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Rod Thorn, the GM who put it together

Rod Thorn

It is inarguable that Rod Thorn made the greatest draft pick in NBA history ... Michael Jordan with the third pick in the 1984 Draft. You could also argue, without much resistance, that Thorn also made two of the best trades in NBA history: Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury and Vince Carter for trinkets and baubles.

Now, he will be enshrined with Kidd in the Basketball Hall of Fame. His time with the Nets as well as his time with the Bulls and the league office won him the ultimate accolade. That wasn’t the way he planned it, Tom Dowd writes on the Nets official site.

“I was going to go to law school,” said Thorn. “All set. I got a call from Kevin Loughery, who was the new coach of the New York Nets of the ABA. He offered me a job as an assistant coach. I talked it over with my wife. She wasn’t sure if it was the right decision. I said I wanted to do it and she went along with it and that started the odyssey I’ve been on ever since.”

That of course was the first time the Nets changed the course of Thorn’s career. After a career in coaching that also saw him make a stop in St. Louis (with the Spirits of St. Louis) and a tenure as GM in Chicago that, if nothing else had ever happened, cemented his reputation, he retreated to the league office.

But his competitive juices got the best of him in 2000 when Thorn rejoined the Nets organization. After trading for Kidd in July 2001, and the Nets went to the NBA Finals, he was named the NBA Executive of the Year in 2002. Didn’t hurt that he got two rotation players in the 2001 Draft, Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins.

As he told Dowd, “I’ve seen everything probably twice.”

For seven lean years during Bruce Ratner’s term as owner, Thorn kept the Nets afloat. He was forbidden from making any deal that would result in Ratner paying a dime in luxury taxes. Within weeks in the summer of 2004, he had to sell a first round pick and watch as Ratner wouldn’t match the Nuggets offer on Kenyon Martin. But he smartly got three draft picks from Denver and five months later, traded two of them to Toronto for VC. Peter Vecsey called it the most lopsided trade in 25 years.

His draft picks weren’t so good between 2002 and 2007 (or between 2009 and 2010), but he did take Brook Lopez who became the franchise’s leading scorer. Still, he did his way and it was good.

“To succinctly put it, I’ve been very, very fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time several times,” said Thorn.

“I have loved every minute of it. Whether I was with a team or the league. Two different times with the league. Obviously with the team it’s all about the team and how you’re doing and you live and die with every win and every loss. With the league, you want everybody to do well with every aspect of it and you’re mostly concerned with the long-term than the day-to-day. I’ve enjoyed every facet.”