjusting to (the notion of retirement) and thinking like that. I guess my body will let me know."

The Kings would like that to happen since it would free them from carrying the last two years of his five-year, $29 million contract on their salary cap.

SAR missed virtually all of last season following the second surgery on the knee and this summer, things haven't improved significantly. Of course for Nets fans, the combination of "Shareef Abdur-Rahim" and "right knee" bring back some bad memories.

As any Nets' fan can recall, the team had an agreement with Abdur-Rahim in the summer of 2005. They would acquire the 20 point career scorer in a sign-and-trade with Portland. The Nets had commited to giving him a six-year, $38 million contract that would have expired in 2010-11. Then, the day before a press conference was scheduled to introduce him, Nets orthopedists thought they saw evidence that SAR's right knee had a problem. At age 16, he had had knee surgery and the subsequent build-up of scar tissue was a warning sign, they thought, that he might not be able to play at the far end of the contract.

The Nets offered Abdur-Rahim a revised deal. Both Aaron Goodwin, SAR’s agent, and Rod Thorn confirmed the second offer. It was a bit complicated. The new offer included four guaranteed seasons--through 2008-09--with the years five and six guaranteed only if Abdur-Rahim showed "no significant problems" through the first three years of the contract...meaning through this year.

"And if he played two years without a problem, the fifth year would be guaranteed," Thorn said at the time. "Basically, he only had to show up."

Luckily for the Nets, Abdur-Rahim rejected the Nets' offer and instead signed with the jubilant Kings of Sacramento who thought they had gotten the former All-Star at a bargain basement rate. Their doctors had looked at the same data the Nets orthopedists had but signed off.

It's difficult to imagine what cap hell the Nets' salary picture would be in today if SAR had even signed the Nets' second offer. May we say, "Curse of Thorn"?

Next Up: Roy Rogers

Expect the next press release from the Nets, after the Dooling signing, to be one announcing the hiring of Roy Rogers, the former Alabama and NBA shot blocker, as big man coach. Rogers had a short, injury-marred career in the NBA, playing only four years after being drafted at #22 by the Grizzlies in the 1996 draft. He last played professionally in 2003 in Poland.

Most recently, he worked as an assistant coach for the Spurs’ D-League team, the Austin Toros, where he tutored Ian Mahinmi, their 6’-11" French prospect.

The Nets tried to obtain him in the late 1990’s as a back-up to Jayson Williams. While at Alabama, he tied the NCAA record for blocked shots in a game with 14 against Georgia on February 10, 1996.

Final Note.

We found an interesting blog last week, which unlike most sports blogs is both highly readable and original. And we liked the subject matter of their latest post: what happens if your team cuts salary to the bone hoping to sign a free agent in 2010 (like say Lebron James) and he decides to stay home or go elsewhere.

Here's how BlackBall Sports described the problem:

"Teams are openly saying that they are positioning their salary cap and rosters to have space for these players. Teams such as the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks are openly advertising that they’re moving their rosters around to get Lebron James. I’m not a fan of either one of these teams (matter fact Hate the Knicks) but this is ridiculous. How can teams be openly trading players and getting rid of salary in HOPE, HOPE I say of landing one of those big time players. First off what does that say to the fans and season ticket holders of these teams? There is no way that you can say the Nets trading Richard Jefferson for Yi Jianlian makes them a better team in the near future.. Right now, Richard Jefferson along with Vince Carter and Devin Harris makes the Nets a playoff contender. By trading for Yi, you clear Jefferson’s salary for 2010 and can HOPE for Lebron.

"I for one believe that teams should openly rebuild and say, 'as our team is constructed we can’t win a title.' But if that is going to be the stance of the organization some kind of restitution needs to be offered to the fans and season ticket holders. I would even be willing to support the team trying to get a great player if weren’t still forced to pay full price for a product that isn’t worth full price. I don’t hear the owners in New Jersey saying 'tickets cheaper this year, because we want Lebron in 2010.'

"And the other problem with this philosophy is what if Lebron or D. Wade don’t leave and come to any of these teams. So, now you have no superstar and you have retarded whatever process your team had made these last couple of years. All these teams that are getting rid of salary can’t sign Lebron and or D. Wade. And would signing Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh really be worth postponing your team’s progression?"

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