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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #16

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.

Carter Update.

Expect to hear what Vince Carter thinks of the Nets' off-season moves. Carter will be at the Nets' practice facility starting Monday. That's when he brings his annual Youth Basketball Academy to New Jersey.

He'll also be asked how he's feeling. Carter was told to take four months off following his April surgery. That means he should be able to begin practicing again this month...if he hasn't already.

Final Pieces.

Word from the back rooms of the front office is that fans shouldn’t expect more than a few "tweaks" for the rest of the summer, that the roster now is "pretty close" to what it will look like in October when the Nets fly to Europe for their exhibition games in London and Paris.

As noted before, the Nets have the assets if they want to make a move, with two first round picks (Dallas unprotected in 2010 and Golden State protected in 2011, etc.), the expiring contracts of Keith Van Horn and Stromile Swift and a lot of room before the team gets close to the luxury tax threshold.

They’re still reluctant to go with any long-term deals, however, which would seem to rule out a sign-and-trade for a restricted free agent. No doubt if the Hawks decided to gift the Nets with Josh Smith, Rod Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe would jump at it, and reportedly there were discussions. We wonder if there were a similar opportunity with any other free agent, like say J.R. Smith, they'd be willing to take the risk.

It's not that a third year is a complete deal-killer. The Nets have, in all but one of their free agent signings, made some commitment for the 2010-11 season. Eduardo Najera will make $3 million that season—and $2.8 million the next; Keyon Dooling reportedly has a $500,000 guarantee on the $3.8 million third year of his deal; and Chris Douglas-Roberts has an $850,000 team option in 2010-11 as well in his (extraordinary for a second rounder) three-year deal. Only Jarvis Hayes has a contract that stops dead before 2010-11. (The Nets will also have to decide this fall whether to extend the contracts of Josh Boone, Yi Jianlian, Sean Williams and yes, Maurice Ager, all of whom are still on their rookie contracts.)

Lost Gifts.

The news that Nenad Krstic was headed off to Russia, coming just after Marcus Williams was traded to Golden State, made us wonder if the Nets’ player development mantra is as important as we’ve been led to believe.

Player development is a lot of things, from improving player skillsets to helping players understand the value of conditioning to rehabilitation from injuries to simply maintaining a young player’s confidence. The loss of Williams and Krstic, two players who originally were seen as the steals of their respective drafts, leads us to question how committed the team is to making sure players reach their full potential or return to it after an injury.

We know all about the players’ responsibility and second and third chances. We also know that no other team wanted to make commitments in terms of trading assets (Williams) or paying big bucks (Krstic). And we know of Thorn’s excellent record in knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'm. But our sense is that the Nets could easily regret both these moves and in the not too distant future. We don’t wish either Williams or Krstic ill…we hope they both succeed…but we don’t look forward to the weeping and gnashing of teeth that comes with seeing them succeed elsewhere.

And nothing we have seen the last few weeks deters us from our stated belief that the Nets’ current financial strategy is as much about saving money—period--as it is about saving money for Lebron.

Ratner Wins Again.

It hardly made a ripple but Bruce Ratner won another court battle this week. One of the original investors in Ratner's effort to buy the Nets sued a year ago claiming Ratner had reneged on promises to put him on the Nets Board of Directors. Eugene Greene invested $6 million in the Nets and claimed to have brought in investors who contributed another $25 to $30 million. In return, Greene believed he had been promised perks from Ratner including the seat on the team's board of governors.

"You will be the glue that helps run this team," Ratner allegedly told Greene (in what has to be one of the oddest metaphors ever).

When Greene didn't get what he wanted, he sued. A state court judge dismissed the case, noting the team had returned Greene's investment in 2004, shortly after Ratner bought the team. Greene may appeal.

Any appeal would have no impact on the construction of the Nets' new arena. The last case that could moves back into state court next month when critics will appeal a lower court ruling dismissing their challenges to the project's Environmental Impact Statement. Critics, who have yet to win in court, filed another lawsuit aimed at stopping the arena on Friday, but with fewer plaintiffs. It's been reported that some of the original plaintiffs have settled with Ratner and sold their properties to him.

Meanwhile, in spite of the continuing credit crisis, Ratner is moving ahead on two major residential complexes, one in Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn, an indication he still has ready sources of financing. Both projects are now under construction. The Manhattan site, at 60 Beekman Place, will rise 76 stories while the Brooklyn site at 80 DeKalb, will rise 36 stories. Frank Gehry, the architect for the Barclays Center, is also the architect on the Lower Manhattan project.

Watching Yi.

Learn how to set your DVR’s, TIVO’s or VCR’s because Yi will be playing at odd hours for Team China.

Here’s the preliminary round schedule…China is in the very tough Group B.

Sunday, August 10 - 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon - USA vs. China

Tuesday, August 12 - 4:30 a.m. - 6:30 a.m. - China vs. Spain

Thursday, August 14 - 2:30 a.m. - 4:30 a.m. - Angola vs. China

Saturday, August 16 - 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. - China vs. Germany

Monday, August 18 - 2:30 a.m. - 4:30 a.m. – Greece vs. China

So looking at the schedule, Yi will be working against NBA big men in three of those five games. Beyond the US big men, he and Yao will be matched up with Spain’s Pau Gasol and Jorge Garbajosa and Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman.

To get to the next round, China will have to make the top four of Group B, not an easy task. Otherwise, their Olympics end on August 18.

NBC will have a special Olympic Basketball Channel and don’t be surprised if you hear a familiar voice. Chris Carrino, the Nets’ radio play-by-player announcer, will be calling a lot of them, along with Snapper Jones.

Covering Krstic.

We don’t think Krstic will be back, in spite of the Nets’ decision to extend him a qualifying offer next season and presumably in 2009 as well. We think it’s about preserving assets--to keep Krstic’s rights for sign-and-trade purposes, not to bring him back. There is a lot of bitterness now, particularly over whether the Nets’ rehab strategy helped or hurt him.

Still, we will continue to check in on his progress in Russia. Like Christian Drejer and Mile Ilic before him, Krstic is a Net asset and so you’ll see intermittent reports on how he is doing. We also hope Milan Lazarevic, our Belgrade correspondent, will continue translating articles in the Serbian language press. As we’ve learned, Krstic is often more open talking to the media there than here.

Blogging Nets.

Two players who are likely to be in the Nets' training camp have launched blogs this week, Yi has an English blog sponsored by Nike and Julius Hodge has one on Hoopshype.

Expect Yi to focus on what's going on at the Wukesong arena, where the Olympic basketball teams will be playing, while Hodge's will be looking at what's going on closer to home, at the Nets practice facility in East Rutherford.

Final Note.

Many, many thanks to Dumpy for filling in while we were in Asia, the Middle and Far East. Not only was there no down time for the site, Tuesday's traffic was the third heaviest ever, right behind February 19, the day of the Jason Kidd trade, and June 26, the day of the Richard Jefferson trade and Draft Night. It's a shame the busiest days we've seen are those when a Net stalwart heads elsewhere.