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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #11

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.

Picking up the pieces…And there are so many of them

We’ve always said that when a superstar goes on the block, his old team rarely gets a equal value in return. Instead, it’s almost combination of expiring contracts, young player(s), draft pick(s), cash considerations and trade exceptions.

The more of those elements you get, the better. The Jason Kidd trade had all the above. The worst superstar trades have fewer, like the Shaquille O’Neal trade to Cleveland for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic plus $500,000 and a second round pick.

In the Vince Carter deal, the Nets did well in three of the five categories and got nothing at all in the two others. The Nets got two expiring contracts—and more than $20 million in cap space between this year and next; a promising if not spectacular young player and two trade exceptions, worth $3.75 million and $1.2 million, only the former is likely to be used.

They got no cash and no picks…and the value of the young player they received, Courtney Lee, is in part off-set by the loss of Ryan Anderson. (We now know, thanks to Al Iannazzone, that the original deal offered by the Magic was Rafer Alston, Tony Battie and J.J. Redick for Carter. The Nets wanted Lee and the Magic agreed but only if Anderson went the other way. Thorn says the first conversations took place Tuesday, intensified on Wednesday and were completed on Thursday.)

So the big value of the deal, other than Lee, is in the expiring contracts. The problem of course is that Cap Space has never scored a point, dished an assist or grabbed a rebound in the NBA. As Chicago learned after Michael Jordan retired, all the cap space in the world is not going to guarantee that a quality free agent is going to sign on the dotted line. Considering the Nets’ luck in luring All-Star caliber free agents (none in more than 30 years qualifies as bad luck), we fear the Nets could wind up like the Bulls.

As we have already noted, we believe what’s going on here is not "cap management" but a fire sale.

Back Spin

You could argue (that is, spin) that the Nets, a 34-48 team, was somehow able to trade for the starting backcourt of the Eastern Conference champions! When was the last time a conference champion gave up its starting backcourt less than two weeks after the end of Finals? How about never?

Lee started 16 playoff games and Alston all 23. In the opening round, they combined to average nearly 28 points a game, Alston 15.2 and Lee 12.6. By the time of the conference finals against the Cavs, they were still averaging 20 ppg, Alston 12.2 and Lee 7.7. Yeah, they fell apart in the Finals and Kobe Bryant was last seen abusing Lee, but they got them there. (Also, we should point out that Lee missed 3+ games after catching a Dwight Howard elbow in the face, and then came off the bench the first 5 games after he returned.)

We can’t believe the Nets didn’t spin THAT!

Listening between the Lines

We listened to Thorn and Vandeweghe ’s interviews on WFAN from Friday morning. Surprisingly, there was more questions about the drafting of Terrence Williams than the trade.

Here are some excerpts, first from Thorn.

On Williams:

"We rated him in the top five on our board…he is not a finished product as a shooter…he is extremely versatile…he can play three position…huge hands. I can envision Lee, Williams and (Devin) Harris on the court at the same time."

On who else they liked in the draft:

"Blake Griffin is a MAN."

"Rubio is like Gretzky…extraordinary court sense—he can see what can happen before it happens…a reluctant shooter with a chance to be a good shooter. His shot is not broken. Body wise, he has a ways to go. To me he’s a guy who plays a lot better when he has good players around him that he can make better, like with the Spanish National Team."

"We liked Jonny Flynn a LOT….we liked Tyreke Evans."

"I think he (Tyler Hansbrough) is going to be good. We worked him out. He’s a LOT more athletic that people think. He can jump head high on the rim. He is ferocious. His balance is not great. He will be foul prone early."

On who he thought would go higher:

"I was surprised at Patty Mills dropping. We had him at the end of the first round. I liked him."

"We had Sam Young as early as #20…very surprised."

On who he didn’t like:

"(James) Harden is not very athletic. He has no mid range game. It will be interesting for him."

On the rationale for the trade:

"We felt we were a 30- to 40-win team. Our feeling was that let's clear cap space if we can get a good young player. We're not necessarily done. We are liable to do some other things".

Here’s Vandeweghe.

On the rationale for the trade:

"It’s part of our process…we had to take a hard look at ourselves. We now have a ton a ton of cap space. We can spend on free agents if that’s what you want to do…This is a flexibility move. Now you get at least the opportunity to see how good you are. Sometimes, you look at things just for economic reasons. This is not that.

"We have a lot of flexibility. We have trade exceptions, lot of draft picks we’ve stockpiled. We have young pieces people like."

"At the end of the day, had Vince been five years younger, we wouldn’t have made this deal. When we’re going to be good, maybe in a year or so. We got a need position in Lee, a good player at the wing."

On the "technical" aspects of the trade:

"You get some salary trade exceptions, which are REALLY valuable."

On previous offers for Carter:

"Vince Carter got calls…but nothing that brought you a real good young player…We also sent Vince Carter back home, where he wanted to be. That sort of thing comes around to help you in the end."

On whether the Nets will need a new Brooklyn arena to sell free agents:

"Of course not. New Jersey is a great place. You have a lot of great fans. They know their basketball. We’re very close to the New York metropolitan area…in the end, free agents like to play with good basketball players…"

On free agency:

"If we don’t get the big free agents that everyone’s talking about, you continue to build from within, you continue to add good young players…that’s a way to go too."

On Yi Jianlian:

"Yi is going to be a very good player. He has a lot of talent."

On the immediate future:

"Look at our team…not our finished product. Got to improve".

Bottom line for us: they certainly have a "ton of cap space" but no commitment to spend least not now. Vandeweghe noted twice that the Nets are about the "flexibility" it gives them. His line, "If we don’t get the big free agents..." is yet another signal that they have yet to decide how big to go in the free agent market. With as much as $27 million in cap space next summer, they need to.

Who are the "young pieces" others are interested in and why would Kiki bring it up? By process of elimination, it gets down to CDR and Josh Boone. Is CDR expendable with the acquisition of Lee and Williams? Is Boone expendable with the acquisition of Tony Battie. Thorn talked about Battie backing up Brook Lopez. That was Boone's job last season.

As for the draft, it seems the Nets targeted Williams very early, were very high on him throughout the process and that it was up to the others to match or pass him on their board. Hansbrough and Gerald Henderson came closest, but didn’t make it.

By the way, Bruce Ratner’s name did not come up once in either interview.

Trading the Big Three

In less than 18 months, the Nets traded their three cornerstone talents, all with huge contracts, all in multiplayer deals.

What did they get back? Lump it all together and here’s what they got…expiring contracts at the time of the trade are marked with an asterisk.

Devin Harris, Desagana Diop*, Keith Van Horn*, Trenton Hassell, Mo Ager, Keyon Dooling (TE), Yi Jianlian, Bobby Simmons, Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston*, Tony Battie*, an unrestricted first round pick in 2010, two trade exceptions valued at $3.75 million and $1.2 million and $3 million in cash. (We eliminated Anderson since the Magic trade wipes out the 2008 pick they acquired from Dallas in the Kidd trade).

In addition, the Nets traded three other players in those deals: Antoine Wright, Malik Allen and Anderson and one other player, Marcus Williams, in a separate transaction.

The prizes are obviously Harris, Lee, potentially Yi (who did average more points in fewer minutes than Lee) and that 2010 Mavs' first round pick...which they seem willing to move if the right deal came along.

Net Asset Update

What do the Nets have now that they use in trade? A lot more than they had Thursday morning.

--Six draft picks in the next two drafts—four first rounders (one protected) and two second rounders.

--Three trade exceptions—the two from the Carter trade and the $1.3 million exception from the Marcus Williams trade, which expires July 22. The Nets record of using trade exceptions is best. They haven't used all that they acquired and only two of those they did use worked. Since 2001, they have used TE’s to acquire Marc Jackson, Elden Campbell, Cliff Robinson, and Keyon Dooling. They were ready to use one on Shareef Abdur-Rahim before his knee condition became known.

--Seven expiring contracts. At the risk of being redundant, here they are: Simmons at $11.24 million; Battie at $6.61 million; Alston at $5.25 million, Hassell at $4.38 million; Boone at $2.26 million, Jarvis Hayes at $2.06 million and Sean Williams at $1.63 million. Boone will have a qualifying offer for 2010-11 and Sean Williams can be extended in October. Neither is likely to be. In addition, The Nets hold a team option on Douglas-Roberts after this season. Dooling has only a $500,000 one year guarantee in 2010-11 and Eduardo Najera has a $4.75 million two year guarantee through 2011-12 after this season. In addition, they still hold the Bird Rights on Boki Nachbar.

--As a result of the above, between $25 million and $27 million in cap space next summer, depending of how high the salary cap is set.

The big question again is, with all the financial woes of the franchise, will they?

Farewell to VC

Rather than try to explain what Vince Carter meant to this franchise, we will just direct you to Maxamillion 711’s great YouTube channel’s archive. Couldn’t have said it any better than Max. Enjoy.

Final Note

Leroy Dooling, Jr., 60, of Ft. Lauderdale, FL passed away on June 20, 2009, the day before Father’s Day. Dooling was the father of Keyon Dooling. The elder Dooling had been ill for some time. He owned a small flower shop in Ft. Lauderdale. Keyon Dooling has taken time during the Nets schedule this season to visit his ailing father and his father attended at least one Nets game late in the season. The funeral was Saturday.

Rest in peace. You did good.