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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #2

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 stuff into larger stories and blogs.

What Might Have Been?

As you watch the playoffs, think about what might have been if the Lakers had thrown in all their cards at the February 2007 trade deadline and given the Nets what they wanted, that is, Andrew Bynum.

What we know now is that Jason Kidd wanted to be traded to the Lakers and that the two sides reached an impasse after the Lakers refused to give up Bynum. They wanted to give the Nets Kwame Brown instead. No thanks, said Rod Thorn, and Kidd lived to be traded another day.

According to reports, the deal would have looked like this:

Lakers trade: Bynum, Chris Mihm, Jordan Farmar, Aaron McKie and the Lakers first round pick in the 2007 Draft.

Nets trade: Kidd and Jason Collins.

By trading Kidd then, the Nets wouldn't have wound up with Devin Harris and wouldn't have needed to take Brook Lopez in the 2008 draft. No Ryan Anderson or Keyon Dooling either. They came as a result of the Kidd trade to Dallas a year later.

The Nets would have had two picks in the 2007 draft…and a lot of cap space in the 2007 off-season. The Nets almost certainly would have slipped into the lottery and the Lakers no doubt would have climbed in the standings, giving the Nets a very late pick as well.

It’s impossible to figure what they would have done with all that cap space (a point guard? power forward?), but if you look at who was taken around #10 and, say, #24 in the 2007 draft, you get a sense of what the Nets might have done: Joakim Noah and Rudy Fernandez, perhaps, or maybe Thaddeus Young and Aaron Brooks.

Whatever. If the Nets had gone that route, they wouldn’t have Harris or Lopez, who quite frankly had a better year than Bynum and is a bit younger. We think we’re satisfied with what we got.

Might have helped the Mavs, though.

Where’s Yi?

Not in China, at least not yet. Thorn mentioned a few weeks back that under terms of his contract, Yi Jianlian would have to play for his old Chinese Basketball Association team, the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the league's playoffs. Well, the CBA Finals began on Friday and Yi was…in New York.

According to the NBA’s website, "Adam Silver, NBA Deputy Commissioner served as Principal for the day at the Dual Language Middle School in New York and was joined by Kiki Vandeweghe and Yi Jianlian...." There in a slide show was Yi with some school kids, Silver and the Nets’ GM.

Last year, Yi didn’t have to return to the CBA playoffs because he was nursing some nagging injuries that cut short his season in Milwaukee…and China was resting him for the Beijing Olympics. It’s possible that Yi’s broken pinkie, which never seemed to heal even after his return, is keeping him in the US for a while. Yi will be playing for Team China in the FIBA Asia Games August 6-16. We don’t know when training begins for the Asia Games, which will be played in China.

Manifest Destiny

We were fascinated this week with a couple of blog entries on the Star-Ledger/ website.

Both Matt McQueeny, a former Nets’ employee, and Dave D’Alessandro, the Nets beat writer, wondered aloud if a Lawrence Frank replacement would permit the "business end" of the team to allow non-basketball people on the team plane or at closed practices. We didn’t know THAT went on.

Here’s McQueeny’s take:

But, try to sneak a sponsor onto a team charter, try to put a non-basketball team employee even on the travel manifest, and you will be rudely awakened. Frank allows this stuff to happen. He is a very good man, earnest, and strategically very well-schooled and thought out. And he plays along with the at times over-the-top access allowed to sponsors, businesses, and season ticket holders.

And D’Alessandro’s, from his imaginary account of the Tuesday board meeting:

[Thorn] "Look, I've got an idea for you: Why don't you dial this number -- a guy named Jeff Van Gundy is awaiting your call."
[Yormark] "Okay. And what should I do when he answers?"
[Thorn] "Tell him you're hiring him to be the next coach of the Nets."
[Yormark] "That's it?"
[Thorn] "And then ask him how he feels about your filling up all the empty seats on the team plane with corporate clients, or having sponsors crash practice at your whim. Let us all know what he thinks of that idea."
(Twenty seconds of silence)
[Yormark] "You know, I've always liked Lawrence."

We wonder how many other teams take the "All-Access" ideal into the air.

Kiki on Coaches

We know that the coach’s future is in Thorn’s hands, and we know if Frank goes, picking a replacement will be Thorn’s decision as well. It’s been drummed into our heads enough lately.

That said, back in March 2007, when he was still writing for ESPN, Vandeweghe gave his own assessments of some candidates for Coach of the Year. Of the group, two are currently under-employed and presumably available. We doubt Vandeweghe's feelings have changed much.

Here’s what he wrote about Avery Johnson and Jeff Van Gundy:

• "Mavericks coach Avery Johnson -- What differentiates Johnson from many coaches is his ability to get guys to buy in -- one example is Jerry Stackhouse, who seems content and happy playing 20 minutes a game. Johnson's team is now 50-9, on a 15-game win streak. Buying into that? Good idea."

• "Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy -- One of the smartest minds in the game today. While Tracy McGrady was out, Van Gundy kept his team in a position to hang in there, and then become a very dangerous
team for the playoffs...Van Gundy knows his players' strengths, and is demanding in the right way."

If you’re interested in reading more of the Kiki ESPN archive, it can be found here. We particularly like his last article in December 2007, on whether the Nets should trade Kidd and for who. Two months later, he was in trade discussions with Mark Cuban.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

IF you want a Harris clone and IF you think having three quick 6’3" guards with Vince Carter on the wing and Lopez and someone else underneath is a good thing, then you might want to consider Eric Maynor of Virginia Commonwealth. Like Harris and Dooling, Maynor is skinny, quick and tough. He can also play defense and has a reputation for being good particularly in the clutch.

It might take a leap of faith to take him at #11 (if indeed that’s where the Nets pick) but think about it: is there a better draft to take a big risk? The draft is weak and has been getting weaker. For every Stephen Curry who enters, a Craig Brackins goes back to school. The Nets have five first round picks in the next three years, as many as anyone else. They did well last June, with the best draft of any NBA team. So why not take a chance in the worst of those three drafts, go for the best player available. Besides, the one position where this draft excels is at the point.

The draft process starts to speed up this weekend. On Sunday, it’s the early entry deadline. Most players had decided by Saturday but two potential lottery picks, Gerald Henderson and last week’s sleeper, Donatas Motiejunas, hadn’t made any official announcements as of Saturday afternoon. There are reports out of Lithuania that said Motiejunas planned to wait a year.

The lottery is May 19—no word if Jay-Z will back in Secaucus. We hope so. This is one lucky man. On May 26-30, some 55 prospects will gather in Chicago for the Pre-Draft Combine, which had been held in Orlando. Then, starting the first week of June, tryouts will begin around the country. June 15 is the last opportunity for early entry candidates to back out and then the draft is 10 days later in the Theatre at Madison Square Garden.

Final Note:

Looks like Devin Harris will be playing professional baseball soon, his number 34 streaking across the outfield or rounding the bases in that slow home run trot.

No, not THAT Devin Harris …THIS Devin Harris who’s lighting up Conference USA for the East Carolina University Pirates. The 6’3, 227-pound Harris has been the Pirates’ top slugger, batting .358 in 38 games with 10 home runs and 36 RBI’s for a .628 slugging average. His defense could use some help, however. Sound familiar?

And yes, he really does wear #34. We wonder if Stuart Tanner has a sneaky fast ball.