With Keyon Dooling hurt and Vince Carter ejected from Wednesday’s game in Detroit, the Nets wound up playing two young shooting guards at the point. Neither Chris Douglas-Roberts nor Maurice Ager embarrassed themselves, but pressing them into service must have made the Nets' front office anxious. Ever since the off-season Rod Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe have noted the need for additional insurance at the point. Wednesday afternoon, they saw what can happen without an insurance policy in place.
Last year, the Nets had Eddie Gill available behind Jason Kidd and Darrell Armstrong and although he didn’t last the year, he did provide valuable service. Gill is with the Nets’ D-League affiliate, the Colorado 14ers, where he puts up solid numbers. He’s but one of several guards who the Nets might turn to.
We take a look at some of the other possibilities, knowing that with the roster at 15, the team would have to drop or trade someone...and that players can be signed to 10-day contracts starting Monday.
Via Trade: Two members of the 2007 draft class look like they could be had for the right price. Sergio Rodriguez of the Blazers and Mike Conley Jr. of the Grizzlies are in their coach’s respective doghouses—again. Rodriguez is a court magician, with phenomenal passing skills...and a turnover rate to match. His biggest problem is his defense, and after playing a lot of back up this season, he has been replaced in the rotation by Jerryd Bayless, the #11 pick in this year’s draft (and Net scouts' favorite last June). Conley is stuck in a bad situation as he and Kyle Lowry as stuck in a seemingly endless battle for minutes in Memphis. Conventional wisdom is that one of them will be traded, particularly since starting SG O.J. Mayo thinks of himself as a point guard too. The former #4 pick is still only 20 years old and like Devin Harris, lightning quick. He would be the more difficult to obtain and less happy, going from backup in Memphis to third PG in New Jersey.
Among veterans, there's Earl Watson of the Thunder who said Friday the chances of him being traded look "very high". That's nice, but Watson, 29, is owed $12.8 million over two years. That's more than Dooling will be paid over three. Dave D'Alessandro points out that Tyronn Lue, an expiring contract worth $2.2 million, is available from the Bucks. Lue, 31, would bring something no other Net has: championship experience. Marcus Williams returns? The Nets dumped him knowing they'd have a shortage of point guards and nothing he has done with Golden State has changed their opinion of him. In fact, he has done nothing at all in Golden State. What about Darrell Armstrong, who recently worked out for the Suns? Neither he nor the Nets have shown any inclination to reconnect...at least publicly.
D-League Call-up: It would seem that Eddie Gill is the most likely of the D-League’s point guards to get a call-up from the Nets or another NBA team. He has the experience, having had five different roster stints with the Nets organization in summer league, preseason or regular season. He's also averaging 15.4 points and 7.8 assists for the 14ers. Another possibility is Will Conroy, the 6’-2" former Clipper who played well for the Nets in the Orlando Summer League in 2008...and is thus familiar with the dribble-drive offense. He’s averaging 24.8 points and 7.8 assists for Albuquerque. There's always Smush Parker, who was hanging around with Net players last summer and is now at 17.9 and 7.8 for Rio Grande Valley. Gill is 30, Conroy is 26 and Parker 27.
Overseas: If Triumph Lyubertsy was willing to let Nenad Krstic go, would other Russian League teams let their NBA imports leave? The top choice in Russia would have to be Jannero Pargo, who played so well for the Hornets last year and who the Nets have pursued the last three summers. He plays for Dinamo Moscow (with Boki Nachbar), a more financially secure Russian team, but like Krstic has a big contract and rumors abound that he's trying to leave. He's averaging 15.5 and 5.2 in the Russian League, 10.3 and 3.3 in the Europe-wide ULEB Cup. Darius Washington plays deeper in Russia, with Ural Great in the city of Perm. The once promising Memphis product is averaging 10.3 and 2.0 for Ural. He was the Spurs' third point guard last season, backing up Tony Parker and Jacque Vaughn. Last summer, there were reports he had worked out at the Nets’ practice facility in hopes of getting a training camp invite. He's recently recovered from an injury. Since we’re talking Russia, there’s always Zoran Planinic, who since leaving the Nets has played well in the Spanish League, the Olympics and now in the Russian League with CSKA Moscow, the best and most financially secure Russian team. He's currently averaging 9.3 points and 2.9 assists in the Euroleague. It’s hard to imagine either Pargo or Planinic wanting to play behind Harris and Dooling, and even harder to imagine a Planinic return, but stranger things have happened.
Finally, there’s Julius Hodge, who is tearing up Australia’s NBL again. The last player dropped by the Nets in October, he is once again averaging close to a triple-double, his 26.3 points and 6.0 assists per game are both league-leading. He's also credited with 8.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals per outing. And he could be available. Media reports out of Adelaide say he sat out two practices this week because money he was owed hadn't shown up in his account. The 36ers' owner suggested it was Hodge's fault. But is he a point guard? He didn’t look like one in training camp. He does know the system, however. Washington is 23, Planinic 26, Pargo 29 and Hodge 25.
The Nets' trade assets are somewhat limited, with Stromile Swift's $6.2 million expiring contract the biggest draw. Ager also has a small expiring contract at $1 million. Sean Williams has been shopped as well. He has two years left. The Nets also have two extra first round picks. While the 2010 Mavs' pick will not be used to acquire a third string point guard, the heavily protected 2011 Warriors pick might. Finally, the Nets have a $1.26 million trade exception obtained in the Marcus Williams deal.