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Zoran's Contract Month

Zoran Planinic is not only playing for a place in the Nets' rotation. He is also playing for job security with the Nets. Planinic is now in his third season with the Nets, after being drafted in the 2003 draft. After two mediocre seasons filled with inconsistency and injury, this looked like it could be Zoran's last season with New Jersey.

But Planinic may be changing some minds. He played well in Eurobasket 2005--where he was watched by Nets' scouts in person and by Nets' executives on television. He has been called the surprise of the training camp by Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Lawrence Frank. And of course, he greatly helped his chances with his game-winning shot and terrific work at the point against Indiana. No Net racked up as many minutes, 23, as he did Tuesday night, a sign Frank has confidence in him.

Planinic is looking more and more like a good long term investment for the club. If signed to a fourth year, Planinic would make $1.54 million in 2006-07, less than the low-level exception. He earns only $939,400 this year, putting him next-to-last on this year's Nets payroll, ahead of only Linton Johnson III, who makes vets minimum.

The problem is this: the Nets have to decide whether to keep Planinic over the next 19 days, during which the Nets will play another seven exhibition games. Planinic is still on his rookie contract and rookie contracts have a team option for a fourth year but this option must be exercised by October 31 after the player's second season. After the fourth year, players become restricted free agents rather than unrestricted, meaning a decision made this month could keep Planinic a Net through the 2007-08 season since they have the right to any offer made to him after the 2006-07 season.

The Nets have said nothing publicly about that fourth year option, nor has Planinic or his agent, Marc Cornstein. [The Nets might want to make nice with Cornstein for another reason. He is also Mile Ilic's agent and since Ilic is a second round choice, his contract is open to negotiation.]

Bottom line: it would seem like a small risk for the Nets to take. Planinic is finally showing what the Nets expected when they drafted him two years ago. And for Planinic, too, it would be a good thing. Planinic said that his hand trembled when his signed his New Jersey Nets contract. The reason: the Drazen Petrovic connection. Planinic not only played for Cibona, the same Croatian team Petro played for, but also wore his number. In Croatia, numbers are not retired but passed on to players the team thinks represents the former great's attributes. Cibona chose to award Petrovic's number, No. 10, to Planinic his last year in Croatia. So Planinic didn't need to wear Petrovic's No. 3, his retired Nets' uniform. "Z" had already been wearing the Croatian Sensation's number for years.