MEMPHIS – The Nets left today for a four-game trip against Western Conference teams, looking for their first road win against a team from the other conference since Jan. 24, 2009.
There is a winnable game or two on this trip that is part walk down memory lane and part potential road ahead.
First stop: Memphis
The trip opens where the Nets have had some memorable and forgettable games, especially in the Jason Kidd era. But when you look at these Grizzlies, you can see the past and perhaps the future.
Former first-round pick Marcus Williams -- the supposed erstwhile heir apparent to Kidd, I admit guilt there because I was among those who called him that –- is Memphis’ backup point guard. And Rudy Gay -- someone the Nets could wind up with in free agency if they strike out with the big guys -- is the Grizzlies’ high-scoring small forward.
Gay is a good young player, but the guess here is whoever gets him, Nets included, probably will pay too much.
Second stop: Dallas
The Nets will see the best player in their NBA history, Kidd. Only Josh Boone is left from a Kidd-led Nets team.
Kidd is having a pretty good season, nearly averaging a double-double, as he approaches his 37th birthday. And Kidd has his team racing to the playoffs once again. It will be 14 years in a row for Kidd.
Out of curiosity, do Nets fans still think the trade is lopsided in New Jersey’s favor?
It was a move the Nets had to make, and the best one they could make. But Devin Harris’ disappointing play this season and the loss of Ryan Anderson makes the trade look less like a Nets win. But you really can’t judge it until the Nets do their free-agent shopping.
Dallas owner Mark Cuban has been the NBA person incoming Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has been compared to most, which is a good thing. Cuban spends to win and keep players happy.
The Nets also will run into Eduardo Najera. A bust as a Net, Najera actually has been upright and playing for Dallas.
Third stop: Oklahoma City
Here’s another past/future comparison.
We’ve been on record saying losing Nenad Krstic without getting anything for him was a big mistake.
He became expendable when the Nets made the trade for Yi Jianlian -- who is not on this trip because of a high ankle sprain -- but some in the organization as well as most fans probably would rather have Krstic. Still, it’s fair to wonder how productive he would be without Kidd and Vince Carter setting him up. We’re seeing plenty of players’ games suffer -– current and former Nets alike -– since they’ve stopped playing with those two future Hall of Famers.
Also, the Thunder is a team the Nets hope to emulate to a certain degree. The Thunder built through the draft, let their young players grow and develop and added veteran pieces. Now they’re in the playoff race.
The one difference is the Nets don’t want to add a veteran piece. They want to add a stud in free agency but may have to settle for above-average veteran pieces like Gay and David Lee.
Trip finale: Houston
The week-long journey ends here. There are no former Nets there, but the Rockets were team willing to take back Jared Jeffries from the Knicks in the three-team deal involving Tracy McGrady that put them ahead of the Nets in most free-agent money as of right now, roughly $32 million compared to $23 million.
The Rockets gave the Knicks the chance to sign two max guys, which could help them land LeBron James if another superstar comes to the Big Apple. If that happens, the Nets and their fans will remember this trade.
The Nets should be looking to steal the first game. They can beat Memphis if they play for 48 minutes and find a way to continue to get the ball to Brook Lopez. Also, a healthier Courtney Lee should help. They could win the opener.
The two middle games are tough because Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki are not going to want to lose to the Nets, and the Thunder with Kevin Durant are just a tough matchup.
Like the opener, the finale is gettable if the Nets aren't looking ahead to going home, especially if they were beaten up in Dallas and OKC, because they really have to play hard to beat the Rockets. That team just keeps coming at you, no let up.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)