The trade deadline came and the Nets passed on doing anything, but they could feel the impact by what other teams did -– not this season, but this summer.
The first big move came last night when the Cavaliers acquired former All-Star forward Antawn Jamison. That transaction served multiple purposes: Jamison could help the Cavaliers’ championship dreams and may be the piece that keeps the Nets’ top target, LeBron James, in Cleveland.
Jamison isn’t a dominant player like Amar’e Stoudemire, for whom the Cavaliers were also in talks. But Jamison is a good complement to James. Jamison plays on the perimeter and will bury teams if they double James and Shaquille O’Neal. Add a healthy Mo Williams and the Cavaliers are in great shape now and in the future.
Whether it’s enough to keep James in Cleveland for the long-term remains to be seen, but he can make the most money there and already has a championship-contending team.
Then came the Knicks’ brilliant move, and it was brilliant. They unloaded Jared Jeffries’ contract and rookie Jordan Hill in a three-team deal that brought back two expiring pacts –- Tracy McGrady and Sergio Rodriguez.
That move took about $9.5 million off the Knicks’ cap for next season, meaning the Nets no longer have the most money to spend in free agency. That distinction belongs to the Knicks -– at more than $30 million.
We thought we would never see the day when the Knicks would be $1 million under the cap, let alone $30-plus mill. That means they have enough to sign two maximum contracts –- maybe James, if he leaves Cleveland, and a Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade.
“With regards to the trade deadline, there was minimal activity on our part,” team president Rod Thorn said in a statement. “There were several calls made as well as received, but there was never any discussed transaction that came close to fruition.”
The Nets weren’t necessarily looking for salary-saving moves. They wanted to deal expiring contracts for expiring contracts or draft picks. They didn’t have that one big salary for next season that was an albatross like a Jeffries ($6.8 million).
There’s Devin Harris ($8.9 million), but the Nets want to keep him until at least they see what happens this summer in the draft. And there’s Yi Jianlian ($4.05 mill), who probably isn’t the most desired player around the league. The other Nets with fully-guaranteed deals for next season -– Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, Courtney Lee and Terrence Williams –- make $9.2 million combined.
The Nets aren’t totally out of anything at this point.
They still have between $23 million and $25 million depending on what the cap is and will play in a new state-of-the-art arena in Newark for at least two years before a brand new building is built in Brooklyn.
They will have a new owner that is going to spend to make the Nets a contender, a hip-hop mogul in Jay-Z that will try and recruit players –- he may even write a song about them –- a new coach that you can be assured has a good track record as a winner and a player’s coach and they could have the No. 1 pick if they win the Lottery.
Now, all of that are best-case scenarios. The biggest things are getting John Wall, getting a coach players want to play for and having an owner that isn’t shy when it comes to signing checks.
The Nets are in good shape to do something this summer, even if it means they end up overpaying for Rudy Gay and David Lee. Obviously that would be a major step down if you were expecting James and Wade or James and Stoudemire or whatever combination was in your dreams.
The Nets will swing for the fences this summer. That much I believe, but as we said yesterday, this was expected to be the quiet before the summer storm. Still, things may have gotten a little weaker for the Nets.
There could be an announcement later today that the Nets will play in Newark for the next two seasons –- at least. They reached an agreement in principal with the state and the Devils today.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)