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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #23

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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.

Off-Season Morphs Into Pre-Season.

We now know how long an off-season is when your team misses the playoffs: 23 weeks. The pre-season is now upon us, or will be starting with Friday's Media Day in East Rutherford. So, this will be the last NetsDaily Off-Season Report. There should be plenty of news starting Friday, with training camp in full swing. We hope we filled a need.

So in closing, we're going to take a look at the key off-season moves, from late April to late September, giving what we think are the best and worst case scenarios as well our take.

Here goes:

April 23 – Almost immediately after the season ends, Vince Carter has surgery on his ankle, which he injured in Game 6. Although he missed only six games—five right after the injury and one late in the season—the recuperation protocol shows how bad the injury was: no basketball for four months.

Best case: He returns 100%, which by all accounts he has.

Worst case: No longer applicable.

Our take: Getting it done early was smart for the team and Carter. He had the surgery less than a week after he season ended. Prior to that, Carter had said he would weigh his options, suggesting he might wait or not have the surgery at all.

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May 9 -- Shortly after he becomes GM, Kiki Vandeweghe invites Julius Hodge to work out at the Nets’ practice facility.

Best case: Hodge becomes a quality bench player at age 24, costing the Nets $800,000. Hodge had been looking for a new opportunity and with Kiki, the GM who picked him in the 2005 draft now in New Jersey and him back in New York after stints in the Australian NBL and the D-League, things could work out nicely.

Worst case: He doesn’t make the team.

Our take: Probably too much has been made of Hodge’s chances but we like the idea of giving someone like Hodge, a "fallen angel" a chance rather than stringing together a roster from "fallen arches", as the Nets have done in the past. (See Lamond Murray, Scott Padgett, Rodney Rogers, etc., etc.)

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June 26 – Early in the afternoon, the Nets trade Richard Jefferson to the Bucks for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons.

Best case: Yi becomes what the Nets and particularly Vandeweghe thinks the can be: the next Dirk Nowitzki, and what Brett Yormark hopes he can be: a huge magnet for the Chinese and Chinese-American communities in New York/New Jersey. Simmons regains his health and returns to his Most Improved Player form. Nets sign LeBron James or another member of the 2010 free agent class with the money saved from trading Jefferson.

Worst case: RJ becomes a key contributor for the Bucks, while Yi continues to display the tentativeness and inconsistency he showed in his rookie year and the Olympics. Simmons’ foot issues continue to bother him. LeBron signs with the Knicks because the Nets don’t have a winning foundation in place.

Our take: as big a gamble as any made in the Macau casinos or in the Thorn era. Nets think RJ's peaked and that he's overpaid. They want to be in the LeBron mix and quietly note that LeBron wants to be a "global icon". If Yi pays off, he has double value in luring LeBron, first as a foundation player, second as a bigger entrée into the Chinese market. We would have liked an exchange of picks, but really if things had gone the same from #1 through #7 that night and the Nets had the Bucks’ #8, don’t you think they still would have taken the big man?

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June 26 – The Nets draft Brook Lopez (over Jerryd Bayless) at #10 and Ryan Anderson (over Courtney Lee) at #21 in the first round.

Best case: Lopez becomes Brad Daugherty, a multi-talented big man who when combined with Yi gives the Nets a super-young seven-foot tandem who will remain on rookie contracts through free agency. Anderson becomes a bargain-basement version of Nowitzki (say Keith Van Horn) adding to the Nets young contingent of big men.

Worst case: Fears that Lopez and Anderson are not athletic enough, not quick enough to be solid NBA players are realized and the Nets are stuck with two players who will not help them in the 2010 free agent market. Bayless and Lee become NBA stars.

Our take: We keep reading good things about Lopez from veterans like Eduardo Najera and Carter. We’re trying to maintain our cool, keep our balance here, but we’ve have been insanely optimistic since Draft Night. We hear little about Anderson, but we like the pick. He’s big, young--barely 20 on Draft Night, and very smart. And man, can he shoot.

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June 26 – The Nets draft Chris Douglas-Roberts of Memphis (does it matter over who?) at #40 in second round.

Best case: CDR proves a bargain with only a three-year, $1.8 million contract. Nets are willing to give him that two year guarantee, team option deal. CDR’s Net workout was generally viewed as the best of any prospect.

Worst case: The collective wisdom of the NBA’s general managers is correct: CDR isn’t quick enough for the NBA game, that his unorthodox style doesn’t translate.

Our take: How could you not take him at #40? Carter has said nice things about him after playing with him and he did well in the summer league, nothing spectacular but well. We don’t think he’s Monta Ellis, drafted in the same spot in 2005.

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July 5 – The Mavericks sign Net free agent DeSagana Diop to a five-year $31 million MLE contract, returning him to the Mavs with no return for the Nets.

Best case: Diop shows he isn’t worth it.

Worst case: The Nets' upfront defense is porous and it's a deciding factor in a number of games.

Our take: Add this contract to the $11 million Mark Cuban said the Kidd trade cost him last February. There is really no way to justify it. It’s hard to imagine another team bidding against Cuban. We liked the toughness, defense and bulk Diop brought but there is no way he will be worth $31 million.

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July 11 – The Nets sign Eduardo Najera and Jarvis Hayes to multi-year deals, but with contracts that permit the Nets to dump both of them in 2010 with limited exposure, at least according to some websites. Najera gets $12 million over four years in a declining scale contract with only the first two years fully guaranteed, say some. Others say all four years are guaranteed. Hayes signs a two-year $4.1 million LLE deal with only the first year guaranteed.

Best case: Najera stays healthy and becomes the "glue guy" for the Nets. In the mid-August voluntary get-together, he was vocal and a mature voice on a young team. He also is the only Mexican player in the NBA, offering the team marketing opportunities (along with Cuban-American Lopez in the Hispanic community). Hayes who has screws in his knee and has been oft-injured returns to the form he showed earlier in his career. He’s only 27 so there’s hope.

Worst case: As John Hollinger points out, there is a "mountain of data" to suggest players like Najera decline rapidly after age 32. He did have knee problems in Denver. Hayes’ health issues do not permit him to fill the role of long-range bomber and his defense brings back fond memories of Boki Nachbar.

Our take: We thought these signings were the least interesting of the off-season, but Najera showed himself to be just what the Nets wanted—a leader. But if this is a fully guaranteed four-year deal, it doesn't make a lot of sense, even with a declining salary scale. We liked the Hayes signing because it was virtually risk-free. If he works out, a great signing. If he doesn’t, not a big deal. We also found it interesting that the Nets gave CDR a two-year guarantee and a third year as a team option, but Hayes only a one-year guarantee and a second year as a team option.

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July 20– The Nets trade cash and the $3.3 million trade exception from the Jason Kidd deal to the Magic for Keyon Dooling in a clever sign-and-trade. Deal is for three years and $11 million, but only the first two years are guarantee. The third year does come with a small buyout.

Best case: As an added benefit from the Kidd trade, it’s hard to argue with this one. The Nets have long wanted him with Lawrence Frank visiting his house on July 2, 2005 to give him a recruiting pitch. He is a very very good, on-ball defender. He’s still only 28 years old so he should be peaking.

Worst case: Some in Orlando thought that Dooling didn’t have a position, at least on offense. His shooting is good, but not great and he is not a great distributor. Questions have also been raised about his decision-making.

Our take: Like a couple of the other off-season pick-ups (Najera and Hayes), the Nets were probably bidding against themselves. No one else would have paid Dooling as much as the Nets did and in fact, he was insulted by the Magic offer of the LLE and two years. If his reputation as a defender is justified, then there will be little drop-off when he fills in for Harris. If Devin Harris goes down for an extended period of time, the Nets will regret not bringing in a distributor. Bottom line though is that it's as if the Kidd trade returned a solid starter and a solid backup.

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July 21 – Dynamo Moscow signs Boki Nachbar to a three-year pact, with annual player options and reasonable buyouts. The deal is better than anything he could get in the NBA. The deal is equivalent to more than $25 million, more than he could get in the NBA.

Best case: the combination of Simmons and Hayes, who like Nachbar are athletic three-point shooters, will diminish the loss of a fan favorite.

Worst case: Nachbar will be missed not just for what he brought on the court, but off the court as well. One of the team’s good guys…unselfish and intelligent. Simmons and Hayes are injury-prone.

Our take: We liked Nachbar but his inconsistency drove us nuts, as did his defense (or lack thereof). Also, the Russian stock market has dropped like a stone—more than 50%-- since this deal went through and companies like those that own Dynamo Moscow may not want to keep players like Nachbar around for the full length of their contracts.

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July 22 – The Nets trade Marcus Williams to the Warriors for a heavily protected first round pick. The pick is lottery protected for 2011, so the Nets get it if the Warriors are in the playoffs. If it goes to 2012, the pick is protected 1-11. It's protected 1-10 for 2013. If it is not conveyed by 2013, the Nets get second-round picks in 2013 and 2015. So the best possible outcome is a #11 pick but then only in five years.

Best case: the pick turns out well or it’s part of a trade for a solid player. Not a lot of upside here.

Worst case: the pick turns into two second rounders in 2013 and 2015 and Williams proves his promise with the Warriors, Harris gets hurt and there is no obvious distributor in the mix. If indeed the pick does turn into second rounders, that means the last piece of the puzzle in this trade could be 12 or 13 years old today.

Our take: Boy, this was a tough one. It seemed on Draft Night 2006 the basketball gods had gifted the Nets with Williams and there were times when he looked like he was all that he was cracked to be, at least on offense. But the reality is that there was little room for him. He did have conditioning issues. He did play poor defense and he wasn’t going to supplant Harris, period.

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July 28 – Triumph Moscow signs Nenad Krstic to a two-year pact, with a player option next July so he too can return to the NBA. The salary is the equivalent of around $9 million per year in the United States once you factor in the exchange rate and the fact that European clubs pay all the players' taxes. This is the best deal Krstic can get. The Nets promise to retain his rights, permitting them to either re-sign him, match any offer made by an NBA team or work out a sign-and-trade.

Best case: His overseas stint proves he'll never be the player he was before he tore his ACL in December 2006 or alternatively, it proves he has returned to form and the Nets bring him back.

Worst case: He becomes a star overseas and the Nets eventually have to give up on him, at one point relinquishing his rights so they can sign someone else (the $2.7 million qualifying offer counts against the cap, but not the luxury tax.)

Our take: He’s gone for good. He did not leave on good terms. He believes strongly the Nets’ rehab program made his knee worse and he is bitter about it. At this point in his career, he thought he would be looking at a $50 million contract. Sad story. See Nachbar entry re: Russian economy. It’s a lot worse than the US.

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August 11 – Summer league star Jaycee Carroll signs a two-year deal with Teramo in the Italian League, ending his chances with the Nets.

Best case: the kid with the picture-perfect jump shot hones his point guard skills and returns to the NBA and the Nets in a year.

Worst case: Not much of a downside unless he becomes someone else’s success story.

Our take: It’s hard to say what the Nets offered him since his agent said he had training camp invites from the Suns and Raptors but went with the guaranteed money in Italy. He’s doing well, averaging 17 points a game for Teramo with a high of 22 last weekend.

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September 15 -- Camp invitations go out. After the dust settles, the non-roster players in East Rutherford are Hodge, Brian Hamilton and Eddie Gill.

Best case: The Nets make a last-minute trade that sends out multiple players like Stromile Swift and Marcus Ager and/or KVH's contract and gets a single player in return. In that scenario, one or more of the camp invites make the final roster on October 27.

Worst case: None of them make it and they head off to Europe.

Our take: Hodge and Gill look like the best bets, with both fighting for that third point guard job. Don't dismiss Hamilton. He was probably the best perimeter defender in the D-League last season, leading it in steals and steals per game.

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There were other things we liked about the off-season: the emphasis on player development, the hiring of two young coaches who displayed grit and work ethic as players, the team's participation in two summer leagues and two big man camps, watching Yi fall down and then get back up in the Olympics, and the emphasis on character. Not to mention the hiring of Kiki Vandeweghe, who seems to have done a nice job...so far.

Jumaine Jones Redux:

This time last year, we were wondering if Jumaine Jones would make the team. Like others this year, he had NBA experience. It soon became evident he wouldn't make the final cut and so the team helped him get a job in Italy. Now we read he has some unique problems overseas.

Read what Shamsports.com (one of our favorite overseas hoops sites) had to say this week:

"More than once (i.e. twice), I have made reference to the ongoing Jumaine Jones saga. For those uninformed, Jones somehow managed to sign with two teams at the same time, causing a legal battle. This saga has now been resolved - Jones has been suspended by FIBA for a year, and since FIBA and the NBA respect each other's contracts and suspensions, this means that Jones is now out of basketball for a year, a worrisome proposition for a 29 year old with NBA aspirations. Bad times."

Never heard that one before.

Final Krstic Update (for now).

Curly has led Serbia out of the basketball backwoods. Serbia qualified this week for Eurobasket 09 in Poland, meaning the Blues, as they're called in Belgrade, can finally stop looking for a way out of bad times. Serbia needed to play just to get an invite to the European championships in Warsaw because in spite of its rich basketball heritage, it had fallen on hard times, failing to qualify for the World Championships or Olympics.

Krstic scored 17 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots against Bulgaria Saturday, shooting 7-for-9 from the floor. On Wednesday, he had a 12-and-5 game. For the eight-game Qualifying Tournament, played throughout Europe, Krstic averaged 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, shooting 64.7% from the floor. He said his knee continues to feel fine. He now heads to Russia. Since the Nets continue to hold his rights, we'll update his progress with Triumph Moscow.

Najera as Mexican Icon.

While Najera was in Mexico this month, he proved a number of times just how big a deal he is south of the border, if not in the NBA. In short, he is a sports superstar. Not only, as we reported, is he crucial in putting together a plan to push basketball in Mexico. He was also on hand, dressed in suit and tie, at Mexico City's Auditorio Nacional, to welcome Mexico's Olympic medalists back home.

He is also part of the effort to get Mexico the FIBA Tournament of the Americas next summer. If that happens, Team Mexico gets an automatic bid. Would Eddie be tempted to put on the national colors again? Last time he played was in the 2003 tournament where he averaged 14.5 points and 6.7 rebounds. That was the tournament where three Nets--Kidd, Jefferson and Kenyon Martin--teamed with the likes of Tim Duncan and Vince Carter to pummel Argentina in the finals to qualify for the 2004 Olympics. It also featured Mexican basketball's high water mark, a 91-89 loss to Argentina. Najera scored 20 in that contest.

Final Final Note.

Think happy thoughts of the past, present and future.