What the Nets are looking for in London

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011, 6:15 PM [General]

    When the Nets went to Russia and China in the preseason, they were looking forward to bonding, developing chemistry and getting better acquainted with coach Avery Johnson and his system.

    The Nets are hoping for some of the same things in London this week as they try to incorporate Deron Williams into Johnson’s system.

    Unfortunately for the Nets, they don’t have this week plus another two of camp and exhibition games to build something. They have to do it on the fly, and with Williams probably limited to no practices on the trip.

    The way the schedule has worked out, the Nets have had three games, two shootarounds and no practices since Williams flew to New Jersey last week after his blockbuster acquisition from Utah. The Nets are expected to have two practices and at least one shootaround in London, where they play back-to-back games against Toronto starting Friday. But Williams is doubtful for the practices due to injuries in both hands and probably will try to play in both games.

    Johnson tried to simplify things for Williams by putting many of Utah’s plays in the Nets’ offense to make him comfortable. Beyond that, there's not much more Johnson can do, especially since it seems as if Williams' strained right wright is going to be an ongoing issue that will cause him to miss many practices going forward.

    Williams, then, will have to develop familiarity with his teammates in games, though he’s already done a terrific job of creating shots for them and finding them. He had 47 assists in his first three games and definitely should have had well over 50 when you consider how many open shots, easy shots and layups the Nets have missed on Williams’ dishes.

    Here are three things the Nets hope to accomplish on this trip:

    1. Sales pitch to Williams: Nets’ bosses, including owner Mikhail Prokhorov, general manager Billy King, Johnson and CEO Brett Yormark will be in London, and at some point(s), they will try to tell Williams all the exciting things they are planning for their next season and the following season when they open their new Brooklyn arena. Everything centers on Williams, including putting players around him and using him to recruit other players.

    2. Globalizing the Nets: Part of Prokhorov’s plan is to make the Nets a global team, and this London trip is another step in that direction. This the first time the NBA has held regular-season games in Europe, and the Nets love that they’re a part of the inaugural celebration. A good showing, especially by Williams, will help that. The Nets already have a presence and somewhat of a fan base in Russia because of Prokhorov. London is a natural fit for them as well with Barclays owning the naming rights to the Nets’ new arena in Brooklyn.

    3. Improve and build chemistry on both ends: With the Nets, it always seems that energy and execution are their weaknesses. Energy hasn’t been the issue since Williams’ arrival. But despite Williams’ absurd numbers, the Nets still have a way to go offensively, and they continue to make defensive mistakes.

    They were much better in Monday’s loss to the Suns than in the first two games with Williams, but still needed Anthony Morrow to score nine points in 19.3 seconds – three coming on three free throws after a surprising foul by Steve Nash – just to force overtime. Maybe the Nets would have won in regulation if Williams didn’t miss five crucial minutes in the fourth.

    Still, the Nets had several costly defensive lapses, and Williams had some turnovers because he’s still picking up his teammates' tendencies.

    Eventually, the Nets will learn how. Johnson wants them to defend situations. Channing Frye couldn't have been that open last night


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

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    Williams wows home crowd, but Nets come up short

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011, 12:32 AM [General]

    NEWARK – As the fourth quarter wound down, and then the overtime, it looked like the Nets were going to have a similar result as the last time they jumped aboard an intercontinental flight. And you expected Deron Williams to deliver a clinching basket.

    In preseason, Stephen Graham hit a buzzer-beating, game-winner to send the Nets off to Russia and ultimately China.

    Last night, in Williams’ home debut, the Nets came up just short of leaving for London with a comeback victory at the buzzer. They ended up losing 104-103 to the Suns in a wild, entertaining game that 15,836 fans attended.

    The ball was in Williams’ battered hands on the last play and he turned the corner for the basket, getting by Grant Hill and Marcin Gortat before putting up a runner over Channing Frye. Williams missed, but Kris Humphries tipped it in as Prudential Center erupted, thinking the Nets had won.

    But Humphries' shot came after the light around the backboard went on. The officials waved it off, reviewed it, and said call on the play stands and the Nets took their flight to Europe to play a two-game weekend set against Toronto, knowing they made too many critical mistakes and wasted some tremendous efforts, starting with Williams.

    “You like to see guys fighting out there,” Williams said. “That’s what we did. We battled. We didn’t give up. We were down seven with a couple of minutes left. We hung in there and battled.”

    Williams has played three games as a Net and is looking for his first win still. In his third game, Williams topped his 17-assist performance Saturday by dishing for 18 dimes with 13 points last night as fans chanted “De-ron Williams.”

    The 17 were impressive because the Nets shot 40 percent in Houston. The 18 were more impressive because Williams is playing with a strained right wrist, then he cut his left hand in the first quarter and banged it in the fourth, suffering a bruise.

    To have 18 assists with both hands banged up is ridiculous, and Williams should have had more than 20. He was robbed of three in the first quarter as Humphries missed two layups and Brook Lopez couldn’t convert a 5-footer.

    Anthony Morrow had 22 points and an unbelievable close to the game, putting the Nets in overtime with his clutch shooting. They were down 92-85 with under a minute left, but Morrow took over, scoring nine points in a 19.3-second span as he made two three-pointers and three free throws to tie it 96-96.

    On that play, heady Steve Nash fouled Morrow as he shooting a three. Nash wanted to get the foul while Morrow was on the floor because you can’t give one of the NBA’s best three-point shooters a shot in that situation. But Nash fouled him just a hair too late.

    Lopez had a strong game with 28 points and yes 10 rebounds. His 10th board came on a Nash missed driving layup with 16.9 seconds left in overtime that would have put the Suns up one. Lopez was guarding Nash at the time and made the shot tough for him.

    But Lopez missed a foul shot with 9.3 seconds left that would have given the Nets a 104-101 lead. Then on the ensuing trip, Lopez was supposed to switch the pick, and didn’t, leaving Channing Frye all alone for a three-pointer. He drilled it with 6.6 seconds left to put the Suns up one.

    “The play with Frye was something we went over and we just kind of missed a switch,” coach Avery Johnson said. “Hopefully next time we’ll execute better defensively. We knew what they were going to run. We just didn’t get it executed. We showed it to the guys after the game and they felt real bad but they don’t feel as bad as I do. They really battled.”

    It was a wild game and one the Nets could have won. Everyone who was here or watched at home will remember the Frye three and the Morrow flurry at the end. But Williams was phenomenal, playing with both hands in pain and still dishing out 18 assists. Imagine what he will do when he’s fully healthy.

    That probably crossed the minds of many Nets coaches, players and executives during their flight to London.


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


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    Favors proved to be chip needed to get Nets a star

    Sunday, February 27, 2011, 5:31 PM [General]

    Let’s forget about the Nets’ defense for a little bit, since they’ve forgotten about playing on that end of the court anyway lately. But their offense, even though they still struggle making shots, looks infinitely better since Deron Williams was acquired.

    This was expected, but no one could have expected 17 assists in his second game as a Net, on the second game of a back-to-back, and on a night when his team misses 60 percent of its shots.

    The Nets knew what they were getting when they sent Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two first-round picks and $3 million cash to Utah. Williams is one of the top three point guards in the game and may be first overall.

    Nets general manager Billy King made a brilliant move to secure Williams when it appeared they weren’t going to get much at the trade deadline. But something that’s been a little overlooked is the role former Nets president Rod Thorn played in this.

    Going back to last year’s draft when the Nets had the No. 3 pick, it was clear that DeMarcus Cousins was more advanced, more skilled and just an all-around better player today than Favors. But everyone also knew Cousins was a risk because of his temperament and attitude, which we have seen has gotten him into trouble in Sacramento.

    During the whole process, Thorn repeatedly referred to Favors as “a chip,” “a chip,” “a chip,” and now everyone understands what he meant.

    Cousins could have come in and brought the Nets toughness and skill down low, and probably helped them on the court right away. But they didn’t think it was worth the gamble or that he would have as much value around the league.

    Favors, 19, is a gifted athlete with a tremendous upside and he never once caused the Nets a problem. Also, he was the centerpiece of all the talks for Carmelo Anthony and ultimately one of the players that got Williams away from Utah.

    It’s going to take some time to see what kind of player Favors becomes because of how raw he is and how sometimes he doesn't play with any energy.

    We never understood that because at 19, and being in the NBA and with a team giving you an opportunity to start and play through mistakes, Favors should have been non-stop energy, out-running and out-jumping opponents.

    That’s just not his personality yet. It may never be. But it’s not the Nets’ concern anymore. King used “a chip” he inherited from Thorn and turned it into a superstar point guard.

    Ultimately, it was King – and assistant GM Bobby Marks – who put together all the scenarios involving Favors. And it was King who made a pitch to his good friend and Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor to get Williams.

    King’s timing was perfect. But the Nets also had some good luck in all of this in a backwards way.

    After a 12-70 season, losing the Lottery seemed like the biggest injustice for one of the worst teams in NBA history. They hoped to be able to take potential franchise point guard John Wall.

    But getting the No. 3 pick, and taking Favors, was the chip the Nets needed to get a real franchise point guard in Williams. Now the Nets have to make sure they keep him with the franchise after next season.


    Williams makes his home debut tomorrow against the Phoenix Suns. It’s the start of a pseudo seven-game Nets’ homestand.

    After this game, they play two games in London this weekend against Toronto that are considered Nets’ home games. They return next week and play four games in Newark.


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

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    Deron dishes 17 assists, but defense doesn't deliver

    Sunday, February 27, 2011, 12:48 AM [General]

    HOUSTON -- The Nets have two big issues right now: Deron Williams’ wrist and their defense. 

    Williams’ wrist is a bigger concern.

    The Nets’ new All-Star point guard has a strained right wrist that requires rest, and he hasn’t been able to get much. He played in the All-Star game and banged it. He played Friday in San Antonio and banged it, and it still bothered him in his second game as a Net last night.

    But Williams still made plays for his teammates in a 123-108 shellacking by the Rockets. The Nets missed 60 percent of their shots and Williams still had 17 assists. Just like in his debut, he could have had more but the Nets sometimes can’t shoot straight.

    “It’s going to continue to be sore,” Williams said. “I’ve got to play through it. It’s good to just be on the floor with the guys. It’s really what it’s about, trying to develop some sort of chemistry. Get a feel for the offense.”

    Williams said he doesn’t think he’ll need surgery after the season. But it’s likely he’s going to have to take some practices off, even though he needs practice so he can get to know the plays better and build chemistry with his new team.

    The Nets have held one shootaround together since the trade and that’s it. They haven’t had a practice. They play Monday, so their first one will be later this week in London, where they have games on Friday and Saturday.

    There is a little stretch here where Williams can get some rest for the wrist, but how much and how much of a difference it makes remains to be seen. But you can tell the impact it’s having on Williams’ shot.

    He was 3-for-12 against the Rockets, after going 5-for-13 against the Spurs. He also has missed five-of-18 foul shots.

    To put it in perspective, Williams shot 45.8 percent from the field with Utah and 85.3 percent from the line.

    Some of that is that the shots he’s getting aren’t as open because this isn’t Utah’s system and the Nets don’t have as many players that teams have to guard. But some of it is the wrist, as he’s missing shots he normally can make.

    Opponents aren’t having that issue against the Nets.

    The Rockets rung up 71 points in the first half and had 99 late in the third. They would have broken 100, but ex-Net Courtney Lee missed a couple of free throws late in the period. That was the best defense the Nets played all night.

    Nets coach Avery Johnson said the defensive lapses have to do with a new player, a new lineup and a lack of chemistry as a result. You can’t discount any of those reasons, but the Nets had these troubles before the trade.

    Three-point shooters must salivate when they see the Nets are next on the schedule. They are wide open. Guys inside are wide open too as the Nets lack a defensive presence anywhere on the floor.

    One sequence that exemplified that was Chase Budinger getting the ball on the right baseline. He dribbled and drove in for a one-handed dunk, uncontested.

    Budinger gets up, but this wasn’t LeBron James getting a head of steam and taking off. Someone on the Nets should have slid over or down something to try and make Budinger rethink what he was going to do.

    But the Nets don’t do that. They never do.

    “Right now our defense has taken a significant step back and we know all of the obvious reasons,” Johnson said. “It’s not an excuse. We’ve got to get on the same page. 16 games before the All-Star break, we were a pretty good team defensively, only giving up 96, 97 points and 44 percent from the field.

    “We’ve taken a significant step back defensively. Some of it’s going to be addressed once we spend some time together.”

    The Nets need time to gel and Williams' wrist needs time to rest, which is all the defense has done lately.


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

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    Nets lose Deron's debut, but night belongs to Williams

    Saturday, February 26, 2011, 12:54 AM [General]

    SAN ANTONIO – Mikhail Prokhorov attended his first Nets road game because he wanted to personally meet and welcome his new superstar point guard Deron Williams to the organization.

    Prokhorov did the right thing by staying mostly out of the public eye and letting this night be all about Williams. Prokhorov had a private room at the AT&T Center, where he met Williams for the first time.

    The Russian billionaire didn’t comment or gloat about the Nets’ big catch, even though he could have and some owners probably would have after some of the things that were written and said about Prokhorov’s inability to sell the biggest names on his team.

    This night was about Williams, and in the Nets’ 106-96 loss to the Spurs, you could see what kind of impact he is going to have on this team.

    Nets’ players weren’t this open since Jason Kidd was delivering the ball. And this wasn’t the Knicks the Nets were playing. It was the Spurs, who are more offensive-minded this season but still know plenty about defense.

    Yet Williams, bum wrist and all, ran the offense and finished with 14 points and 12 assists. That total is impressive regardless. Making it more noteworthy is the Nets acquired him from Utah Wednesday.

    Williams flew from Dallas, where the Jazz were playing that day, back to Salt Lake and then to Newark. He had a press conference, flew with his new team to San Antonio, had one shootaround and had the Nets in striking distance of the Spurs in the fourth quarter.

    If Williams hadn’t re-aggravated a bum wrist that had been bothering him for about a month and a half, maybe the Nets would have been in better shape late. But they Nets re-aggravated coach Avery Johnson with their inability to close out to shooters.

    The Spurs took control of the game with a 35-point third quarter, including 5-of-7 shooting from three. The third ended with George Hill taking an open baseline three that hit the rim, bounced straight up and dropped in to give the Spurs an 88-72 lead.

    “Tough game,” Williams said. “I thought we played hard, missed some shots and messed up a couple defensive assignments late in the game.”

    Welcome to the Nets, Deron. That’s what they do, even under Johnson, a defensive-oriented coach. But this is a new day and basically a new team because they have a new leader running the ship, pushing the ball and setting up his teammates.

    Devin Harris was a good point guard. Williams is a great one, capable of taking over games with his passing or his scoring. On this night, knowing a limited number of plays and Johnson running a limited number of plays for him, Williams tried to do it with his passing.

    He was just 5-for-13 and clearly affected by the wrist. But his vision was unaffected. Seeing him set up his teammates so easily, it’s easy to see how the Nets are going to get better by playing with Williams.

    “He just didn’t have it with his shooting touch,” Johnson said. “He was really passing the ball. It could have easily been a 20-assist night with the shots that we missed wide, wide open.

    “We’re a work in progress. We’re still there. It’s still exciting with the possibilities of our future.”

    When the game was over, Williams was taken to an undisclosed location to meet the man signing his checks and the man who hopes to sign them well into the future.

    Williams has an opt-out clause after next season and has said it’s a “strong possibility” he will be with the Nets.

    He’s saying the right things about being impressed with how much the Nets gave up to get him, how excited he is about what they want to do going forward and how much he appreciated Prokhorov leaving a heli-skiing trip in Vancouver for a little face time with Williams.

    “He was just telling me how excited he was and he wanted to come and see me in person,” Williams said. “He was going to call but he felt like he needed to come and say hi to me in person. We just talked about some things.”

    This was the first of many conversations Williams and Prokhorov will have and the first of many games the star point guard will have with the Nets. The owner and the organization hope the relationship doesn’t end after next season.


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

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    No Kidd-ing, Williams could be Jason Part 2

    Friday, February 25, 2011, 12:34 AM [General]

    The Nets trade for Deron Williams and almost everyone immediately looks at the negative: that he can opt out of his contract after next season and become a free agent.

    Maybe it’s because we live in the metropolitan area and we’re taught to be cynical, but too many tweeters, bloggers, fans and writers are already saying Williams is gone after a year and a half, that he is a 1 ½-year rental.

    Maybe it’s true, but let it play out first. That’s what Williams says, what the Nets say, and really what should be done. But in this world where everyone wants up-to-the-minute information and want to be the first to say, we always said he would never stay, just let it play out.

    “I’m just looking forward to the opportunity right now,” Williams said at Thursday’s introductory press conference. “I can’t really give any assurances, or say I’ll be here when I don’t know what the future holds. I look forward to the possibility of it - it’s definitely a strong possibility.

    “It all depends on how the next year goes, the collective bargaining agreement with the type of moves we make, and people we bring in to this organization.”

    Williams is not going to commit now, but that doesn’t mean he won’t next summer or during next season.

    It’s on general manager Billy King and coach Avery Johnson to get more good players and keep Williams happy and on owner Mikhail Prokhorov and CEO Brett Yormark to show the superstar point guard how they can make him bigger than he is, make him a household name when they move to Brooklyn.

    This could be Jason Kidd all over again. It has the makings of it.

    Kidd was a great player in Phoenix and in his prime at 28. Suddenly he became available because of a domestic violence incident. Then team president Rod Thorn stole Kidd from the Suns in 2001, sending Stephon Marbury and bit parts to Phoenix.

    Williams was a great player in Utah and in his prime at 26. Suddenly he became available in part because of reported clash with coach Jerry Sloan, who ultimately resigned, and in part because the Jazz didn’t know if they could re-sign him. King made a great deal for Williams, sending Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and two No. 1s.

    Kidd had two years left on his deal and no one thought he would stay because he wanted to go to a warm city and play golf.

    Williams has a year and a half left and no one thinks he will stay because he could, well, go to the Knicks, or to Orlando to play with Dwight Howard.

    Kidd changed the Nets’ franchise around and blew up and became an MVP candidate and a surefire Hall of Famer because of what he did in a major market and in games that people in time zones were able to watch. He stuck around when he could have signed with San Antonio in 2004 because he wanted to try to finish what he started with the Nets.

    As great as Williams is, he played in Utah and not everyone saw the Jazz play. He could follow in Kidd’s footsteps and blow up if he turns around this franchise and build his brand in a major market.

    “I look forward to turning this thing around and being able to compete for a title,” Williams said.

    “I’m excited about being a Net. After talking to Billy, talking to Coach Johnson, and seeing the direction they wanted to go in, the visions they had for this organization, just really got me excited. It got me excited about the possibilities about competing for a championship the next couple years. They’re very ambitious going after a lot of guys out there – I’m going to help as well.”

    Kidd and Williams play differently and the rosters totally are different. Kidd is great in the open court and the Nets had Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles returning from injury and just traded for Richard Jefferson. They were perfect complements to Kidd.

    Williams is a better halfcourt player, and he’s going to have to find ways to make Brook Lopez a star, and get everyone better, and also be a recruiter.

    That is an advantage the Nets have now that they have Williams. He can get in players’ ears – Howard comes to mind – and try to bring them to New Jersey and ultimately Brooklyn.
    The Nets haven’t had this type of attraction since Kidd was here and all the moves they made were to get closer to a championship. Kidd ultimately lost faith when cost-cutting replaced championship-building and forced a trade in 2008.

    The difference now is the Nets have more money, more flexibility than they had throughout the Kidd era and limitless resources in Prokhorov. They’re going to go after all the big names available and could get some with Williams.

    “This is about disassembling a team that won 12 games and assembling a team that in the future can compete for a championship,” Johnson said. “Deron is going to be a major part of that.”

    Sure there are questions about Williams’ future, but they’re not going to be answered now or today. Let’s see the Nets next move and the one after that and the after that.

    “I want to work hard for this organization on and off the court,” Williams said
    No one expected Kidd to stick around, but he did for 4 ½ years after everyone else said he would bolt. It’s far too soon to say Williams won’t stay with the Nets longer than you think he will. He just got here. Let it play out.


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

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    Nets' big move points them in right direction

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011, 9:49 PM [General]

    After the nearly six-month long pursuit of Carmelo Anthony ended with him going to the Knicks, almost everyone thought the Nets were going to muddle through a dreary finish to this season, hoping that Derrick Favors showed some development and Brook Lopez made his presence felt on the glass.

    If Lopez rebounded as well as general manager Billy King did from the conclusion of the 'Melo-drama, the Nets center would lead the league in boards.

    King stunned everyone in the NBA Wednesday when he pulled off a heist that brought All-Star point guard Deron Williams to the Nets.

    No one saw this coming as the Nets were expected to make minor moves involving Devin Harris and Troy Murphy. But King pulled a rabbit out of the hat and stole some thunder from the Knicks, who hosted Anthony’s press conference Wednesday.

    “I can’t worry about their thunder,” King said.

    This move resonated louder than thunder. It was like a sonic boom that was heard throughout the NBA.

    King didn’t make this move to rub anything in the Knicks’ faces, but privately there probably are many in the Nets organization who loved not only the deal, but when it was made and its impact.

    The Nets wanted Anthony, but they got a better player and they gave up much less than New York to get their superstar, and much less than they were willing to part with for Anthony.

    The Nets sent Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two first-round picks and $3 million in cash to Utah for Williams. The Nets were going to send that plus Murphy, Ben Uzoh and two more first-round picks for Anthony.

    The Knicks, meanwhile, got Anthony but had to give up Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, a first-round pick and two No. 2s. Not saying it’s a bad move for the Knicks. They had to do whatever they could to get Anthony, but the Nets made a better deal.

    “When you go into a trade scenario, you’ve got a lot of plans and this one is definitely not a plan B,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “He’s definitely not a Plan B, He’s a Plan A also. And we’re excited to have somebody with this type of a skill level and as we continue to build our team, eventually we were going to have to do something like this.”

    Anthony is a great scorer. Williams is a great facilitator, playmaker, and arguably the best point guard in the NBA. Anthony has been to the playoffs seven times and won two series. Utah went four times and won four series.

    They’re both terrific, but Williams is better for what the Nets need and probably for what the Knicks need. He’s not as popular as Anthony, isn’t the same type of attraction. But he does more, plays better defensively and controls the game because the ball is in his hands and brings something to the Nets they haven’t had since Jason Kidd.

    “Some players like Deron Williams, [Russell] Westbrook from Oklahoma City, the Chris Pauls of the world, as soon as they hit the court, there’s a presence,” Johnson said. “There’s a fear factor when you play against those guys. … So we felt we needed to get somebody that gives us that.”

    That’s why it’s hard not to like this trade. The Nets got something major when everyone was expecting something minor.

    There is a risk involved because Williams can opt out after next season and become a free agent and everyone, at this point, expects he will and try to join Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire with the Knicks.

    That’s something for the Nets to worry about next year. They will do everything to keep Williams here long-term and make him the face of the franchise as they head to Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season.

    If they feel it’s not going to happen, they always could trade him before next trading deadline. But that’s a year away. A lot can happen in that time. Something major and unexpected happened for the Nets in less than 24 hours.


    The Nets made a minor deal also and this one was expected as they sent Murphy and a 2012 second-round pick to Golden State for Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric.


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

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    Nets move on without Melo

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 4:45 PM [General]

    This time the Nets really are out of the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes. He’s a Knick and the Nets are left to try to make moves that don’t hurt their future salary cap flexibility, but also help them on the court now and next year.

    Devin Harris and Troy Murphy are the Nets most likely to pack their bags – although something tells me their suitcases are packed and by their doors as they just await a call.

    They know they’re going, and the Nets aren’t getting anyone back as exciting as Anthony, a potential franchise changer. He was the only player available of that ilk on the trade market and the Nets did everything – literally, everything – they could to get him.

    General manager Billy King put together countless trade proposals to appease Denver and he suggested to owner Mikhail Prokhorov that they get back into the Melo-mania after the Russian billionaire pulled them out last month.

    The Nets had to get back into it. Sorry to sound cliché, but you have to be in it to win it.

    This is a team that has gone 29-110 over the past two seasons. So you have to take your chances and swing for the fences. The Nets struck out, but they’re going to try to spin it that at least they made the Knicks give up more than they wanted for Anthony.

    It’s probably true, but it’s of little consolation to their fans, who wanted something to look forward to after all of these lean years, especially since Jason Kidd left.

    This puts in perspective the importance of stars in the NBA.

    With Kidd, the Nets won 55.6 percent of their games – including his last half season when he didn’t want to be with them – and nine playoff series. Since he left, the Nets are 108-224 and haven’t seen the postseason.

    That’s why King and the Nets did everything they could to get Anthony and make it difficult for the Nuggets to say no to them, and ultimately forced the Knicks to give up more than they wanted. The Knicks did give up a lot. In the end, it's probably more than what the Nets were sending to Denver, even with the four first-round picks.

    The package featured Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov, plus a No. 1 and two No. 2 picks. Initially, the Knicks didn’t want to part with Gallinari and Mozgov. The Nets can look at that as a small victory if they want, but it’s not much of a consolation prize.

    Don’t let anyone kid you, they wanted Anthony. They knew what Anthony meant to their franchise, to their Brooklyn move, to their potential for getting other players.

    It’s important that the Nets maintain their cap flexibility. But after all that has happened between free agency over the summer and in the Anthony proceedings, it’s hard to believe having all that money means the Nets really will be in position to get Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard in 2012.

    The Knicks are the leaders in the clubhouse now to get the superstar point guard to team with the superstar tandem of Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Maybe it will be harder for them because the Knicks gave up some players they could use in trades. But if Paul or Williams want New York, they will find a way to get there.

    The Nets will be about to open their new arena in Brooklyn in 2012. Maybe that will entice someone to come join them, help them usher in the new era of Nets basketball. But it’s hard to envision a superstar coming.

    The money is the same everywhere and the opportunity is greater in this major market. But it may not be enough to sell to a star.


    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone


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

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Another twist added to Anthony saga

    Monday, February 21, 2011, 4:24 PM [General]

    The pomp and circumstance of All-Star Weekend is over, but the pomp and circumstance of the Carmelo Anthony trade proceedings aren’t yet.

    Blake Griffin’s over-the-car-dunk was an eye opener, but your eyebrows should be near the top of your forehead when you think about all that has happened with the Melo-Drama. We’re not just talking about the last five-plus months, but just the last five days.

    More was added today as ESPN reported the Nets are talking to the Nuggets about sending two draft picks to Denver for Timofey Mozgov and Danilo Gallinari if the Knicks acquire Anthony.

    The Nets are trying to force the Knicks to give up more than they want and ultimately back out. It might be the Nets’ best chance at getting Anthony because to this point the Knicks haven’t wanted to part with Mozgov.

    If the Knicks say no, then Denver will make the deal with the Nets and then it’s on Anthony to accept or reject a three-year, $65 million extension.

    If not, the Nets made the Knicks pay more than they wanted to by giving up four rotation players in Mozgov, Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler. And then the Nets can make a trade for a couple players who can help them and then move Devin Harris to Portland in a package that includes Andre Miller.

    It’s a shrewd move, but it’s calculated. You would expect this from Mikhail Prokhorov. He didn’t make $22.7 billion by not being smart.

    But this is just the latest in a story that has been dizzying and confusing and entertaining and provocative, but also filled with out-and-out falsehoods.

    The Nets go from being out of the Anthony sweepstakes to talking to Denver again last week. Then we learn the Nets and Nuggets finally have a tentative agreement on a trade involving Anthony, pending his commitment to sign a three-year, $65 million extension.
    From there it just turned more bizarre and into theater of the absurd where you can’t believe anything Anthony, Prokhorov and the Knicks’ organization is saying.

    Anthony said he’s not meeting with the Nets and Knicks over All-Star Weekend. Turns out he met with both teams.

    Prokhorov, through a spokesperson, said he doesn’t plan to meet with Anthony. They met a few hours later.

    The Knicks released a statement that Dolan, president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D’Antoni are working together and in agreement on what they’re doing. Yet reports continue to say Dolan is consulting former Knicks coach and president Isiah Thomas on all 'Melo matters.

    (Don’t forget, Dolan tried to hire Thomas as a consultant over the summer, recruited him to talk to LeBron James during free agency and Walsh thanked Thomas for his help during Amar’e Stoudemire’s introductory press conference. Sounds like Thomas is very much involved).

    Prokhorov did an interview with CNBC and basically said the Nets did a good job of driving up the price for the Knicks. It sounded like a concession, but it wasn’t necessarily. There probably was some truth in that statement as well as some major spin.

    That’s what will be almost as interesting as each of the events in the Anthony timeline to this point is how everyone will spin things when this is all over, and it will be over soon.

    The trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m., which leaves plenty of time for more drama.


    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone


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


    0 (0 Ratings)

    Nets and Knicks in battle to win Melo Sweepstakes

    Saturday, February 19, 2011, 1:04 PM [General]

    After all that has happened with murals and billboards, television commercials and pointed comments, it is fitting that it comes down to the Nets and the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony.

    As I heard Evan Roberts say on WFAN this morning, it’s Jay-Z and JD (James Dolan). It’s more than that, though.

    It’s Mikhail Prokhorov, Jay-Z, Billy King and Brett Yormark versus Dolan. (Advantage Nets)

    It’s Newark/Brooklyn versus New York City (Advantage Knicks)

    It’s Brook Lopez versus Amar’e Stoudemire (Advantage Knicks)

    It’s a more controlled offense and a commitment to defense versus a free-wheeling, fast-paced, score-at-will offense and defend every few possessions. (Advantage Knicks)

    When you lay it out like that, it seems the Knicks will win the Anthony sweepstakes. All along, it’s been the Knicks who Anthony wants to play with, which is why with less than a week to go before the trade deadline the Melo-Drama isn’t over yet.

    But it will be soon; very soon.

    By the end of All-Star Weekend or on President’s Day everyone should know where Anthony is going. Barring the Lakers, Bulls or Mavericks swooping in at the last minute, it’s going to be the Nets or Knicks.

    The Nuggets want to deal with the Nets. There is no question they would rather do the trade that already has been agreed upon that would bring Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Melvin Ely and Renaldo Balkman to New Jersey for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Troy Murphy, Ben Uzoh and four first-round picks. 

    But if Anthony is pushing for the Knicks – which everyone believes he is – the Nuggets have to try and reach an agreement with New York.

    Dolan reportedly met with Anthony on Thursday night in Los Angeles, and executives from the Knicks and Nuggets held a conference call yesterday. Neither, especially the meeting, should have happened until the Nets’ matter was settled.

    If the Nets and Nuggets have an agreement in place – and they do – Denver should have granted only New Jersey officials an audience with Anthony to see if he would be willing to sign a three-year, $65 million extension. If he said no, then you move on to the Knicks.

    But all of this is also fitting because of how bizarre these trade discussions and this trade has been.

    The Nets, with their heavy hitters, may have to hope they get the chance to meet with Anthony today before it’s too late and something gets done with the Knicks.

    Reportedly, the Knicks have upped their offer for Anthony to include Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Eddy Curry’s expiring contract and a yet- trade has to-be-acquired first-round pick. The Nuggets still want more from the Knicks, maybe Timofey Mozgov or Landry Fields or more picks that they don't have

    When you give up a star, a franchise player like Anthony, you want to acquire as many assets as possible. That’s what the Nets are giving up in the form of those picks, and if you think about it they’re really giving Denver five No. 1s because Favors is a 19-year-old rookie.

    That’s where the Nets have another advantage. Plus they’re willing to take back more. Balkman’s contract isn’t expiring. As of now he’s not going to the Knicks. 

    This is why the Nuggets have wanted to deal with the Nets from the beginning, and have been from the beginning. They always had more to offer and always were willing to do more. If Dolan is willing to give up everything but Stoudemire, the Nuggets may have no choice but to deal with the Knicks.

    Now here we are, less than a week before the trade deadline, but probably another day or two before knowing where Anthony will end up. It’s safe to say it’s the metropolitan area but the way everything has gone to this point don’t be surprised if the unexpected happens. You can't rule out the Nets.


    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone


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

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Break time should be busy for Nets

    Thursday, February 17, 2011, 12:00 AM [General]

    BOSTON – The Nets didn’t want to go into the All-Star break the way they did, but you could have seen this coming all the way around.

    We’re not just talking about the Nets’ 94-80 loss to the Celtics last night. But that the Nets and the Nuggets have had a recent conversation about Carmelo Anthony.

    Suddenly, Nets’ fans are hopeful again. Hopeful the Nets can get something done for Anthony, without using Derrick Favors or Devin Harris or draft picks. That’s not realistic, but that’s also going too far too soon.

    At this point, these talks could just be exploratory, could be Denver reaching out to see if the Nets are still interested in Anthony after owner Mikhail Prokhorov removed them the talks last month. Of course, the Nets are interested still.

    Nets general manager Billy King spent close to six months talking with Denver about Anthony. But now if something gets done it would have to be more on the Nets’ terms, on Prokhorov’s terms.

    And something is going to happen with Anthony within the next week. Either he’s traded or he stays in Denver and most people expect him to be moved by next Thursday’s trade deadline.

    The Knicks are involved, of course. The popular opinion is he Anthony will end up in New York eventually because that’s where he wants to play and with whom he absolutely would sign an extension.

    But if the Nets and Nuggets can agree on something between now and Feb. 24, it’s hard to believe Anthony will walk away from a three-year $65 million extension.

    It’s been well documented that the Nets have the most to offer the Nuggets so it’s only logical that they call back New Jersey. Maybe it was done to make the Knicks up the ante or maybe the Nuggets like the picks the Nets have and Favors’ upside.

    All of this makes for great copy, and talk on TV and radio. And it will for another week, unless Anthony is traded before then.

    But the Nets are looking at other things. They can’t bank on reaching an agreement with Denver or Anthony after everything they’ve been through.

    The Nets have to have contingency plans and they do because as much as coach Avery Johnson likes so many of these young players personally, you can see how they can drive him crazy professionally.

    The Celtics are a far superior team, but the Nets had to get up for playing them. They didn’t. Twenty-nine seconds into the game, Johnson called a timeout and lit up his team for missing a defensive assignment.

    Then Nets missed another, and another and made another mistake. At 8-1, Johnson removed his backcourt of Harris and Anthony Morrow and brought in Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic.

    Following another defensive lapse, Johnson removed the starting frontcourt of Travis Outlaw, Favors and Brook Lopez and brought in Quinton Ross, Kris Humphries and Johan Petro.

    All five starters were on the bench 3:40 into the game.

    “Just the same stuff,” Johnson said. “We come into a game with an emphasis on something and the first play defensively the last two games we’ve just been malfunctioning.

    “We just got the whole second team in there and they worked really well for us. Came into halftime and guys seemed to wake up a little bit.”

    They did. The Nets turned a 15-point first-quarter hole into a nine-point third-period lead. But the Nets malfunctioned defensively from that point on against a spectacular defensive team that just locked down on their opponent.

    The Celtics knew they could do that to the Nets and they did, holding them to 17 points over the final 17:28. Even worse, the Nets had no field goals the last 6:17 of the game and were outscored 17-2.

    You could see this coming as much as you could have predicted the Nets and Nuggets would talk again. I’m just not ready to predict how it will end this time.


    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone


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

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Another rough first half about to end for Nets

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011, 5:35 PM [General]

    The Nets are finishing the first half in fitting fashion. After closing out their home schedule against the best team in the Western Conference and the NBA, they play the best team in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday.

    It’s a fitting conclusion. Nothing ever comes easy for the Nets. Not games, not trade talks, not drafting, not the development of their players.

    Never mind their history. Just look at how things have gone since the end of last season, when things were supposed to change for this group, through Monday night’s loss to the Spurs.

    The Nets didn’t win the lottery despite losing 70 games. They didn’t get any of their free agent targets. They made a big trade to get Troy Murphy, who's been a big bust. Brook Lopez hasn’t become the player everyone expected. Travis Outlaw hasn’t lived up to his $35 million contract. Derrick Favors might be a couple years away from making an impact. They’ve lost winnable games because of a lack of energy at the start and lack of execution at the end. And we can’t forget the Carmelo Anthony trade discussions that took on a life of their own and hung over the Nets’ heads for about five months.

    Teams talk about needing an identity. Here is the Nets’ identity for the first half of the season: a lot of hope, but a lot of disappointment and angst.

    That’s why the All-Star break, after Wednesday's game against the Celtics, will be welcomed by so many involved with the Nets, who will try to avoid their 40th loss. They need to get away, do some soul searching and figure out how to become better and do more for their teammates and the team.

    Trade talks will heat up over All-Star Weekend, leading up to the Feb. 24 trade deadline, which might make some players might sweat a little. Some of them might not mind a change of address. But everyone may want to brace themselves for what could be nine more days of Anthony-to-the-Nets stories.

    You can’t rule the trade out. The Knicks are more involved at this point, but if Nuggets officials see Nets officials during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, where owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King will be, a conversation could be had. Whether that conversation turns into a serious trade discussion is hard to predict. But until Anthony is out of Denver and as long as the Nets still have all their trade assets, including draft picks -- remember, the Knicks still don’t have a first-round pick -- you cannot discount the Nets, despite Prokhorov’s proclamation that they’re out.

    King is acting as if the Nets are out. He’s traveling and scouting college prospects. He saw three games last week and will be in Tempe for Arizona State-Washington on Thursday before going to Los Angeles.

    Nets coach Avery Johnson won’t be in L.A. He’s going home to Texas and said he doesn’t want to leave his property during the break. But Johnson will be working, whether it’s talking to King or his assistants or thinking of ways and plays to get more out of what he has. If the Nets make a trade over the break, then Johnson will have to adjust, as will everyone else.

    Only 25 games will remain when the Nets return after the break, and their schedule will be much easier than it has been. But the Nets probably will find a way to make it tougher than it really is.


    Rookie small forward Damion James practiced for the first time since breaking his foot on Dec. 9 and is expected to play against the Celtics. Johnson said James would become the starting small forward sometime after the break.


    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone


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

    0 (0 Ratings)

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