Nets say happy trails to Carter on draft day

carter_250_040909.jpgEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Beware of Draft Day 2010 Devin Harris. It might be your turn.
 
First it was Richard Jefferson last year and then it was Vince Carter Thursday night. The Nets have moved a cornerstone player in each of the last two drafts. Each time they seemed to go backwards, yet they were looking ahead.
 
It’s all about 2010. It has been and it will continue to be until 2010 comes and then we’ll see if all the money the Nets saved really allows them to be players when some of the biggest fish will jump into free-agent waters next summer.
 
The Nets will have money, but numerous questions remain, such as A) Will they be allowed to spend it?; B) Will they be Brooklyn-bound, Newark-bound or leaving this time zone?; C) Will Bruce Ratner still own the team; and D) Will players want to play here?
 
Time will tell, but for now the Nets think they had a good Draft Day for the second straight year regardless of what you think.
 
They lost Carter, their best player, and Ryan Anderson. They got back Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie, and they drafted Terrence Williams out of Louisville.
Last year, they sent out Jefferson, got back Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons and drafted Brook Lopez, Anderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts.
 
Which day was better or worse is too early to tell? But something tells me the Nets will miss Carter more than they miss Jefferson. Still, Carter wasn’t going to lead the Nets to the NBA title, so they felt it was time to go in another direction, build around some young players and cut somewhere around $17.5 million off their payroll next summer.
 
“From our standpoint, it certainly puts us in a tremendous position cap-wise going forward,” Nets president Rod Thorn said. “And we think we got a terrific young player in the process.”

That young player is Lee, who the Nets passed on, ironically, in favor of Anderson last year.
 
Thorn admitted the Nets are not better today, but he thinks they have a chance to better than people think. The Nets weren’t a playoff team before and nothing here says they will be one in 2009-10.
 
They said goodbye to probably their best scorer in NBA history and got an unproven shooting guard, an above-average point guard and an injury-riddled big man. They also got a versatile player in Williams, who plays three positions and defends three positions. But he’s a rookie so he, too, is unproven.
 
In other words, this upcoming season will be a lot like last season.
 
You’re going to watch with intrigue to see how these guys mesh and if they play hard and win games early you’re going to like the direction of the team. Then if they falter, you’re g oing to want the coach fired, some of the players traded, Yi taken out of the lineup, and so on.
 
A few things that you can count on is the Nets are going to try and run more and maybe they will trap more with a lineup that could feature Harris, Lee and Williams. They can be exciting that way because they have versatility and guys who are interchangeable. But they also have to and will establish Lopez much more.
 
We’re going to see if Lopez and Harris are for real, too. The Nets lost 21 points, about five assists and so many double-teams that helped the two young players get easier looks.
 
That’s why there is going to be so much wait-and-see with these Nets, just like last year.
 
The young guys have to buy in early the way Carter made sure they did last year. They have to commit to defense the way the Nets wouldn’t last year and they have to play together and with a tremendous chip because no one is expecting anything from them.
 
One more thing, they’re going to have find someone to make plays in the fourth quarter. Carter always did it, and his presence allowed Harris and Lopez to make plays. He will be missed there, too.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

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