Now that the Nets have extended an invitation to Allan Houston, who will he be competing with...if he accepts. The players, described by Nets' spokesman Gary Sussman as the best September group he has seen, are diverse in their backgrounds. Beyond Houston, who would bring All-Star and Olympic credentials if he accepts the Nets' offer, there are NBA veterans, a former NCAA national champion who has failed with four teams, and a couple of smart 6'10" kids who can shoot.
Allan Houston, 6'6" SG. The Comeback Kid, Houston has been invited but not yet accepted the Nets offer. He wowed the Nets coaching brain trust--Lawrence Frank and Brian Hill--at Tuesday's workout in New York. Out of the league for two years after a series of knee injuries, Houston is a two-time NBA All-Star (2000 and 2001 with the Knicks) and an Olympic gold medalist with Jason Kidd and Vince Carter in Sydney. He is 36 years old.
Robert Hite, 6'2" SG. The Other Comeback Kid, Hite had an interesting rookie season. Undrafted out of the University of Miami, he had the unenviable task of making the defending world champions at the same position held by the Finals MVP, Dwyane Wade. He did and was playing well until he left Wade's 25th birthday party in South Beach. He was pulled over, arrested and charged with DUI. Pat Riley first suspended then dropped Hite. One problem: he wasn't drunk, the breathalyzer was faulty and charges were dropped. After a solid summer league, Hite was given a partial guarantee, the only player with any guaranteed money. He is 23.
Malik Allen, 6'10" PF. The Local Boy Who Made Good, Allen is trying for a place on what has now become the Nets' crowded front court. Allen has played for four NBA teams after a high school career at Shawnee High School in Medford, NJ, and a college career at Villanova. Allen had a hard time getting into Chicago's rotation last season, averaging only 4.0 ppg and 2.0 rpg. A hard worker and good shooter out to the foul line and a little beyond. He is 29 years old.
Eddie Gill, 6'0" PG. The Old Friend, Gill has been here before. He played in eight games for the Nets in 2000-01 and was in summer league later in 2001 with Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins. A journeyman who has played for four NBA teams, Gill spent last in Russia playing for St. Petersburg Dynamo. In addition to the Russian League, he has played in the D-League, the CBA, the IBL and the ABA in this country and the Greek and Italian leagues overseas. He is 29.
Mateen Cleaves, 6'2" PG. The NCAA Champ, Cleaves was one of the best college guards in the past 10 years, taking the Michigan State Spartans to the NCAA championship in 2000. He was the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, and a three time AP All-American. None of that has translated however into an NBA career. Cleaves has played for four NBA teams. Played last year in the D-League, averaging 16.5 ppg and 9.0 apg for Bakersfield. He just turned 30.
Matt Freije, 6'10" SF. The Blonde Bomber, Freije has had stints with the Hawks and Hornets. Known as a great shooter at Vanderbilt, he has had limited opportunity to show that skill in the NBA, playing only 42 games in two years and shooting only 22.4% from beyond the arc in his rare on-court appearances. Freije exemplifies the Nets' love for smart big men who can shoot out to the mid-range and beyond. He is 25 until October 1.
Rodrique Benson, 6'11" SF/PF. The Mad Blogger, Benson has already become a fan favorite through his blog, toomuchrodbenson.com, which is becoming one of the game's more popular blogs. See below for 10 Things You Should Know About Rod Benson. Bottom line: he can run, shoot, jump and write. He was on his way to a place in the second round of the NBA Draft in 2006 when he tore his meniscus and fractured his heel. After failing to make the Kings as a training camp invitee, Benson played well in the D-League, going for 10.4 ppg and 8.2 rpg as a sixth man for the league champion Dakota Wizards. Claims to be Jason Kidd's second cousin. At 22, the youngest of the invitees.
One final note: if Houston doesn't accept, expect to see Jumaine Jones get an invite. The 6'8" swingman would fill the same role: giving the Nets a reliable deep shooter at the two.