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Nets stuck in place ; Running into difficulty looking for a deal (Not Online)

By Al Iannazzone,
The Record

MILWAUKEE -- An abnormal flurry of trades already have taken place in the NBA this season, but the Nets haven't joined the fray.

It's looking less and less likely that the Nets will pull off a blockbuster deal before Thursday's 3 p.m. trading deadline. If they do nothing, it's not from lack of effort.

Nets' officials are trying to get bigger and more athletic or at least shed some salaries to help them later, but the exercise has proven fruitless, thus far.

In the Nets' locker room, the coaches and players are focused on the games. No one is worried about being traded. Some players, in fact Marc Jackson and Zoran Planinic hope they go to a team that will play them. But many of the Nets feel they can win with the team they have.

"Yeah, I do," Jason Kidd said before the Nets opened their post All-Star-break schedule Tuesday against the Bucks at the Bradley Center. "If we are healthy and we are playing good basketball, we can beat anybody. We have shown that. And we can lose to anybody. We've just got to find that consistency."

The Nets are one of the Eastern Conference's most talented teams, but probably a good big man away from being a legitimate championship contender. Barring something unforeseen, like Kevin Garnett being available, the Nets likely won't find that player by Thursday.

The players they have had interest in some of whom they will keep checking on until Thursday include Melvin Ely, Chris Wilcox, Drew Gooden, Stromile Swift, Ruben Patterson and Tony Battie. They're not sexy names or players you equate with winning.

Even so, teams have not been jumping at the chance to get Jackson, Planinic or Jeff McInnis, or players with expiring contracts in Lamond Murray and Linton Johnson. And Nets president Rod Thorn and GM Ed Stefanski haven't liked what's been offered for their two 2006 first-round picks.

"Ed and Rod know what they are doing," Kidd said. "If there is nothing out there that they feel can better the team, then this will be our team."

The Nets' best bet may be to wait until the summer and see what they can do then. Perhaps their picks their own and the Clippers' pick (Nos. 21 and 24, respectively) will be more valuable in June. Plus, Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins no longer will have salary restrictions that make them next to impossible to deal at this time.

If things continue to deteriorate in Minnesota, Garnett could be on the block this summer. A package that includes either Vince Carter or Jefferson and the two low first-rounders could interest Minnesota. Although Stefanski said this draft is considered a weak one.

"A lot of people may not want multiple picks," he said.

The biggest disappointment to the Nets is that their draft picks aren't that enticing. The Nets kept the pick, after dealing away the other two they got in the Kenyon Martin trade, because they figured the Clippers would continue their losing ways and it would be a Lottery choice.

But the Clippers acquired Cuttino Mobley and Sam Cassell in the off-season, and compiled the NBA's seventh-best record at the All- Star break, devaluing the pick in a less-than-stellar draft.

"Everyone right now says, 'Oh it's watered down. It's not that good,'" Stefanski said. "But as you get closer to the draft then you start falling in love with more players. Where we thought we were going to be and where we are now, the picks are not as good."

During the Thorn regime, the Nets usually aren't active around the deadline. They do their work on draft night, which is when they got Jefferson and Collins, or later in the summer, which is when they got Kidd, Dikembe Mutombo, traded Martin and Kerry Kittles and acquired Jackson.

"Every year it is quiet for us," Kidd said. "We are going to stay pat, I guess, pat and be ready to rock-and-roll. I don't think we are doing anything."

The summer may be the best time for the Nets to strike a deal anyway.