NetsDaily Off-Season Report #22

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.

Knicks vs. Nets re Lebron.

So you were concerned the Knicks might steal the Nets' thunder last week by dumping Zach Randolph on those poor, unsuspecting Memphis Grizzlies, getting back the overpaid duo of Marko (Jaric) and Darko (Milicic)? This would surely put them ahead in the race to 2010 and the Lebron Sweepstakes, right?

Not so fast. First of all, there's the question of how far the Knicks really can get under the cap with this or any other deal. Then, there's the question of what the Knicks' foundation will look like in 2010.

Assume the deal went through...or will. The Knicks would still owe Eddy Curry $11.3 million, Jamal Crawford $10.1 million, Jaric $7.6 million and Jared Jeffries $6.8 million in 2010. Then, there's the players still on rookie contracts: Danilo Gallinari at $3.3 million, Mardy Collins at $2.7 million and Wilson Chandler at $2.1 million. That's a total of $36.3 million or half this year's cap.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

But that amount is for a grand total of seven players, none of them an all-star and only one of the seven--Jeffries--has even a minute of playoff experience. That total also doesn't include what the Knicks would have to pay if they want to re-sign David Lee and Nate Robinson, which would probably cost them a minimum of $10 million...and more like $12 to $13 million. They will also have to pay a few million dollars to whoever they get next June. Add another $3 million to $4 million...and you can see how hard it will be for the Knicks to get under the cap even if they trade Randolph.

This back-of-the-envelope calculation doesn't count what the Knicks might have wanted to pay Milicic if the trade had been made and he played well. If Milicic had even reached a fraction of his potential, particularly as a defender, do you think the Knicks were going to let him walk in 2010? More importantly, if he was a big contributor, do you think the Knicks' free agent target would have wanted them to let him walk? Milicic is barely 23. He is a good defensive center. If he proves himself in the next two years, how much might he be worth as a 25-year-old not even approaching his peak? Ask Andrew Bogut's agent. He has a number for you. And that could be the problem in any deal the Knicks make for Randolph unless they give him away. Since Donnie Walsh already passed on that option--Randolph for a Clippers second round pick and trade exception--it appears he wants something in return.

One reason that Memphis deal might have stalled: the Grizzlies reportedly wanted a first round pick and the Knicks don't have first round pick to trade til 2012. They can't trade this year's draft choice since they have already traded their 2010 pick way back in the Stephon Marbury deal and league rules prohibit trading your picks two years in a row. That also means they can't trade their 2011 pick either.

That brings us to the second part of the Lebron equation: Who will they have to play with Lebron or D-Wade or Amare or whoever? Unless they can somehow move from dumping bad contracts to signing good players, what do they have. As anyone who has ever played the game can tell you, the first two pieces of any successful team are at the 1 and 5, the point and the low post. Unless the Knicks can perform major surgery, they don't have anyone at one position and a question mark at the other come 2010.

Who's their point guard in 2010? Marko Jaric if the deal had gone through. He and Mardy Collins would have been the only point guards under contract in 2010. Chris Duhon, a career backup slated to replace Marbury, has a two-year deal. Anthony Robeson, perennial summer league and preseason star, has a one-year deal with an option.

How about center? The disappointing Curry will be 28. Anyone still think he is Baby Shaq? Not to mention the possibility his heart could still become an issue. His contract is still uninsured.

And therein lies the Knicks' second problem? They don't have the horses to attract a top flight free agent. It is possible that Gallinari could become a star in the league. He was drafted #6 and in spite a bad bad has great gifts. Problem is that he plays the same position as the player who wears No. 23 for the Cavs.

Now, take a look at the Nets' situation. They will owe 33-year-old Vince Carter $17.5 million and Devin Harris $9 million. The rest of the Nets will be 1) on rookie contracts--Josh Boone, Sean Williams, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez and Ryan Anderson or 2) on contracts that are partially guaranteed or not guaranteed at all--Eduardo Najera, Keyon Dooling, and Chris Douglas-Roberts. While it's difficult to determine just how much is owed Najera and Dooling, it appears to be a little more than $1.5 million total. So the Nets total is indeed more, roughly $41.4 million.

BUT...

Here is what most of the pundits and Knick fans miss...the Nets have a real point guard in Harris who will be 27 years old, with three more years on his contract in 2010 and FIVE big men on rookie contracts. It's a calculated gamble, but the Nets brass are betting that two or more of those five will be better players than Curry (or Milicic, if they can resign him) by 2010. How attractive would a team with a first rate point guard and a couple of 22-year-old seven-footers in Yi and Lopez. Knicks fans can argue that Lee is a better bet as an NBA star, but Lee isn't under contract yet for 2010.

And don't forget, the Nets have promised to keep sending qualifying offers to Nenad Krstic and have the Mavs' unprotected pick in 2010 and the Warriors' lottery protected pick in 2011.

As Kiki Vandeweghe said the other day on WFAN, cap space is only one part of the plan for 2010 free agency. The other is building a "foundation" that the free agent target(s) would want to join. And at this point, the Knicks still have a long way to go before that foundation gets anywhere close to ready.

Bottom Line: the Nets are in a lot better position than the Knicks...and it's not about Jay-Z.

Flights of Fantasy.

Normally, we don't spend a lot of time on fantasy drafts and trades. The real ones are fascinating enough. But this is draft week for fantasy leagues and those friendly folks at ESPN Fantasy, CBS Sports and Rotowire have been offering all sorts of advice.

Bottom line: Yi is one of the fantasy league's top sleepers.

Here's what ESPN's Eric Karabell said of Yi this week in his compilation of sleeper picks:

"Yi Jianlian, SF/PF, Nets: The Bucks never did seem enamored with their first-rounder last season, so they shipped him East in the Richard Jefferson deal. I'm not expecting 15 and 10 from Yi, but there are skills here, and he did show them off at times. Hey, he was a rookie adjusting to a totally new culture; he deserves a break. Last December, when he was given proper playing time, he averaged 12.1 points and 6.6 rebounds, he blocked a shot per game and made more than half his field-goal attempts. I want to see this over numerous months, not 30 days, and I think it's possible with 30 minutes per night. What else do the Nets feature in the frontcourt? Well, there's Josh Boone, Brook Lopez, Stromile Swift and Sean Williams lurking. Hello, opportunity will knock, and you can get Yi very late, if not as a free agent. Speaking of the Nets, it seems like it's Vince Carter and Devin Harris scoring all the points, so I kinda like Keyon Dooling to man the point a bit, pushing Harris to the 2-guard, but there's little upside there. Chris Douglas-Roberts can play alongside Harris in the backcourt, too."

CBS Sports' Sergio Gonzalez agrees:

"Yi Jianlian, F, New Jersey: Yi was the Nets' primary return in the Richard Jefferson deal, so they'll certainly be looking to feature him prominently in his second NBA season. He was a disappointment in Milwaukee, but was also a bad fit on that team in more ways than one. Not only was he not happy with playing in a small market in Milwaukee without much of an Asian fan base, but the Grizzlies were also trying to make him a back-to-the-basket big man, something he is not. The Nets will use him on the post, but much like Nenad Krstic developed as a spot-up shooting seven-footer in New Jersey, Yi will have the chance to do the same. He's more comfortable shooting from the outside facing the rim and New Jersey could end up using him as a small forward, a role that better suits his skills. Yi's poor rookie season will make him available in the late rounds in most Fantasy formats, which could be a real steal for a player who should average double digits in scoring and more than five rebounds per game."

Sic Gloria (NJ) Transit Mundi...New Jersey Transit's Glory is Fleeting.

In March 2004, NetsDaily carried this item:

"New Jersey Transit’s board approved a plan to create a train link to the Meadowlands from the Pascack Valley Line. Construction is expected in 2005 and be completed in 2007. The Nets might not benefit, though, if they move to Brooklyn by then."

Well, no, no, and no. Construction didn't start in 2005, it wasn't completed in 2007 and the Nets haven't moved anywhere.

Still, with the new Giants-Jets (Don't call it Allianz) Stadium nearing completion, the planned transit link could be done by the 2009-10 NBA season. The latest from the NJ Transit website: "Track construction is underway. Station construction began in mid-2008. The entire project is expected to be complete in late 2009."

How would it work? Here's how the NJSEA, the state agency that runs the Meadowlands described operations: "Travel times from Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station at Secaucus Junction to the Sports Complex would be approximately eight minutes. Travel times from Hoboken Terminal to the Sports Complex would be approximately 23 minutes...

"Shuttle trains would operate approximately every 30 minutes, from 9:00 AM to 12:00 midnight, seven days per week. An expanded service schedule would be operated during events. During evening events, such as basketball games or concerts, shuttle trains would operate approximately every five to ten minutes, from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM."

So imagine if you will, the dowdy old Meadowlands looking a lot different in two years, as the Barclays Center rises in Brooklyn. There'll be the transit link and Xanadu. Maybe Lebron would be interested in a ride on that Pepsi Globe Ferris Wheel.

Krstic Update.

The Nets' erstwhile center got into foul trouble again the FIBA Europe Qualifying Round, but Serbia won, assuring a berth in next year's European championships. Serbia needed to win in the Qualifying Round after two miserable outings the last two summers in FIBA tournaments.

In the latest win, an 89-61 rout of Hungary, Krstic had 11 points and two rebounds in 18 minutes of action. He took only four shots made three of them, went to the foul line six times, made five but had four personals.

Serbia will now look to avenge their only defeat when they face Finland on Wednesday. Krstic is averaging 13 points and 5 boards a game.

Kiki's Secret Plan?

The addition of Julius Hodge and Dermarr Johnson to the Nets training camp got us thinking. Didn't these guys play together in Denver? Why indeed they did! In 2005-06 and the first part of 2006-07, Hodge and Johnson played for the Nuggets, along with a Net already under contract...Eduardo Najera.

General Manager of the Nuggets at the time, of course, was Vandeweghe. There is no doubt he pushed for Najera, a "glue" guy, and gave Hodge his second chance as well. Johnson is now getting his second second chance from Vandeweghe. He signed him in October 2004, when everyone thought his chances for an NBA career were done. Johnson had broken his neck in a 2002 auto accident that almost killed him. After a lackluster tryout with the Knicks, Johnson got his chance. In 2004-05, Johnson proved he could play, averaging 7.1 ppg in 17.6 minutes over 71 games. Since then, the now 28-year-old Johnson's career has hit another trough, but Vandeweghe is there to save him again.

Now if Kiki could get us 'Melo, who also played on those teams. Sigh.

Channeling Coco.

Speaking of Kiki, congrats to his niece, Coco Vandeweghe, the Nets' GM's 16-year-old niece won the US Open Girls Championship last week. Coco beat Gabriela Paz of Venezuela 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 to win.

As the Star-Ledger reported, she is is the daughter of Tauna Vandeweghe, who is Kiki's younger sister by 18 months and was a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic swimming team and the 1984 volleyball team. Her grandfather Ernie played for the Knicks in the 1950s.

Final Note.

Expect a lot of news this week on Bruce Ratner's final push for the Barclays Center. After this week's New York Times story on progress and problems with the project, a critics' website reports there will be 1) oral arguments before the New York Court of Appeals on the critics attempt to throw out the environmental impact study on the Atlantic Yards, 2) the same day, New York State Senate's eminent domain public hearing which could include discussion of Ratner's plan to use the state's condemnation powers to take the last bit of land he needs for the $6 billion Atlantic Yard project and 3) Congressional subcommittee will examine whether city officials "gamed" valuations of Yankee Stadium to ensure that the assessment was enough to fit with bond payments used for PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes). The same process is being used to help Ratner get bonds for Barclays Center.

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