Nets Have One More Win Than Trades This Season

    Monday, January 11, 2010, 5:25 PM [General]

    The Nets completed their awaited trade with the Mavericks today, sending Eduardo Najera to Dallas for Kris Humphries and Shawne Williams. Now watch the 3-34 Nets’ fortunes turn.

    It's another fringe transaction that doesn’t really affect anything but their bottom line and future flexibility. It’s about getting younger and more assets without infringing upon their cash for free agents this summer. Last week, the Nets bought out Rafer Alston and got Chris Quinn, a 2012 second round pick and cash from the Heat.

    Najera is a better player than Humphries, but he just wasn’t the right fit with the Nets. He would have been better suited for some of the teams that featured Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, a veteran that could have helped them defensively against good teams or in the playoffs. At the time of his signing last year, I thought Najera could help the Nets. But injuries prevented him from really contributing or even teaching the younger guys about working hard or pushing them in practice.

    That said, I didn’t agree with giving Najera a four-year deal. And if the plan last summer was to develop the young players -– as it especially is this year -– the Nets never should have given Najera a four-year deal. They know it’s a mistake, but it was a package situation. They signed Jarvis Hayes and Najera on the same day. Both are clients of Dan Fegan, who also represents Yi Jianlian. Enough said there. But the truth is the Nets should have given Hayes the longer-team deal and Najera the one-year with a second-year option.

    Being able to unload Najera’s contract was a good move by the Nets. Humphries, 24, is nine years younger and his contract expires after next season. He's young, energetic and, most importantly, has a more favorable contract, making only $200,000 more than Najera was scheduled to make in 2010-11, so it shouldn’t have any impact on their summer plans.

    Also, you have to believe Humphries is going to get a chance with the Nets. He’s young and they want to develop players. He’s also a Fegan guy. Do the Nets only make moves involving Fegan guys? Last week, they bought out Alston, another Fegan guy.

    Anyway, Humphries should get some minutes behind Yi and even Brook Lopez when the Nets go small. Assuming they find the right deal, it’s only a matter of time before Josh Boone and Tony Battie are traded. Humphries will slide in there and get a shot to show he can play. He played 12.6 minutes in 25 games for the Mavericks, averaging 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds.

    The Nets hope Humphries can help their rebounding. They have been out-rebounded 24 times in the last 25 games, and that is one of his strengths. This season in Dallas, his per-48-minute board average is 14.5 –- more than any Net. That number for his career is 12.6

    All in all, it's a low-risk move that could give the Nets some reward, especially if Humphries can stay healthy. Najera never could.

    The other part of the deal, Shawne Williams, the No. 17 pick in the 2006 draft, was expected to be waived. But Nets president Rod Thorn said he wants to see what Williams, who was exiled by the Mavericks, can do. If it doesn’t work out or becomes a distraction, the Nets will waive him.

    The Nets also waived Sean Williams today to create room for both players. The Nets know they made a mistake taking him 17th in 2007. They took a risk on a troubled kid with a big heart and he proved to be more trouble than anything.

    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Offensive struggles lead to defensive woes

    Sunday, January 10, 2010, 11:23 PM [General]

    SAN ANTONIO -- The Nets didn’t suffer their usual loss to the Spurs on Sunday night, but it was another defeat nonetheless -– their 14th straight to San Antonio.

    But it was different because it wasn’t that Tim Duncan dominated or the Nets couldn’t contain Tony Parker. They had pretty good (Duncan) to below-average (Parker) games, yet it was a relatively easy win for the Spurs, 97-85.

    This says more about the Nets than anything. Brook Lopez was dominant, scoring 28 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. But the Nets’ offense disappeared in the second half and their defense let up.

    The Spurs, who are a tough defense to score against, deserves some of the credit. After the Nets went ahead 52-49 early in the third, it seemed the Spurs buckled down and forced New Jersey to miss.

    But most of the players in the locker room talked about what the Nets went away from doing on the offensive end. If you’re not stopping the other team, though, it doesn’t matter what happens on offense.

    “They have shooters and know how to move the ball and they know what they’re looking for and they’re in their right spots,” Courtney Lee said. “Basically they have good chemistry. That’s a big dagger for us. We can’t let them get to where they want to get especially on the offensive end when we’re not executing and we’re not scoring.”

    That really is the game-in-a-nutshell-quote, although the Nets were more concerned with what they did and didn't do on offense.

    The Nets were without Devin Harris so they were going to need a great performance to beat the Spurs. They played hard, but they didn’t play smart. They let their offensive struggles carry over to their defense.

    And it wasn’t Duncan -- 14 and 17 rebounds -- or Parker -- 3-for-12, eight points, five assists -- that beat the Nets. It was Manu Ginobili, which you expect.

    But it was also George Hill, Roger Mason, Jr. and Ian Mahinmi. They combined for 32 points on 12-for-19 shooting. Mahinmi had 15, on 6-of-6 shooting, in his first game since the 2007-08 season.

    "In the third quarter we had a stretch of five or six minutes where we were a little stagnant on offense," coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. “We didn't do the same things we were doing which is pushing the ball and swinging it to the opposite side. At that same time, we didn’t play as good a defense as we’ve been playing.”

    The Nets haven’t been playing much defense lately and this was another example of it.

    But they also need to work on their offense, figuring out how everyone can co-exist because the giant elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about continues to be how much Yi Jianlian is getting the ball and how many shots he’s taking.

    Yi struggled, hitting just 4-of-17 from the field. But he’s not the reason the Nets lost. It was their defense again.

    It was them letting their offensive struggles -- or disagreeing with some of the plays that were called -- frustrate them leading to poor execution on the other end.

    The way the Nets lost to the Spurs was a little different for when these two teams play each other. But how the Nets lost followed a similar script for this season.

    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Crushing 11.5 Seconds for Nets

    Saturday, January 9, 2010, 12:28 AM [General]

    NEW ORLEANS –- When you’re having the type of season the Nets are, games like last night are the type of games you lose.

    The Nets were down so many times, looked beaten so many times – especially after not getting up in the prior two blowout losses. But the Nets kept getting back up against Chris Paul and the Hornets.

    Down nine in the first quarter, down 14 in the second, down 15 in the third, you thought it was over. Down 10 with under two minutes left, the Nets seemed well on their way to loss 33 in 36 games.

    But the Nets kept fighting, kept coming back at New Orleans, seemingly got every break they needed to secure an unimaginable win. But the last two breaks went the Hornets way, as did the game, 103-99.

    “This one was definitely a dagger,” said Courtney Lee, who was the star of the night for the Nets, but a forgotten one because of the last 11.5 seconds.

    It was Lee that led the Nets back from those deficits, with help from Keyon Dooling. The two combined for 49 points on 16-of-25 shooting.

    Lee scored 24 after halftime and seemed to have the biggest play of the game with a steal and two foul shots that put the Nets up 99-98 with 11.5 seconds left.

    Everything went right during that 13-2 run over a 1:27 stretch that gave them the lead. This is a team that sometimes has trouble scoring 13 points in 12 minutes. They did it in 87 seconds with help from everyone, including the ghosts of Elvis, as the King impersonators were all over the building in honor of his 75th birthday yesterday.

    In those 87 seconds, the Nets saw Paul miss two foul shots, Brook Lopez swat a Darius Songaila layup, and James Posey commit a dead-ball foul -- which results in a free throw and possession -– with the Hornets up four. It was a three-point Nets' possession.

    Then, Posey threw the inbounds pass to Paul, who tripped, and Lee tracked it down and tried to score. His layup just missed but he was fouled to make it 99-98 with 11.5 seconds left.

    The breaks ended there for the Nets. It was the Hornets’ turn, but sometimes you make your own breaks.

    Paul had the ball and with the Nets switching picks, Jarvis Hayes wound up on the quick point guard. Major mismatch, even more so when you consider this was just Hayes’ third game back after missing 32 with a hamstring injury.

    Paul turned the corner and went in for the layup that turned into a three-point play opportunity when Hayes fouled him with 7.6 seconds to go. Suddenly the Nets were down 101-99.

    All it took was 3.9 seconds for the lead the Nets fought so hard to get was gone and gone for good.

    It all came down to one last shot only the Nets never got the shot off – it’s been that kind of season.

    And it wasn’t like the two narrow losses to the Sixers when the Nets had shots down three and had the ball slapped away one time by Andre Iguodala and the other time Rafer Alston threw it away.

    The Nets or at least the players decided those games.

    The last shot last night never materialized because as Devin Harris got to the top of the arc, Yi Jianlian set a screen on Devin Brown that the officials deemed illegal. Offensive foul, no shot, Hornets ball.

    Two David West foul shots ended the game.

    We’re not saying the foul shouldn’t have been called. The way the Nets have played this season there’s no saying they would have made the shot. Chances are they would have missed. It's just the way this season has gone and this game, especially the last 11.5 seconds of it, was the latest reminder for the Nets.

    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Bad From The Beginning

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010, 11:11 PM [General]

    ATLANTA –- The Nets opened their three-game road trip here, but there really was no evidence that they showed up in Atlanta.

    They trailed by double-figures for the final 42:32 in a 119-89 shellacking against the Hawks.

    With the game over in the first period, the entertainment came from watching the “Kiss Cam” attraction where they scour the arena and get fans to smooch on the jumbo screen, and a feature about what the Hawks bought when they first started making NBA money.

    Al Horford talked about the houses he bought, other players talked about their tricked out rides and former Net Jason Collins said he bought a bed. And then they had Collins’ likeness jumping on a bed.

    Good stuff above the floor, but everything on the court was tough to watch from a Nets’ perspective. Just when you think it can’t get any worse it does.

    The Nets coach, Kiki Vandeweghe, and lone All-Star, Devin Harris, talked before the game about the team coming back from Tuesday’s awful loss to the Bucks. Yet, they played an even more miserable game. The Hawks are a better team, but that means the Nets have to lift their level of play, focus, intensity.

    You would think they would, but 11 straight misses to start the game led to a 17-3 deficit and this game was over. So much for showing fight and resilience and answering the bell after a bad loss. Instead, the Nets compounded situation.

    “I think we came out initially and played hard,” Vandeweghe said. “I understand it's demoralizing to a point when you miss a lot of easy shots, especially layups which we did. But we've got to learn to overcome that.

    “This is a very difficult time for us right now. We're sort of stuck in mud and you've got to slug it out. Just keep going. You can't stop.”

    Sometimes I think I’m watching a different game because the Nets didn’t play that hard. Good things happen when you play hard. You can make up for misses if you’re playing hard on the other end.

    But Vandeweghe doesn’t like to denigrate the players. He believes in positive reinforcement. Still, sometimes you have to say this is unacceptable or use a similar word that sports writers love.

    But Vandeweghe’s right that the Nets have to keep going, they can’t stop. There’s still 47 games remaining. If they stop now, they could lose all 47 the way this team plays sometimes.

    The Nets can’t stop, but something has to change. It seems like the Nets as a whole and individually are regressing.

    For the first few months of the season only Brook Lopez and Chris Douglas-Roberts seemed to be making the most of their opportunities. Lately, Yi Jianlian’s numbers have stood out, but everyone else’s has gone down.

    Vandeweghe and his staff have to find a way to get consistent play from everyone, get everyone involved and motivate the team to play hard on both ends. The losses are wearing on everyone. Players are more than frustrated.

    They play strong games against the Knicks and the Cavaliers and have back-to-back pathetic games against the Bucks and the Hawks. At least in Atlanta, there were some fun things to watch above the court, although the Nets probably didn’t enjoy it.

    There really was no evidence they were here anyway.

    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Nets wheel, deal and lose

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010, 10:55 PM [General]

    Trading season opened for the Nets on Tuesday night. They were minor, but represented their first roster moves they made since drafting Terrence Williams on June 25, 2009.

    It may only be the beginning of a busy six-plus weeks for Nets’ management.

    The Nets are in search of young players on good deals, expiring contracts and draft picks. They acquired all three last night before another embarrassing loss, this time a 98-76 blowout against Milwaukee, ending their seven-game homestand with a 1-6 mark.

    Chris Quinn, a never-used point guard in Miami, was acquired along with a 2012 second-round pick and cash for a 2010 second-rounder that will never leave the Nets' hands. It’s protected 31-50 and the way things are going the Nets will own the No. 31 pick.

    Before that was finalized the Nets bought out veteran point guard Rafer Alston, who was no longer going to be part of the rotation with backup Keyon Dooling playing again and playing well.

    The Nets did the outspoken Alston a favor. He goes from a losing situation to a sunny destination, gets to play with Dwyane Wade and likely will be in the playoffs. By the way, the Heat are the team he likely will sign with when he clears waivers.

    “We wish him only the best, and I think it comes back to help you,” coach/general mananger Kiki Vandeweghe said. “If you can help a player in this type of situation, I think it’s the right thing to do.”

    There are probably several other veterans riding pine that wish the Nets would do the same, but they’re going to have to wait things out and see if they’re going to be traded.

    The deal the Nets made for Quinn makes little sense on the surface. They wanted an insurance policy at point guard in case Devin Harris or Dooling get hurt, although they probably could give Williams some run there.

    The real thing they got from the Quinn deal was the second-round pick in 2012 without giving up a pick. The Nets had to part with a trade exception for Quinn, but they probably figured they would get more out of the 2012 second-rounder than the exception. And the cash they received from Miami will cover Quinn’s salary.

    So the way the Nets look at this day as a whole -– and there probably was some agreements made despite it being separate transactions -– was they saved $1 million from the Alston buyout, got a second-round pick, another expiring contract and only gave up a trade exception that often teams wind up letting expire because they can’t find a deal.

    The Nets still have eight guys with expiring contracts, veterans that may be able to help contenders, and they would love to move Eduardo Najera so you can expect them to keep talking to teams and trying to shake things up.

    It would have been a great day in the Nets’ eyes if they could have closed it out with a win, but you could look at it this way:Eevery loss gets them one step closer to the No. 1 pick and Kentucky freshman John Wall.

    This was an awful way for the Nets to end a homestand in which they showed some signs of improvement. But in the finale they showed they’re still a very bad team when they don’t play the right way.

    These were the Bucks, after all. And the Nets let the Bucks dominate them more than Cleveland did Saturday. Sure, you get up for the good teams but when you’re this bad every team is good to you, or at least it should be.

    Instead, the Nets started with energy and fizzled quickly behind 10 first-half turnovers, another bad performance on the boards and no fire at all in the third period.

    The only difference between this and so many nights this season is the Nets made two roster moves, something they haven’t done in nearly six months. It won’t save their season, but then again nothing will.

    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Rebounding From 21 Straight Glass Cleanings

    Monday, January 4, 2010, 5:26 PM [General]

    This streak started innocently, unlike some of the Nets’ streaks this season, and it's still going.

    The start of the Nets’ record-setting losing streak to open the season was like a hammer crashing as they blew a 19-point third-quarter cushion and lost at the buzzer in Minnesota.

    This latest streak started after another hammer came down when the Nets wasted a double-digit second-half lead despite out-rebounding the board-effective Bucks. That was the last time the Nets won the battle of the glass.

    One game later, the Nets played the Knicks in Devin Harris’ return from a groin injury. The winning was supposed to start. Instead, the Nets lost again and New York held a slight edge in rebounds.

    It was loss No. 13 in a row and also the first of now 21 consecutive games in which the Nets have been out-rebounded. According to the YES Network, it’s the longest such streak since the 1986-87 season.

    This could be one of those coming full-circle moments.

    The Nets play host to the Bucks tomorrow night, one of the better rebounding teams in the league. The Nets rank 28th in rebounds, 28th in opponents’ rebounds, and the 5.78 differential between the two is the second-worst in the NBA.

    Maybe the Nets end that streak tomorrow night and maybe they end their homestand on a winning note. They would rather accomplish the latter, and could do it without the improved board work, but it certainly would help.

    “I think our big guys are getting their rebounding numbers,” head coach Kiki Vandeweghe said today. “It’s everybody. It’s all five guys, and we talked about it today. That is an area where we need significant improvement and we have to do it every single time –- it’s not just one guy.

    “One guy leaks out and then another guy leaks out. It has to be a consistent effort. In areas, we’re getting a very good effort. There, we’re getting a good effort, but it’s got to be consistent and more consistent.”

    Take this 1-5 homestand thus far, which is about one-third of the sample. The Nets could have won anywhere from one to three more games if they had just put a body on someone and grabbed a few extra rebounds.

    They lost to Minnesota by four on Dec. 23 on a night when the Wolves held a 46-37 edge on the glass and a 20-5 advantage in second-chance points.

    Three nights later, the Nets were tied late in the game against Houston, a game they would have won with a few more rebounds. The smaller, harder working Rockets won the rebound battle 51-39, including 16-6 on the offensive boards, and got the game by five.

    There are two wins right there. A third, although it would have been tough regardless, could have come Saturday against the Cavaliers. LeBron James wouldn’t let Cleveland lose to the Nets, though.

    It was 52-38 Cleveland on the boards, and 23-14 in second-chance points, in a game the Cavs won by eight.

    Brook Lopez is getting his for the most part. He’s averaged 10 on the homestand, but he needs help from Yi Jianlian and some of the smalls also.

    “Personally, I think it’s one, getting a body on everybody, but then it’s pursuing the ball,” Vandeweghe said. “To me, it’s a matter of desire, and you’ve got to want the ball and realize that rebounding is part of defense. The only way you get the ball back is either you get a rebound, you get a steal or the other team scores – and the last one’s not so good. So you’ve got to get rebounds.”

    It would help the Nets end this homestand with a win.


    ***

    Jarvis Hayes is expected to return tomorrow after missing the prior 32 games with a hamstring injury.

    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

     

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Yi continuing to show improvement

    Sunday, January 3, 2010, 4:22 PM [General]

    When LeBron James rattled off the good, young players the Nets have he mentioned every starter but one -- Yi Jianlian. It wasn’t surprising.

    James hasn’t seen the best of Yi. The previous four games, his first four since returning from a seven-week absence, Yi averaged 22.5 points and opened up some eyes with his aggressiveness. But he went back to being jump-shot happy against the Cavaliers on Saturday and shot 2-for-13.

    So when James omitted Yi he probably was going on the games he played against Yi or his reputation, which is of someone who is inconsistent or lacks aggressiveness or can be taken out of games mentally.

    Yi deserves a little more time, especially under this coaching regime, which will allow him to play through his mistakes, before he is judged. Kiki Vandeweghe stayed with Yi despite those misses because he did other things.

    “He stayed with it, he kept fighting,” Vandeweghe said. “Your shot’s not going to be there every single night. He hit a big three for us. I was happy he took it. He kept fighting on the boards, he kept playing hard. That’s why he played.”

    He is a defensive liability, but he's trying. Yi blocked three shots against the Cavaliers. Our favorite moment was when he was on James one-on-one in the right corner by the Nets’ bench. James seemed to have a smile on his face.

    We were waiting for James to fake, drive baseline and throw down a monster dunk. He settled for a three-pointer that missed. Victory, Yi.

    It’s probable that James would want to play with a more rugged power forward, but really who knows other than the King himself what he wants. You can presume he wants to play for a team with which he will have he best chance to win.

    Neither the Nets nor Knicks would seem to fit that criterion, but you can argue that someone like James would enjoy the challenge of turning a bad team into a contender the way his friend Jason Kidd did when he got here in 2001.

    The difference was Kidd had no choice. He was traded to the Nets. Where James goes will be his choice.

    We’re always trying to read between the lines and decipher what players are saying, their hidden messages.

    What James said about the Nets when asked whether their record will hurt their chances to sign free agents was: “I think their record could definitely be better but they do have some good pieces. I think Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Courtney Lee and some of those guys -- CDR -- are some really talented players. We’ll see what happens.”

    Interpret it this way: James is being political, saying the right thing about a team he knows will pursue him, that his buddy Jay-Z still owns a share of and he’s also keeping the door slightly open to join the Nets.

    Also know this: If James doesn’t want Yi or anyone else here, that person won’t be here. But that’s really jumping the gun.

    No one knows if Yi will continue to be the Nets' power forward of the future because no one knows who will be making the decisions when Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov takes control of the team.

    The most important thing for Yi and the Nets is for him to continue to play with the aggressiveness he's playing with, continue to go to the basket and try and draw fouls.

    He didn’t do enough of that against the Cavaliers as their size affected him. The Cavaliers have 7-foot-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 7-1 Shaquille O’Neal and 6-11 Anderson Varejao. Yi and the rest of the Nets relied too much on their perimeter game.

    As a team, the Nets need to do more inside because one of their biggest issues is rebounding. Twenty-one consecutive times they have been out-rebounded.

    The Cavaliers dominated the offensive glass Saturday. The same can be said about the Rockets last week.

    If the Nets grabbed a couple more defensive rebounds on this homestand, let alone this season, they probably would have more than three wins. If the Nets had Yi healthy this season -– this Yi -– they also would have a better record.

    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

    4.1 (2 Ratings)

    Nets Making James Notice Them

    Saturday, January 2, 2010, 5:40 PM [General]

    Fans filled the arena early to see LeBron James warm up just before noon and didn’t leave until they got enough of the man who would be King.

    It helped that the Nets hung with the Cavaliers enough that James had to play until there was just over one minute remaining.

    The Nets lost again, 94-86, but played hard and tough against the Eastern Conference’s top team and reigning MVP.

    At this point, that’s the best the Nets, as an organization can hope for because a blowout loss wouldn’t help in their summer pursuit of James.

    Everyone knows James is the person the Nets cleared all the salary for this summer. The popular opinion is James and no other marquee free agent would consider the Nets because of the awful season they’re having.

    But it might count for something if the Nets continue to show fight and make James work for everything when they play head-to-head. If that’s one of the things he goes on, it could bode well for the Nets.

    Now, no one is saying James will consider the Nets ahead of Cleveland or the Knicks or the Heat. Most people expect him to stay with the Cavaliers. But in two meetings thus far this season, the Nets have made an impression on James.

    In Saturday’s game, it was how hard the Nets played. They led for most of the first half and stayed with Cleveland even after falling behind by 12 early in the fourth quarter. It was a four-point game with 4:39 to play.

    Of course, James finished the Nets off, scoring seven of his game-high 28 points and registering two of his game-high seven assists in a 13-4 run that gave Cleveland its eighth straight win.

    But James took note of what the Nets did, how Chris Douglas-Roberts went after him and how they kept coming after the Cavaliers.

    James called the Nets “a good team” and “a talented team.” (Have those phrases been uttered about the Nets anywhere this year?) James also said the Nets are “going to play hard.”

    He’s gotten that from the two games they played against each other in 19 days. The last one in Cleveland, the Nets were down 15 and got within two in the third period.

    The Cavaliers had to gut out a 10-point victory that featured a Flagrant Foul II on Devin Harris for knocking down a streaking Jamario Moon with a shot to his face and neck. James ran and pinned Harris against the basket stanchion.

    In this game, the Nets delivered a couple of hard fouls on James. Trenton Hassell cut his arm. Brook Lopez got him around the neck and Harris thought he did enough to stop James from going in for a fastbreak layup.

    The bottom line is the Nets are getting better and are playing harder. At this point, at 3-30, the Nets can’t ask for anything more than that and that the person they plan to pursue this summer is noticing.

    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

     

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Despite Bad Finish, Nets' Decade Worth Remembering

    Thursday, December 31, 2009, 4:03 PM [General]

    The calendar turns to a New Year and a new decade at midnight. Before it does, here's a look at the some of the biggest stories in chronological order of the Nets' most successful yet most frustrating decade.

    Stories of the decade

    2000 Nets Win No. 1 pick: The franchise changed with this move. Rod Thorn may not have left the league office if not for the Nets winning the Lottery and a chance to draft Kenyon Martin. Former Georgetown guard Michael Jackson might have been the prez.

    2001 Nets trade for Jason Kidd: The biggest moment in the Nets’ NBA history was when Thorn and GM Ed Stefanski acquired Kidd, who had worn out his welcome in Phoenix. The deal, that included Stephon Marbury going to the Suns, also put Thorn on the map as one of the league’s best executives. Kidd’s arrival led to six straight playoff berths. The Nets wisely waited because they were close to sending Marbury to the Clippers for Keyon Dooling and the No. 2 pick before the draft.

    2002-3 Nets reach two NBA Finals: Once an NBA laughingstock, the Nets were laughing at the Knicks and every other East team. They rolled to back-to-back Finals in Kidd’s first two years after winning just one playoff series their previous 25 NBA seasons. They set their NBA mark with 52 wins in 2001-02.

    2004 Byron Scott is fired: Despite the Nets’ success, there were players working behind the scenes to force a coaching change. They did as Scott was let go and Lawrence Frank took over and set a pro sports record with 13 consecutive wins to start a career. Later, Scott said there was “a mutiny” toward the end of his Nets’ tenure.

    2004 Nets sold to Bruce Ratner: A nice man who had no business owning a basketball team, Ratner didn’t care about winning as much as he did real estate and building an arena in Brooklyn. It’s still not done, but the emphasis on the arena instead of the product on the floor led to some disappointing seasons, including this one.

    2004 Nets trade Kenyon Martin: The Nets were smart not to match the Nuggets’ $90-plus million offer – not that ownership would have let them – so they parted with Martin and still haven’t replaced his toughness and defensive tenacity. The smart thing would have been to lock him the summer before for less when the Nets had the exclusive right. Kidd never got over Martin’s departure. But had Kenyon stayed Kidd probably would have found something else to upset him.

    2004 Nets acquire Vince Carter: The one good thing that came out of the Martin trade were the draft picks they received helped them get Carter. They also got rid of headache Alonzo Mourning in the process. Carter provided excitement and some magnificent moments, including his fantastic finish to the 2004-05 season when he and Kidd led the Nets on a 15-4 crusade and improbable playoff berth.

    2005-06 Another banner: The Nets have winning streaks of 14 and 10 games and finish with 49 victories, matching their second-most in their NBA history. They also win their fourth and final Atlantic Division title. It's also the last time they finish above .500.

    2007 Kidd's migraine: Had the Nets said Kidd had a backache it wouldn’t have raised much of a red flag, but a migraine raised eyebrows everywhere. Kidd rarely missed games to begin with so migraine wasn’t believable. Either way, it would have gotten out he was planning his exit from New Jersey and this was some sort of boycott. It really was a bad moment for a player the fans loved and admired.

    2008 Kidd traded: The inevitable happened in February, a few weeks after Kidd publicly requested a trade. The Nets eventually sent him to Dallas in a huge deal that brought Devin Harris and two first rounders to New Jersey. It was a sad day for the Nets, but inevitable. Kidd had become a migraine headache to the entire organization.

    2008 Jefferson traded: Four months later, the last player left the two Finalists was given his walking papers in a lopsided deal that screamed rebuild. Jefferson went to the Bucks for unproven Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons, whose contract is up this season. The Nets set the groundwork to be in the 2010 free-agent market. Now all they needed was to trade Carter.

    2009 Carter traded: Nearly a year to the day Jefferson was traded Carter was sent to the Magic with Ryan Anderson for Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie. This deal may have been more lopsided than Jefferson. The Nets moved their best player and a good young power forward and got no draft picks back. This was a salary dump for 2010 and for ownership to finally sell.

    2009 Nets sold to Russian billionaire: Mikhail Prokhorov agreed to purchase controlling interest in the Nets and part of the reason is all the money and flexibility they will have in 2010. He’s supposed to be an owner that cares about winning and will spend to win. The NBA still has to approve the sale, which is expected to happen early in 2010.

    2009 Nets start 0-18: We knew the Nets would be bad, but not historically bad. Selling off their best players and injuries galore led to an NBA-record 18-game losing streak to start the season.

    2009 Lawrence Frank is fired: He couldn’t survive the awful start, although he was gone before the Nets set the record. Thorn dismissed him at 0-16, citing the need for “a new voice.” The Nets have since won, but are on pace to break the mark for worst record ever: 9-73. I don't think they will.

    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

     

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    Looking Back at 2009 and Nets' Year-Ending Win

    Wednesday, December 30, 2009, 11:48 PM [General]

    The Nets showed some of the things they promised before the season began in last night's 104-95 win over the Knicks.

    They played defense, scored in transition, had energy for 48 minutes, outworked and outhustled their opponent. It also helped that they had their starting five playing together for the first time since Oct. 30.

    Maybe this is the start of something. It definitely was the end of a couple of things: their 10-game losing streak and their 2009 schedule. It was a crazy year and decade for them.

    Top 10 Stories of the Year

    0-18: The record-setting start could stand for a long time, but it was an imperfect storm – a bad offseason trade, rash of injuries, swine flu and two buzzer-beating losses - that led to the imperfect start.

    Vince Carter traded: You knew it was coming because of the direction the Nets were headed, but they should have gotten more for their best player and shouldn’t have had to get rid of Ryan Anderson.

    Lawrence Frank Fired: The Nets’ all-time NBA leader in wins and losses started his career with a 13-game winning streak and ended his New Jersey tenure on a 17-game skid.

    Russian owner: Mikhail Prokhorov purchased majority ownership of the Nets and is expected to put his money into winning and not a new building and relocation project.

    Devin Harris benched: When Frank sat Harris and Carter for the second half of the Celtics’ game last season it had a lasting effect on the Nets’ point guard, a lasting effect.

    Standing pat: After finishing 14 games below .500 last year, the Nets made no moves in free agency – none. They couldn’t spend because of the pending ownership change, but none?

    Miracle shot: The Nets were about to lose to the Sixers when Harris took an inbounds pass, lost the ball, regained it and flung it from halfcourt over a backpedaling Andre Iguodala and in for the win.

    The All-Star: Harris was rewarded for his breakout first half last season with his first All-Star berth.

    No Malice in the Palace: It happened on New Year’s Eve 2008, but spilled over into 2009. Carter lost his cool and was ejected after official Derrick Stafford called him “boy.” The league acknowledged it. Carter hit the buzzer-beating game-winner in the Nets’ next game against Atlanta, after which Frank said, “Only Vince Carter does that,” and later that month Stafford apologized to Carter.

    Swine flu: Chris Douglas-Roberts becomes the first known NBA player to have contracted the H1N1 virus in November.


    What you won’t read in 2010:

    LeBron James takes less money to sign with Nets. (Or Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson)

    Kiki Vandeweghe decides he likes being coach and wants to stay on the bench

    Bruce Ratner has a change of heart and wants to put his money back into the Nets and make them a winner

    Jason Kidd requests a trade from the Dallas Mavericks and puts the Nets on the top of his wish list

    ***

    On the YES pregame show, we went over some of best of the decade for the Nets. In case you missed it here are some of the things we discussed:


    Games of the Decade
    1. Nets advance to Round 2 with Double OT win in Game 5 against the Reggie Miller and the Pacers in 2002

    2. Nets beat Pistons in 3 OTs in Palace in Game 5 of the 2003 East Semis behind Brian Scalabrine’s career-best 17-point game

    3. Suns beat Nets 161-157 in 2 OTs on Dec. 7 2006, despite 38 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists from Kidd.

    Play of the Decade
    There were so many involving Kidd, especially against the Knicks during the good years and you can point to the Carter game-winning 3 in Toronto in 2006 when Kidd jumped on his head or the Carter alley-oop last year in Toronto. It’s a tough call. But here are three that stood out:

    1. Kerry Kittles game-winning three-pointer in Game 3 against the Pacers in 2002 with 22.5 seconds left: Nets may lose series if not for that and their whole history changes.

    2. Kidd’s game-winning fadeaway jumper with 1.4 seconds to go in Game 1 of the 2003 East Finals at Detroit: The captain was off that night, but not on that shot.

    3. Rodney Rogers rebounds his missed free throw and hits 20-footer with two seconds left in 2003 Round 1, Game 3 in Milwaukee: It starts the 10-game winning streak that propels Nets to second NBA Finals

    Best Draft Pick of the 2000s
    1. Kenyon Martin
    2. Richard Jefferson
    3. Brook Lopez

    Coach of the Decade
    1. Byron Scott
    2. Lawrence Frank

    Nets All-Decade Team
    PG – Kidd
    SG – Carter
    C – Brook Lopez
    PF – Kenyon Martin
    SF – Richard Jefferson

    Player of the Decade
    Kidd, of course.

    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

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    Nets should follow Thunder's model

    Tuesday, December 29, 2009, 4:14 PM [General]

    The situations are similar. The Oklahoma City Thunder were about to be sold, about to be moved and dumped players and salaries and tried to build through the draft, trades and free agency.

    Sound familiar?

    Now, they have had some major growing pains, but look at where they are now. In Kevin Durant’s third NBA season the Thunder have an opportunity to make the playoffs in the tougher Western Conference.

    It helps, of course, when you have a player of Durant’s stature and talent. You can tell he wants to be great. He’s worked at getting bigger and stronger. He’s playing better defense, rebounding the ball better and making his teammates around him better.

    Just a year ago, the Thunder were 3-28 after 31 games. The 2-29 Nets are just one game worse. Today, the Thunder are 16-14 so it’s possible to turn things around quickly if you make the right decisions, draft the right players, acquire the right players.

    Durant is a good starting point, but in that same 2007 Draft, the Thunder traded Ray Allen to the Celtics and received the rights to Jeff Green. They also drafted Russell Westbrook the next year, James Harden in June, signed Nenad Krstic and traded for Thabo Sefolosha.

    This is not a championship team, but they continue to make good moves, find guys who play hard and want to get better and the Thunder still have salary cap room and multiple picks, including two first-rounders this year, in the next handful of drafts.

    It all comes back to Durant, though. It doesn’t work or happen without him, and Kiki Vandeweghe contends it’s happened the way it has because the Thunder stuck with the plan and that was to continue to develop their young players and let them grow into good players or assets.

    “You think about Kevin Durant a year ago, two years ago,” Vandeweghe said. “They played him a lot of minutes, they lost a lot of games, but they kept giving him chances, kept believing in him. They developed their core. Westbrook the same way.

    “They lost a lot of games. Could they have won more games letting the veterans go, ****ng the growth of a Durant? Yeah, they probably could have won a few more games, but that’s not the path they chose.

    “It took them two years to get there. We’re trying to do it within a year, but it’s a tried-and-true method (of) almost force-feeding your guys. And that’s what they did in Oklahoma, they force-fed their guys and they got good results.”

    Enter Yi Jianlian. Plenty has been written about him lately because he’s had three strong games since returning from knee and lip injuries. The Nets haven’t won any of them, but 22, 17 and 29 from an aggressive Yi is much better than seeing him get six points on 2-of-9 shooting and playing passive.

    Yi is getting more freedom than he had under Lawrence Frank. Many of the Nets are, but mostly Yi. Part of it is because Vandeweghe brokered the deal for Yi and believes he can be a very good NBA player. He’s going to give him the chance to get better, let him play through his mistakes.

    At this point, that’s what the Nets should do. Let Yi, Brook Lopez, Courtney Lee, Chris Douglas-Roberts and even Terrence Williams play through their mistakes. For the most part Vandeweghe is. This is a lost season so they have to look ahead to the future and see what players here are a part of the future.

    Under Frank last season, Yi was given chances to make mistakes, but the leash was shorter and I didn’t have a problem with it. The Nets were in the playoff race for basically four-fifths of the season.

    Some believed Frank shouldn’t have played his veterans as much, but it’s always important to try to win and if you have a shot at the playoffs you do that. Frank did the right thing by playing to win.

    The Nets, like the Thunder in Durant’s first two seasons, have no shot at the playoffs now. So they should keep working on getting the young players better, building for the future.

    It’s a plan that could work, but it always helps when you have a Durant to carry you and a team that plays hard every game, plays with confidence, believes things will turn around and makes it happen. There’s no substitute for any of that.

    ***

    The Nets play their final game of 2009 on Wednesday night and could have Douglas-Roberts back in the lineup when they try to snap their 10-game losing streak against the Knicks. Douglas-Roberts missed the past three games with a sprained ankle.


    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

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    Nets Struck By Thunder, Fall for 10th Straight Time

    Tuesday, December 29, 2009, 12:09 AM [General]

    The Nets returned to their old ways on Monday night, and by that we don’t a few years ago when they would win games.

    After two games in which they fought hard, and battled both the T-Wolves and Rockets to the final seconds, the Nets let Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder run away with a 105-89 victory. The operative word is run.

    Like the old days –- two weeks ago -– when the opposition made their run the Nets didn’t have a response and the game got away quickly.

    "I don't know whether we ran out of gas or they turned it up," coach Kiki Vandweghe said. "We’ve got to find a way to push through that last 12-15 minutes when they make runs."

    It was a little of both.

    The Thunder, behind a season-high tying 40 points from Durant, turned up their game. And the Nets seemed to run out something. I wouldn't say gas, as they lost their tenth straight.

    There seemed to be a collective frustration, a body language that said 'here we go again.'
    What the Nets needed to do was take a stand. Instead they did what they usually do –- back down.

    It was a one-point game with 3:40 left in the third period. It was a 16-point Thunder lead with 6:01 left in the fourth. That’s how quickly things go badly for the Nets, and it’s happened time and time again.

    "When the jump shots are not falling and we’re not getting the calls, with a young team like we have, it’s tough to overcome," Devin Harris said.

    "We stopped doing the things that kept us competing, which was taking it to the rim," Vandeweghe remarked. "We did a good job of swinging the ball, taking it to the basket, attacking the rim and we started settling for jump shots. That’s a tough lesson to learn when you’re in the game. It’s a winnable game for you and then you let them start off with a run like that."

    It all comes back to how the Nets respond. They didn’t have huge runs, but they scored nine unanswered to pull ahead by two in the third quarter.

    They knew Durant and his team would do something to pick up their play. Yet the Nets didn't counter.

    Over an 11:49 stretch, the Nets shot 3-for-17 and committed four turnovers. Twelve of those attempts were jump shots from at least 10-feet away. On the contrary, the Thunder were taking it to the basket, drawing fouls.

    They played with the confidence the Nets lack, but it’s understandable because Oklahoma City is a playoff contender in the Western Conference with a winning record overall and on the road.

    The Thunder know how to handle runs, how to answer them, how to play hard and smart at the same time. The Nets still are learning how to do all of that.

    "We were all upset in that fourth quarter and we were all upset at the end of the game," Vandeweghe said. "Winnable game and they took off at a certain point and we didn’t stay with them for whatever reason.

    "Lots of reasons you could use. Durant’s awful good. He creates things. They tightened up the defense. They’re one of the highest-rated defensive teams in the league. None of that matters. We have to find a way to push through and find a way to keep competing throughout the fourth quarter."

    Thirty-one games into the season the Nets still haven’t figured out how. It’s no wonder 29 of those games have ended in defeat.

    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

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