Valiant effort wasted as Nets remain winless

    Friday, November 6, 2009, 11:49 PM [General]

    PHILADELPHIA -- The Nets are going to break through one of these games. You just don't know what week or month it will be or who will be the one leading them to victory.

    They are so banged up by the time this game ended they had eight players in uniform and seven guys unable to go. And had they pulled off the stunning upset, one Trenton Hassell would have been carried off on his teammates' shoulders.

    Coach Lawrence Frank went on and on about Hassell's professionalism after his terrific game and deservedly so. Hassell went from playing just one game this season -- a total of eight minutes -- to starting and playing 46 minutes and nearly leading the depleted Nets to the unexpected victory.

    But Hassell's all-out effort and those of all the Nets who played wound up being wasted. They fell, 97-94, to the Sixers and dropped to 0-6, setting a franchise record for the worst start in a season.

    The record is significant and if the losing continues at this rate Frank will feel the heat. But the record really isn't that major because of what's happened to the Nets and that also should be taken into account with Frank's job security.

    It was going to be a struggle anyway this season. Now add the fact that the Nets are minus starters Devin Harris and Yi Jianlian, valuable reserves Jarvis Hayes and Keyon Dooling and big man Tony Battie. Another starter Chris Douglas-Roberts didn't play last night because of flu-like symptoms and then starting shooting guard Courtney Lee left in the third period with a strained groin.

    I don't care what team it is, if you're without four starters you're not going to win often.

    "It seems like we keep losing bodies," Eduardo Najera said.

    As bad as this season was projected, no one could have imagined a game in which Hassell would play 46 minutes and Rafer Alston over 40, and the last two offensive plays of the game were going to be a shot by Najera and a potential game-tying shot for Bobby Simmons. The last shot would have been taken by rookie Terrence Williams, but Andre Iguodala slapped it away just before the final buzzer sounded.

    Despite all of that, this was a game the Nets should have won. Not should have in the same vein as the Minnesota game when they Nets led by 19 in the third or the Charlotte game when they were up 14 in the second and the Bobcats looking like they would have trouble scoring against Frank's CYO and JCC teams he talked about after this game.

    No, the Nets should have won because of how hard they played and how much energy they expended to finally get a win. They really deserved to win this game when you saw everything they did to go up eight in the third period and still lead by six in the fourth. And to stay in the game and have shots to tie after a near four-minute drought in the fourth.

    This was a game they should have won to get the proverbial monkey off their backs. But the Nets weren't down after this game as much as they were after a Washington blowout or the Charlotte loss or even their previous game, a second-half collapse against Denver. Probably because they know they couldn't have played any harder.

    That's why the Nets are going to break through at some point, probably not Saturday night against the Celtics. But they will break through at some point unless they continue to break down.

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

    0 (0 Ratings)

    We've Seen 0-5 Before Around Here

    Thursday, November 5, 2009, 3:47 PM [General]

    Chris Douglas-Roberts had just answered questions about how bad the Nets are, have been and could be when he was told something that the super-competitive player probably didn't need to hear last night.

    The Nets matched their worst start by losing their first five games.

    "I didn't know that," he said.

    He didn't want to know that.

    Then Douglas-Roberts was told he's in good company and had another link to his college coach, John Calipari. Yes, the last 0-5 Nets team was coached by ex-Memphis and current Kentucky coach John Calipari. No Nets team has started 0-6.

    Douglas-Roberts probably wanted to say more, but looked around the room and thought best not to say much. Just know that he didn't want to be linked to Cal in that way.

    The year was 1996, Calipari's first, and he talked endlessly about "changing the culture." It was a bad team that featured 23 different players seeing action and a nine-player trade that at least provided hope.

    Calipari rubbed people the wrong way and probably should have changed some of his ways. But he could coach, and he changed the culture with the help of that trade.

    The following season the Nets started a franchise-best 4-0 and reached the playoffs.

    There's a lot of hope in the Nets' offices that history will repeat itself. But it will depend on what deals the Nets make this season and what they can do in the offseason when they have anywhere from $20 million to $25 million to spend in free agency.

    We go back to the same question: who's going to want to play here? And with this team?

    Maybe Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov helps and in effect changes the culture, but it's hard to imagine LeBron James or any superstar coming to play here. Not the way this team is playing.

    It might be different today if the Nets were healthy. Maybe they would have a win or two. They should have two, and 2-3 looks and feels much better than 0-5.

    But look at this team: Devin Harris and Yi Jianlian are injury-prone and both are both out indefinitely. Brook Lopez hasn't looked that good since his 27-point, 15-point rebound night in the opener. Not having Harris to take some of the defensive attention away probably hasn't helped. Courtney Lee hasn't shot the ball the way he did in Orlando, which again could have something to do with the players around him and not having Dwight Howard and the Magic All-Stars there anymore.

    These are the guys, along with rookie Terrence Williams, the Nets were hoping would help them attract free agents, and five games in they're not helping the organization.

    It's a long season. Things can turn around or at least improve.

    In 1996, the Nets were 2-9 and 6-18. You could tell they drafted a good player in Kerry Kittles. And then in February, after falling to 15-36, they made the big deal, sending Shawn Bradley, Khalid Reeves, Ed O'Bannon and Robert Pack to Dallas for Sam Cassell, Jimmy Jackson, Chris Gatling, Eric Montross and George McCloud.

    They became interesting. There was hope. The next season Calipari guided the Nets to a playoff berth where he was shushed by Michael Jordan and his team swept by Chicago

    Today, the Nets just want to end their skid because it could get worse. The schedule isn't easy. It's usually not when you're not good and banged up.

    The Nets are at Philadelphia tomorrow, host the Celtics Saturday and Sixers Wednesday and then go to Orlando and Miami. Then it lightens up with a home game against the Pacers, at Milwaukee, and then hosting the Knicks before going West for four games, featuring the Nuggets, Blazers, Kings and Lakers.

    Maybe somewhere in that stretch Harris and Jarvis Hayes will return. Harris revealed today he'll miss 2-4 weeks with the groin injury. Yi is out for 3-5 weeks. Keyon Dooling remains out. The four of them could come back around the same time.

    Maybe the Nets show something at full strength, but Douglas-Roberts said last night he isn't waiting for them and thinking things have to get worse before they get better.

    "I'm never thinking about the future and how bad it could be," Douglas-Roberts said. "I'm trying to look up. I'm trying to think positive. So I'm not thinking about it getting worse. I know every game we play we show flashes. Someway we just have to put it together."

    It took Calipari's Nets until Game 6. Maybe Douglas-Roberts will have another link to his old coach and they'll get their first win tomorrow.

    But the Nets may only have nine players. Douglas-Roberts has flu-like conditions and didn't travel with the Nets. He had to undergo tests because the NBA policy -- due to the swine flu -- won't let players with the flu play even if they want to try. You can bet Douglas-Roberts would want to try.

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

     

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Another Third-Quarter Barrage Buries Nets

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 11:29 PM [General]

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Nets joked last season that they would try to do things differently after halftime. Maybe petition the league to try and do pregame introductions again or play the National Anthem so they would start the second half the way they do their games.

    A new year and nothing has changed.

    They aren't joking yet, but it may be coming because five games into the season, it's clear the Nets don't play the same way in the second half as the first half.

    There was another example of that Wednesday night when the Denver Nuggets steamrolled the Nets 122-94 behind a third-quarter scoring onslaught that had those behind the computers scrambling to find the last time New Jersey gave up that many points.

    The number was 44. Forty-four! And the answer is they have given up more. 49 is their high for a quarter. They had a 48 game. So there was no record, just some embarrassment in this historic defeat.

    The Nets are 0-5, matching their worst start. They were 0-5 to open the 1996-97 campaign. They finished 26-56.

    We know the Nets are down some players -- four of their top six scorers from last season. Things would be different if they had them -- that's for sure -- but allowing 44 points in the third to Denver one game after being outscored 20-7 in the third period Monday at Charlotte means this team needs to wake up.

    You felt the frustration in the locker room afterward. You know these guys are tired of the losing and tired of losing the way they're losing. They blew a 19-point third-quarter lead in the opener at Washington, lost by 10 to the Magic, were blasted in Washington by 19, fell in Charlotte by 11 after leading by 14 in the second and were crushed by the Nuggets.

    There are some good teams there, but the way the Nets are losing is the problem. For the most part, these aren't competitive games. They're certainly not after halftime.

    "I think one of the things that happens is we have a hard time sustaining it," coach Lawrence Frank said. "The third quarter in Minnesota was a good third quarter, but since then we've struggled and what happens, especially when you go against a high level team, is their discipline in their play.

    "I think all we have to do is understand that we have to raise our intensity without even saying that they're going to raise theirs."

    The players should know this. They've all been playing basketball for a long time. They know the other team will make adjustments, so you have to counter those adjustments and match their intensity.

    The Nuggets' run, 52-26 over about 14 minutes, was predictable. Carmelo Anthony was 1-for-11 and had six first-half points, and Chauncey Billups was scoreless. You knew they were going to try and get going. The Nets knew it and couldn't do anything about it

    Those two are great players and go off on plenty of teams, even good ones, defensively and overall. They're going to get theirs.

    But the Nets would take Anthony and Billups combining to shoot 12-for-35 and score 34 points -- that was Anthony's average coming in -- on any given night. They didn't bury the Nets. Like on most nights, it was the Nets who buried themselves.

    ***

    Yi Jianlian missed the first of what should be many games with a sprained right MCL. The team wouldn't give a timetable for his return, but Yi said 3-5 weeks.

    ***

    The Nets are hosting Autism Awareness Night Saturday when they play the Celtics. A percentage of each ticket sold will benefit autism research, education, awareness and advocacy. To order tickets, contact Christie Freid at 201-806-3776 or at cfreid@njnets.com.

    During that afternoon, Frank will address a group of 50 children with autism during a basketball clinic at the Nets' practice facility. The kids are from Alpine Learning Group, Inc., Autism Speaks, Autism New Jersey, New Beginnings, Heartsong, Inc. and Eden II Programs and will be guests of the Nets for Saturday's game.

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

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Nets' Offense and Post-Game Reactions Off the Mark

    Monday, November 2, 2009, 11:18 PM [General]

    CHARLOTTE - A confusing, confounding game was followed by some confusing words.

    The Nets just lost 79-68 to the Charlotte Bobcats in one of the worst-played games I have ever witnessed - it was 14-10 after one - but there were few signs of disgust afterward from outside or inside the visitor's locker room.

    Naturally, Chris Douglas-Roberts was frustrated. He's never happy when he loses. And Rafer Alston said the third period was "embarrassing," and seemed to say there were some players going for theirs when they should have been playing team ball.

    But they also talked about how good the Nets were for two quarters-plus. Coach Lawrence Frank said a couple of times the Nets did "some good things" and a couple of people "did some good things."

    We understand Frank didn't want to pile on his winless team, because this certainly wasn't an effort thing. They played hard. They just were more inept than a really bad team.

    But the Nets really didn't do that many good things. They scored seven points in the third period, 20 over the final 18:40. They committed 26 turnovers. They went scoreless for 10 minutes and were outscored 24-0 in that span. They matched a record for points in a quarter and came close to equaling their all-time low for points in a half and in a game. All of those numbers are deplorable.

    These are the Bobcats they played, a team they can beat and should have beaten. Sure, holding them to 10 points in the first period, eight field goals in the first half and 33 before halftime were good things, but let's only give the Nets half of the credit for that.

    The Bobcats are a bad team that somehow is 2-2, which says an awful lot about how bad the Knicks and Nets are. Well, the Knicks won tonight so where does that leave the winless Nets?

    "We basically went from everything that was successful in the first half...you can't get bored with success," Douglas-Roberts said. "You cannot get bored with success. It's as simple as that. We were doing everything right. We were clicking on all cylinders in the first half. In the second half we went away from it."

    Clicking on all cylinders? I wasn't watching the same game, especially when the Nets scored 14 points and shot 22.2 percent in the first period.

    Had the Nets won this game the way it was going it would have been them being better on this night than a bad team. They weren't dominating. The Bobcats were missing shots and committing turnovers. It was bad basketball 14-10 after 12 minutes usually is.

    "I thought our guys answered the bell defensively," Frank said. "Combine 26 turnovers and the offensive rebounds we didn't do enough to get it done."

    Why so sloppy?

    "Some of it is fatigue," Frank said. "Some of it is their defense. Some of it is turning the ball over, a combination of a couple of factors."

    The fatigue factor is a hard one to buy. The oldest player, Rafer Alston, played the most minutes at nearly 46. The Nets had a couple of guys - Josh Boone and Eduardo Najera - who played a total of nine-tenths of a second.

    Fatigue is an excuse and a state of mind, especially when most of these guys are 24 and younger. This was a game the Nets should have won. Instead it was the second they dropped after leading by at least 14 points.

    That's all that matters. They didn't play the Lakers, Celtics or Cavaliers. This was the Bobcats.

    Bad team. Bad loss.


    ***
    Yi Jianlian left the game with a sprained right MCL. He will undergo an MRI today.

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

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Arenas, Blatche Bury Defenseless Nets

    Saturday, October 31, 2009, 11:00 PM [General]

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - The fans who came to the arena on Halloween night were given Gilbert Arenas masks. The Nets probably wished they were guarding the imposter. They couldn't stop the real Agent Zero or anyone on the Wizards for that matter.

    The Nets came as a team that believed they could play defense, but the trick was on them and their coach. The Wizards and the fans got the treat, a laugher in their home opener, filled with layups, dunks, threes, and a halfcourt bucket by Arenas to beat the first-quarter buzzer.

    Yes, Arenas was back and so were the Nets' lackluster defensive ways. The result was a 123-104 Washington win that dropped the Nets to 0-3 on the season.

    If you haven't already, it's fair to start wondering when the Nets are going to get their first win, especially with the pregame news that Devin Harris would miss at least 7-10 days with a sore groin.

    The Nets are in Charlotte on Monday, certainly a winnable game, before coming home to play West power Denver, going to Philly and then returning home to play the mighty Celtics.

    The Nets need the next one and could get it even without Harris, but not if they don't play defense.

    Even the Bobcats, who needed two overtimes last night to hit 100 and scored 79 and 59 in their other two games, could put up plenty of points if the Nets are as porous defensively as they were against the Wizards.

    Coach Lawrence Frank described the defensive performance as "pitiful." No one could argue that. The Wizards got whatever they wanted -- Arenas had 32 and Andray Blatche a career 30 -- and they were without 20-point scorers Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison due to injury.

    "It's pitiful this game," Frank said. "You think about everything we try to stand for: no middle team. They got middle a bunch. No paint, they got paint all night. Blatche, I don't think I've ever seen an NBA line of 15-for-18, no free throws, no threes, 30. Guys are driving.

    "It was just a total defensive breakdown. Both individually and collectively, our inability to protect the paint, front the post, pressure the ball, it was a very, very dismal defensive performance."

    It didn't matter what the Nets did on the offensive end. They trailed by double-digits the last 24 minutes and 1.5 seconds of the game, were outscored 63-53, and let the Wizards shoot 25-for-36 (69.4 percent).

    "Defensively, we never impacted the game," Frank said.

    There are going to be nights like this, especially for a young team. But after the way defense was preached and stressed and preached and stressed and worked on over and over in training camp, it is somewhat surprising the Nets never made a stand.

    The Wizards were joking with them at times, getting easy dunks, pounding their chests, pointing at the crowd, just enjoying themselves. The Nets needed to do something, whether it was commit a hard foul or show an enough-is-enough attitude and get consecutive stops.

    These were the Wizards after all, without their second- and third-best players. This wasn't the Lakers, Magic or the Suns and Warriors of a few years back.

    "They're blowing by," Rafer Alston said. "Even on pick-and-roll, they're getting wherever they want to get. They post up guys and getting what they need. We're giving them everything ... free-throw game, layups, dunks, lobs. What's going to stop it is one, on the ball, it starts with the point guards, then off the ball, and everything else."

    The Nets have many things to fix. You might hear that more than once this season.

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

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Carter's Slamming Return Ends Early; Nets Lose

    Saturday, October 31, 2009, 12:28 AM [General]

    Vince Carter spoiled a good story and the Magic spoiled the Nets' home opener.

    It wasn't Carter's fault. He was having a brilliant game in his Meadowlands return, probably on his way to a 30-point night unless the Magic blew out the Nets. But Carter stepped on former teammate Devin Harris' foot with about three minutes left in the second quarter and exited the game with a sprained ankle.

    The Magic were fine, though, as you would expect the defending Eastern Conference champions to be against the still-growing Nets. New Jersey played hard and hung around, but they didn't have anyone who could match Dwight Howard and their execution paled in comparison to Orlando's.

    No surprises there, and thus no real surprise in the Nets' 95-85 loss. If anything was surprising, it was how close the Nets kept it, considering that the Magic have been destroying everyone in the preseason and in their first regular season game. But that's a credit to how hard the Nets played and how much you could tell they wanted this game.

    "We defended the three well, which was a big goal," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "We took care of the ball. But Howard had such a profound impact on that game defensively, where not only did he impact our bigs but on all our penetration you obviously saw what he did."

    Howard was a monster. He finished with 20 points, 20 rebounds and four blocks. He only missed three shots and if not for misfiring on seven free throws would have better numbers, and this game would have been out of reach.

    You could tell the Nets aren't where they need to be on both ends of the floor, but the Magic cause matchup problems for everybody because they run screen-rolls with Howard and they put shooters all over the floor. So if you double him, he can kick it out to J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes or former Net Ryan Anderson.

    On the offensive end, the Nets missed 50 of their 81 shots. Some of that is due to Howard's length and the way he affects shots. But the Nets also missed open jumpers. Their starting backcourt of Harris and Courtney Lee combined to shoot 12-for-35.

    Before the game, Carter talked about how much he enjoyed playing for the Nets and how he regrets that he didn't get their young team to the playoffs last season.  He even spent time in his old locker room.

    The Nets traded Carter and Anderson to the Magic on Draft Day for Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie. Nets fans didn't have to wait long to show their appreciation for 4 ½ years of mostly spectacular play.

    They gave Carter a warm ovation, and then on the first play of the game Carter drove and threw down a resounding dunk over Brook Lopez that elicited a familiar response of "OH!" from the fans. They probably wanted to see more, but it wasn't meant to be.

    Carter was on fire before he suffered his injury. He was 6-for-8 with 16 points in just 14:43 and left with about three minutes left in the second. He said he's fine and would play in Orlando's next game at Toronto -- Carter's other ex-team.

    "I heal like a young guy, so I'll be good tomorrow," he said. "I'm just going to be smart about it. It's a long season."

    Without Carter, the Magic were fine. The same can't be said about the Nets.

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

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Another Return: Welcome Back, Carter

    Thursday, October 29, 2009, 4:03 PM [General]

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Nets haven't been very good lately, but have led the league in one category the last several years -- homecomings.

    Tomorrow night, there will be another one.

    Vince Carter returns to the Meadowlands for the first time as a member of the Orlando Magic, another Net who got away but never wanted to leave.

    No team has jettisoned more key players than the Nets in recent memory. It started in the summer of 2004 with Kenyon Martin's departure to Denver that was more cost-cutting than anything. In February of 2008, Jason Kidd was traded to Dallas in a move that he orchestrated. Later that summer, Richard Jefferson was sent to Milwaukee and, nearly one year to the day, Carter was shipped to Orlando with Ryan Anderson.

    The Nets also traded Kerry Kittles, Jason Collins and decided not to retain Nenad Krstic, but those moves didn't receive nearly the outrage as the others.

    Other than Kidd, none of those players really wanted to leave the Nets. And other than the underappreciated Collins, they all received nice ovations.

    Looking back, Martin's was the loudest and longest. He came in during the spring, when the Nets were in the playoff chase, Kidd and Carter were playing well and 16,000 fans were in the building.

    Kidd's return was during a blizzard in December. He was given a standing ovation, deservedly, but the building was about a quarter-filled. The same goes for Jefferson, who arrived on a snowy night in February.

    Carter's ovation should rival Martin's. There should be a decent crowd. It's a home opener, no snow is in the forecast, the Yankees aren't playing and food and non-alcoholic drinks at main concessions are free.

    That aside, Carter had a great career with the Nets, which included helping them to three playoff berths, one Atlantic Division title and two playoff series victories.

    He wanted to see the Nets back to the playoffs, but that hope ended on Draft Day when the Nets moved Carter and Ryan Anderson to the Magic for Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie. It was a move similar to Jefferson's -- although Jefferson had worn out his welcome with the coaching staff -- in that the Nets were able to cut salary and join the pursuit of LeBron James and other marquee free agents in the summer of 2010.

    Carter's off-balance shots, long fadeaways and inconsistent playoff performances have driven some Nets fans crazy. But he was a reason to watch the Nets the last few years, and you can't say enough about what he did for this young team last season.

    "Vince was a pleasant surprise in that Vince even though a high-level player, hall-of-fame-level player, it was Jason's team," coach Lawrence Frank said. "And you didn't really see the side of Vince until last year. I couldn't have predicted that Vince would have taken such an ownership and leadership role that he did."

    The truth is Carter was much better than anyone could have imagined when he became a Net, and that goes beyond the 23.6 points he averaged four-and-a-half seasons.

    He came in with a cloud over his head because all of the things that happened in Toronto. By many accounts, he asked to be traded and basically laid down on the team. Carter denies that, but that reputation followed him.

    With the Nets, he got a fresh start and was able to lay relatively low since it was Kidd's team. But when the Nets needed him to lift his game down the stretch of that first season, he did, monstrously, and led them to an improbable playoff spot.

    From there, he continued to be the ultimate player and consummate professional for the Nets, the exact opposite of the way he was portrayed in Toronto.

    That's why he will get a much different ovation at Izod than he still does in Air Canada Centre. They loathe Carter and express it in every way imaginable. Here, Carter deserves a similar ovation to Martin. Kidd still deserved the biggest, but the weather -- which was his karma -- killed that.

    ***

    You knew this was going to be a tough home opener - against the defending Eastern Conference champs. It probably doesn't help the way the Nets lost last night, blowing a 16-point lead in the final 6:40.

    ***

    The Nets picked up the fourth-year option on Yi Jianlian and third-year options on Brook Lopez and Courtney Lee. They chose to pass on Sean Williams' option for next season.

    ***

    Jarvis Hayes is out 2-3 weeks with a hamstring injury. 

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

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Nets open season with another major letdown

    Thursday, October 29, 2009, 12:26 AM [General]

    MINNEAPOLIS - The Nets opened their season with a group of 20-somethings looking to prove they will win more than 20-something games. But when it came down to crunch time their youth and inexperience showed.

     

    For 41 minutes, the Nets played like a confident team, one with a chip on its collective shoulder and they were hammering a Minnesota squad that could be battling them for Draft Lottery ping pong balls.

    But in less than seven minutes the Nets became a self-fulfilling prophecy. All the concerns and questions going into the season unraveled in a span of six minutes and 40 seconds, and the Nets suffered a demoralizing 95-93 loss to the Timberwolves at Target Center.

    Damien Wilkins delivered the final blow, capping a 24-6 game-ending run by banking in Jonny Flynn's missed runner as the buzzer went off.

    In that run, the Nets showed they couldn't score, couldn't stop anyone, couldn't contain the dribble and couldn't take care of the ball. And Yi Jianlian, who was having a terrific game and showing that his off-season work improved his play and confidence, made several gaffes reminiscent of last year.

    Yi missed twice inside - had the ball stripped on one of them - in the final minute and also was whistled for a lane violation, negating a foul shot by Brook Lopez with 1:49 left that would have put the Nets up four.

    This isn't to pin it on Yi because there is plenty of blame to share. There always is when you give up 24 points in under seven minutes after allowing 71 in the first 41-plus minutes, or when you miss eight-of-nine shots, one free throw and commit five turnovers in 6:40.

    "It's tough," Devin Harris said. "We were in control pretty much the whole game. We have to learn to put teams away."

    That will come with time because this is a young team that needs time to find its way and learn how to close out games.

    In the last 4:53, the Nets didn't play anyone older than 26 - Harris. The other five players who saw time in that stretch had under three years of NBA experience.

    This is how it's going to be so the best way to get it is go through it. Of course the Nets wish they hadn't, that they closed out the Wolves, but it was predictable and not just because of their roster, but because something interesting usually happens in this building.

    Four seasons ago, Richard Jefferson was having a big game here and the Nets were winning, but the ball stopped coming to him. Afterward he complained that the Nets went away from what made them successful and it led to a conversation with Lawrence Frank.

    Two seasons ago, the Target Center was the place where the Nets lost a big lead late, gave up the final 10 points of the game when it was obvious Jason Kidd didn't want to stick around. The next day the worst-kept NBA secret became official as Kidd publicly requested a trade.

    And last season, the Nets were still alive in the playoff hunt when they came here at the end of March. They were essentially out of the postseason hunt when they left Minneapolis following a lackluster performance. The next night, they didn't show up against the Bucks in East Rutherford and were crushed by the Bucks.

    So if you've been around this team, you kept waiting for something to happen here last night. And it did, spoiling double-doubles by Lopez (27 and 15), Yi (17 and 12) and Terrence Williams (15 and 10) and spoiling the Nets chance for a 1-0 start for the fourth straight year.

    We'll see if they learned their lesson. Either way, they should be happy they got Minnesota out of the way already.

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

     

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Nets' Season Preview: Could Be Long, But Interesting

    Monday, October 26, 2009, 3:42 PM [General]

    A big season awaits the Nets, many of their players, coaches and executives, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be a good one.

    The Nets could be under new ownership by year's end, preparing for a temporary - or permanent? - move to Newark, and just about everyone not named Brook Lopez is fighting to keep their jobs.

    Rod Thorn, Kiki Vandeweghe, Lawrence Frank, his assistants and seven players have expiring contracts. One more can be bought out for 500,000 and another has a team option.

    Everyone is intrigued by what potential owner Mikhail Prokhorov will do, where the Nets will play next year and beyond and what they will do in the free-agent sweepstakes in the summer of 2010. But there is a season to be played first and here's a primer:

    Starters
    Devin Harris: Can get to hole on anyone, but can't seem to get out of the trainer's room. The Nets need their best player healthy to lead them through this potentially difficult season. But they also need him to commit to containing the dribble when he's out there.

    Courtney Lee: Vince Carter's replacement could flourish with more responsibility than he had in Orlando in Nets' up-and-down game. Should be one of the Nets' top three scorers and is good enough defensively to check opponent's best perimeter player.

    Brook Lopez: Should break Nets' record for average points by a center - held by Mike Gminski (16.9). The Nets will run their halfcourt offense through him and should go to him early and often. A future double-double guy, perhaps the future is now.

    Yi Jianlian: The Nets' wild card, X-factor or whatever you want to call him because if he plays well this team could do better than expected. But you don't know what to expect for him. He could have as many 7-for-12 games as 2-for-10.

    Chris Douglas Roberts: Itching to prove he should have been a first-round pick last year and he can play in the NBA. Uber-competitive, CDR had a great camp and preseason and if it carries over could compete for Most Improved Player honors.

    The Bench
    Terrence Williams: Rookie plays with fire and passion. He's versatile enough to play three positions and guard three spots and can be a game-changer because of all of his assets. His defense and athleticism will be keys to the Nets' transition game.

    Jarvis Hayes: Leg injury kept steady veteran forward from having the camp/preseason he wanted, but if healthy probably will continue to be reliable multi-position player and scorer off the bench. Could miss Carter setting him up for open shots, though.

    Rafer Alston: Important piece from Carter trade - a quality point guard and gives the Nets insurance with Harris injury prone and Keyon Dooling out until late November at best. Can run a team, but the question is will he be happy in his role in a contract year?

    Josh Boone: Another Net playing for a contract. They're looking for consistent effort and production from the sometimes-lackluster Boone, who could be a high-rebound guy and is a good pick-and-roll big man.
     
    Eduardo Najera: Could start out as the backup power forward because he can muck up games with his energy and defense, if he's healthy. Big if.

    Bobby Simmons: Based on Najera's track record here, Simmons, a natural small forward, could start out as and/or become the top reserve power forward. He's a better shooter and more durable lately.

    Keyon Dooling: Expect a controversy when he returns because the defensive-minded, heady, playmaker is going to play and someone won't. But it will take some time to get back to normal. This type of hip injury isn't common in the NBA.

    Tony Battie: Veteran big man played on some good teams and should provide stability up front. He's been banged up so much in camp; probably won't be regular rotation guy.

    Trenton Hassell: A defensive specialist and offensive liability. He could be used when the Nets need his defense at multiple positions.

    Sean Williams: Like many Nets, this will be it for him in New Jersey. Hasn't proven to be reliable, so he'll play if the Nets need energy, defense or if some guys are injured.

    Strengths
    1. Speed: In Harris, Lee, Terrence Williams and Douglas-Roberts, the Nets have guys who can get up the floor in a hurry. Those four could play at same time with Lopez.

    2.  Versatility: The Nets have many interchangeable parts or "wing" players as they like to call them. It could lead to some interesting lineups.

    3. Youth: Seven of the Nets' top nine guys are 26 and under and five have fewer than three years experience. They should be hungry and looking to prove themselves.

    4. Status: Seven Nets - although not all rotation guys - are playing for contracts and others trying to make names for themselves, so there could be some career years.

    5. Harris/Lopez: Could turn into a formidable pick-and-roll tandem and are two solid pieces to build around.

    Weaknesses
    1. Inexperience: With all these young guys having big roles you don't know what to expect other than some growing pains.

    2. No star: With all due respect to Harris you win in this league with superstars and the Nets have none

    3. Power forward: Yi is up and down, but is the best of the either injured or out-of-position bunch the Nets have now that Ryan Anderson is in Orlando

    4. New ground: Without Carter, many of the young guys will get different/more defensive attention and it's too early to know how they will respond.

    5. The Future: So much is about next year that if players stop listening to lame-duck Frank, or become too stat driven or are unhappy with their roles, it could turn bad.

    Prediction
    It could be a long season but the youth, speed and unknown could lead to an exciting or even surprising one if the kids grow up quickly. But this isn't a playoff team as is. It's more like a 26-to-30 win squad.

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

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    With preseason over, what have we learned?

    Friday, October 23, 2009, 11:38 PM [General]

    NEW YORK –- The preseason ended last night, and one of the things we know about the Nets is that we really don’t know anything.
     
    All right, we know some things.
     
    You can piece things together about the Nets’ athleticism, quickness and versatility, and you can guess that they’re going to be better than they showed during the 1-6 preseason that was capped by a 110-88 victory to the Philadelphia 76ers at Carnesecca Arena on the campus of St. John’s University
     
    The Nets have to be better simply because their best player, Devin Harris, didn’t play in the last three games, missed four total and was fully available for only one preseason match.
     
    Harris, out with a groin injury, is scheduled to return to practice Sunday and barring a setback should be okay for the opener Wednesday at Minnesota. The Nets hope they have no more injuries in the interim and can go into the season as healthy as possible. As of now, Keyon Dooling is the only Net not expected to be available.
     
    It’s safe to say that, due to injuries, the Nets didn’t get everything accomplished that they wanted to, and not just because they lost six of seven. The Knicks -- who were represented in the crowd by Terrence Williams’ buddy Nate Robinson -- were 5-2, and they certainly didn’t accomplish what they wanted to and probably won’t see three games over .500 in the regular season.
     
    Here are some things we know:
     
    Brook Lopez is up for the challenge: We don’t say this because he froze Primoz Brezec last night, drove baseline and threw it down over his head. Lopez is mature, understands he’s going to be asked to do more and looks more comfortable on the court and with the ball in his hands.
     
    They can defend: They have shown that they can in the preseason. They’ve had some lapses, but the defense has improved. Whether they can play it over four quarters for 82 games is another story.
     
    They’re hungry: Chris Douglas-Roberts could have sat out, but he wanted to play last night despite suffering from a migraine earlier in the day. He had 15 points in 37 minutes. Douglas-Roberts is driven to show he belongs in the NBA and has driven to the lane at will in the preseason.
     
    They’re confident: Douglas-Roberts and rookie Terrence Williams carry themselves as if they’ve been in the NBA for years. They still have things to learn, but play with a swagger the Nets need. Williams, who had 23 points, eight assists, five rebounds and four steals, had back-to-back excellent feeds, including an overhead hook pass that led to a Courtney Lee layup. Williams even stopped and looked right at Robinson after the play.
     
    They can go small: Some effective lineups have featured Lee, Douglas-Roberts and Williams. Harris will be in there when he returns. Last night, Rafer Alston played with Lee, Douglas-Roberts and Williams. Another lineup included Williams at the point with Lee, Douglas-Roberts and Jarvis Hayes playing power forward.
     
    They can run: Lee, Douglas-Roberts and Williams look to push the ball every chance they get. Harris usually does, too, but we haven’t seen him in a while. The flashy Williams can get up, so he’s always looking for breakaway dunks. He had two last night
     
    They needed this: Going into an off day, just their third since camp opened on Sept. 28, the Nets needed a win. The preseason doesn’t matter, but the players need to see all the hard work pay off and to have some fun, too, which they did in this game. Now they’ll say that this is how good they can be and that they’ll only be better when Harris returns.
     
    "It's good to have an example of how we need to play in order to win," coach Lawrence Frank said.
     
    The reality is that the Nets aren’t as bad as their preseason record shows –- or that would mean they’re going to be something like 12-70 –- and they’re not as good as they were against the Sixers.
     
    Now the Nets have to reintegrate Harris into everything. He isn’t a part-time player. He’s the point guard, will do much of the ballhandling and will be among the Nets’ leaders in minutes. He’ll be a welcome re-addition.

    ***

    The Nets released a statement from CEO Brett Yormark about the possibility of temporarily relocating to Newark.
     
    “After the master closing for our Brooklyn transaction this fall, we may consider an agreement to play our home games at the Prudential Center through the time we move to our new home, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, in the 2011-2012 season,” Yormark said.
     
    ***

    This is a great cause; please spread the word and help if you can:
     
    On Sunday, Nov. 15 the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation will be holding a unique event to raise money for cancer research at Yankee Stadium.
     
    The Runyon 5k at Yankee Stadium will allow participants to compete on a course that takes them through The Stadium, top to bottom, with the finish on the field. Registration is open online at www.damonrunyon.org/yankeestadium.
     
    There’ll also something special for the kids: a Kids Fun Run with Alex Ko, star of Broadway’s “Billy Elliott,” serving as official starter. It’s a fun way to enjoy The Stadium while taking part in a great cause.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Nets drop another to Knicks

    Friday, October 23, 2009, 11:18 AM [General]

    NEWARK, N.J. - This has become a common sight this preseason: the Nets playing at far less than 100 percent and losing to the Knicks.
     
    Half of the winless Nets' six preseason games have been against the Knicks, and half of their six losses have come to their Atlantic Division counterparts. Last night, the Nets came back from 18 down in the third period to lead in the fourth, but still fell 94-92 at the Prudential Center.
     
    The Nets have just one more tune up and hope to have Devin Harris and Jarvis Hayes healthy for Friday's game against the Sixers. They both missed the prior two games; Harris with a strained groin and Hayes with a stress reaction in his right shin and neither have practiced in eight days.
     
    In all, Harris, the Nets' best player and main ball distributor, has missed three preseason games, parts of two others and about eight practices total with different injuries. Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian, Eduardo Najera have all missed time and Keyon Dooling hasn't practiced once following off-season hip surgery.
     
    This isn't good for a young team that's still getting to know one another, learning new offensive sets, trying to develop a defensive mindset and chemistry. Now if the Nets stumble when the season starts it won't be just because they're young and superstar-less and starting four guys with less than three years of NBA experience.
     
    Little was expected of the Nets last season, but they were healthy at the beginning and were out to prove they were better than most predicted. They surprised by winning their opener on the road and 11 of their first 19 games.
     
    Overall the Nets were in much better shape last year - not to mention they had Vince Carter. It could mean trouble when the regular season opens Wednesday at Minnesota.
     
    "We'll have a little bit of a stagger," Harris said.
     
    That's stagger not swagger. And if the Nets stagger at the beginning they could be down for the count. But Harris tried to put a positive spin on this boxing analogy
     
    "Staggering, you're still moving forward," Harris said. "Although you're not getting there as fast you would like to be, you're still moving forward. Stagger into a run."
     
    Realistically, that's expecting a lot, but this will be a big week and weekend for the Nets.
     
    They practice Thursday, play Friday and then likely will have three more practices and a shootaround before the opener. They hope their players return, there are no more setbacks, and it's enough to build something because Hayes said the Nets are behind.
     
    "From a chemistry standpoint, yeah," Hayes said. "We haven't had a full team one game this preseason. We're trying to implement the younger guys and not having Devin for a big part of the preseason and he's our point guard. From a chemistry standpoint we still have a little ways to go.
     
    "I think it's something we can somewhat gain some traction on in practice. You can't gauge anything until everybody gets out there in practice."
     
    So include Hayes among the people unsure of exactly what this team will look like

    "We have no idea," he said.
     
    "It's strange," Hayes added. "We have guys that can put the ball in the hole. But what roles are going to be on this team, how prominent will that depth chart be - that's something that we got to all get healthy and get out there for a good week or so and try and come up with."
     
    At least the Nets won't have to see the Knicks again until Nov. 21. Maybe by then they'll be 100 percent, have developed chemistry and defined roles and have a win.
     
    ***
     
    The Nets had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds after Lee rebounded his own free-throw miss and was fouled. But he misfired on the first foul shot with 1.1 seconds left. He missed the second on purpose. Brook Lopez tried to tip in the miss with his left hand but missed.
     
    ***
     
    The Nets drew 15,721 fans in the final preseason game at Newark, but it's possible they could play more games here in the future. Among the faces in the crowd were several of prospective owner Mikhail Prokhorov's representatives, former Yankee and Met Dwight Gooden and Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson's father.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Douglas-Roberts on a fighting mission

    Friday, October 23, 2009, 11:14 AM [General]

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Chris Douglas-Roberts is like that hungry-slash-angry defensive back - he's not big enough to be a linebacker - who can't wait until the regular-season starts so he can hit somebody.

    Wrong sport, we know, but that's how Douglas-Roberts acts and talks - and he's always talking.

    The good-natured Nets' swingman said he would like to see more hitting in practice, more fights. He thinks the team will get closer, tougher and going at it in practice will make the Nets better.

    "Last year was my first time ever being on a team that was under .500," Douglas-Roberts said. "I'll do anything to try and change that. Whether it's being more vocal in practice, whatever it has to be. I'll do anything to change that and mainly trying to make us a tougher team. We need more fights in practice. We need more hard fouls. That makes a tough team."

    This attitude is one of the reasons the Nets think Douglas-Roberts is going to have a breakout year and be in the NBA for a long time. He hates losing. Who doesn't? Right. But Douglas-Roberts really hates losing, wants to do something about it and has done something about it.

    He spent the offseason improving his game and gaining more confidence, which isn't easy for the secure - and we're putting it nicely - Douglas-Roberts. He can't wait to show what he's got and believes he can help the Nets be better than expected.

    Nets coach Lawrence Frank said in-practice fighting isn't the answer, but loves the passion Douglas-Roberts plays with at all times. The Nets hope it rubs off on other players and can carry it over agianst the opposition.

    "The thing is this: the competitiveness," Frank said. "Like in football, they don't necessarily encourage fights in practice but go fight the other team.

    "One of the greatest competitors I've ever been around is Jason Kidd. Now he never got into a fight in practice. My thing is have some fight in you. It doesn't literally have to be Sonny Liston, but have some fight in your approach.

    "I like Chris' competitiveness. I like his approach. I like his fire. I like that."

    It has gotten Douglas-Roberts in trouble in the past though. Last year, assistant coach Doug Overton screamed at Douglas-Roberts at the end of a practice last year.
     
    Douglas-Roberts was upset that in this post-practice game he wasn't getting any foul calls because he was a rookie. He kept talking and it incited Overton. Cooler hears prevailed, but that's Douglas-Roberts. And there were several members of the organization who said something to the effect of if all of last year's Nets had CDR's competitive fire.

    It helps now that Douglas-Roberts is a big part of the rotation, the expected starting small forward for the Oct. 28 opener.

    "Every day he comes ready to practice," Frank said. "He brings juice to the gym. He brings energy."

    The Nets are going to need everyone to bring that "fight" into the games.

    _______________________


    No Devin Harris (groin), Jarvis Hayes (stress reaction, right shin) or Keyon Dooling (hip surgery) for tomorrow's sixth preseason game against the Knicks. Harris and Hayes hope to play in Friday's final preseason game against the Sixers.

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

    0 (0 Ratings)

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