AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Speaking to a scout the other day, he said the Nets had the best draft on any team last year. Overall, they had a pretty underrated offseason.
But, this year, it has to be better.
The Nets don’t have as many draft picks or tools in free agency. But, they may have more from the standpoint of good, young, relatively low-priced talent and expiring contracts.
First, it appears they did have the best draft, getting Brook Lopez, Ryan Anderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts. The three combined to score 52 points in the Nets’ 100-93 loss to Detroit on Friday night.
The only team that came close to having a draft like the Nets was the Miami Heat, which got Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. That duo may prove to be better in the long run, although Lopez looks like a franchise center.
The Nets only have one pick this season, so they have to use it wisely. They’re tied for the NBA’s 10th-worst record. They have three games to better or worsen that, depending on which side of the fence you sit.
Unless they win the Lottery, expect them to try and put together a package to move up for Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin, the consensus No. 1 pick. The Nets and many other teams, that is.
Get Griffin and put him next to Lopez, and you’re set for years. The Nets would have two inside forces and, in Griffin, a fierce rebounding power forward, which they need. But, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves.
Teams make the most change via trades or free agency, and that’s where the Nets are expected to be the most active.
They only have the mid-level exception and chances are they won’t be allowed to use all of it. They also have a $1.2 million trade exception from the Marcus Williams deal that they have until July 22 to use.
Last year, the Nets used part of their midlevel, their bi-annual exception and trade exception on Eduardo Najera, Jarvis Hayes and Keyon Dooling. Hayes and Dooling wound up being excellent pickups.
Nets president Rod Thorn and GM Kiki Vandeweghe have to make similar moves. Find good players at low costs — which is what most teams will try to do. Everyone wants to trim money to be in position for the summer of 2010 when LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire are free.
This summer, there isn’t a great crop of free agents, aside from Kobe Bryant — if he opts out — Carlos Boozer and Lamar Odom. You’re not getting any of them. Shawn Marion is an interesting name considering he’s a Dan Fegan client, of which the Nets already have some.
All of that said, look for the Nets to make trades.
They made one big one last summer, dealing Richard Jefferson for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. That move didn’t work out that well this season and was the only thing that kept the Nets from having a great summer of 2008.
Management can make up for it this summer.
Simmons, Trenton Hassell, Josh Boone, Sean Williams, Yi, Douglas-Roberts, Anderson — basically everyone but Harris, Dooling, Najera and Vince Carter — could have expiring contracts next season, so some of them could draw interest.
Then there’s the matter of coach Lawrence Frank. He could be coaching his final three games or could be brought back to finish out his contract.
From a financial standpoint, it makes sense for the Nets, who are losing millions, to keep Frank. But, a decision has to be made right away because there are good coaches available that may be scooped up.
If a coaching move is made, that will have a huge bearing on the type of team the Nets have and players they pursue.
The Nets gave their fans hope by hanging around the playoff race this season. Just hanging around won’t be good enough next year. So, this has to be a better offseason than last year. Forget about 2010.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The players heard the questions, saw the headlines, read the stories and if they didn’t they had someone tell them about what’s being said.
Their coach’s job isn’t entirely safe and the perception is they’ve quit on themselves, the season, the fans, the organization — you name it.
That was all the motivation the Nets needed; the latter more so than Lawrence Frank’s status.
No athlete wants to be called a quitter. Predictably, the Nets rose up and played one of their most complete games of the season, or at least in about a month and a day, in beating the Pistons, 111-98, Wednesday night.
“We did what we’re supposed to do,” Frank said. “We competed. We played hard. We played together. That’s what we expect. It’s not a cure-all.
Not all the problems in the world are solved because we won tonight.”
This doesn’t solve everything or anything. It just means the Nets are listening. The question is to whom? The media or their coach or the little voice in their heads? For argument’s sake let’s say all three.
As much as athletes say they don’t care what’s written or said — they do. Think about it: what motivated the Nets to start the season — everyone saying they were going to be terrible.
You want to believe they’re still playing for Frank. He works as hard as anyone, is loyal, has helped many of them have career years and doesn’t say look at the team I was given. He always believes he has enough to win and tries to put his players in position to win.
The prior two games, though, something was amiss.
Falling behind by 18 to Minnesota was despicable. Not bouncing back and trailing by almost double that — 35 — at home to Milwaukee when theoretically you’re still in the race is indicting.
Frank took the heat for it because the appearance was the Nets had given up and because you can’t fire a whole team.
But, some stories and some headlines pointed to the most damaging of charges — quitting — and that woke up the players. Some were a bit defensive about it. Others didn’t think it was the case. No matter, it struck a chord with the Nets.
The result was they looked much more like a playoff team than the currently playoff-bound Pistons last night. The Nets shot 51.3 percent, had six guys in double-figures and had two fewer assists than in the two embarrassing defeats combined (29).
“I think it says a couple things,” Keyon Dooling said. “It says when we play the right way, we’re pretty competitive. And also it says we haven’t mailed it in.”
The Nets didn’t save their coach’s job with this performance, but they saved face. If they want to save his job, they have to have seven more performances like this one and really who knows if that will be enough?
Team president Rod Thorn doesn’t want to fire Frank, whom he has backed and supported through many tough times.
Frank has stayed the course in the face of many distractions, handled his share of adversity and had a team that no one expected to win more than 25 games in the playoff race until recently. The Nets are still in, but with seven games left, a 4 1/2-game deficit may be too hard to overcome.
Thorn will look at the complete body of work before he makes any decisions, and don’t think that finances won’t play a part.
Frank makes $4.4 million next season. Figure the next coach makes at least that. Ownership doesn’t want to pay $9 million for one man.
There’s a chance Frank will be back and given another shot with some of these same players and not just because of the finances, but because he deserves it.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).