Tagged: Jason Kidd

Douglas-Roberts on a fighting mission

douglasroberts_300_102009.jpgEAST 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.)

 

Sunday begins feeling-out process

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Nets open the preseason on Sunday in what is a meaningless game, but at least you can start to get a feel for how the team is going to play or what it’s going to look like.

We’ve been hearing so much about defense and scoring off the defense, and you wonder what’s going to happen if the Nets trail 28-12 after the first quarter against the Knicks on Sunday in Albany

Anyway, whatever we see Sunday will look much different as the preseason and regular season goes on because first of all, likely starting shooting guard Courtney Lee won’t be in the lineup due to an inflamed left foot. Lee is expected back next week.

But it will look much different because the players will get used to playing with each other and get into more of a rhythm, and coach Lawrence Frank will have a better understanding of what lineups and rotations work best.

That’s what will be interesting about this preseason, perhaps more than any in recent years, starting to see who fits where.

nets275_100209.jpgIn the past, you knew Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles, Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins would be the starting team with Lucious Harris, Aaron Williams, Rodney Rogers, Anthony Johnson and whomever coming off the bench. Then it was Kidd, Vince Carter, Jefferson, Collins and Nenad Krstic with assorted bench players.

Last season, it was somewhat up in the air, but you could guess that Devin Harris and Carter would start with Yi Jianlian, Bobby Simmons and Josh Boone, who eventually would be replaced by Brook Lopez, and then Jarvis Hayes, Keyon Dooling, Eduardo Najera and Ryan Anderson would be in the mix off the bench.

This season, you can guess that Harris, Lee and Lopez are pretty much locks and that Yi will get another shot as the starting power forward. Hayes might be the frontrunner as the starting small forward right now, but things could change.

Then off the bench, Rafer Alston is the backup point guard with Chris Douglas-Roberts and Terrence Williams the reserve swingmen, but Simmons is back there still and can play both forward positions especially if the Nets go small.

Boone has been practicing at power forward, so Frank is working on having a big unit with Lopez and Boone together, which the Nets hope will help their defensive rebounding.

You can’t overlook or forget three injured players in Dooling, Eduardo Najera and Tony Battie, and what they can provide and do to the overall rotation.

“I think the thing that’s going to benefit us the most is our numbers,” Lee said today. “We got a lot of guys that play similar positions. Therefore when we’re playing in a game, and we send that first five out there to attack and when that five get tired we got another five that’s going to go out there and attack them again. So I think our strength is going to be in numbers.”

Of course it’s up to Frank to determine which groups work best together.

Last year, at end of games, it often was Harris, Dooling, Carter, Hayes and Lopez. Some would say the Nets went small too much but it was due to lack of consistent production at power forward. That’s probably another reason why Boone has been working back there. He didn’t play alongside Lopez at all last year.

The most interesting is what happens in the backcourt and small forward, though. There will be times when the Nets can play Williams at point with Lee or Harris or Douglas-Roberts and then Hayes at small forward or they can play Harris, with Lee and then Williams and have a quick athletic team, a trapping unit and one that’s good in transition.

“We have a lot of different combinations,” Frank said. “There are a lot of intriguing possibilities we have to evaluate. And the thing you want to do at a certain point is have a firm grasp. But you have a lot of different parts.”

That doesn’t mean the Nets will be good because we don’t really know how these parts fit. But Frank said before camp that the Nets are going to come at teams in waves to be successful. It certainly looks they will and they can.

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

New set of eyes on Nets

frank_250_092509.jpgMoney has been an issue for the Nets the last several years, but that seems to be changing with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov set to sign the checks for the team.

That could be a good thing next summer when the Nets will have the salary cap room and now, seemingly, the ability to spend on some of the biggest names in basketball, namely LeBron James.

It’s all well and good, but they still have to play basketball this season and truthfully it’s hard to know what kind of team the Nets will be. Bad is one word that has been linked to the Nets this season. Awful is another. Of course, they say they’re going to be better than the masses think.

“We don’t look that strong on paper,” Nets president Rod Thorn said. “But we will be better than a lot of the pundits think we will be, and we’ll be very competitive.”

The proving ground comes in the regular season, which is still a month away. But training camp opens next week, the first one since 2000 that hasn’t featured Jason Kidd or Vince Carter. It’s no wonder outside expectations are low.

But the Nets have talent, depth and players who can play an exciting style of basketball. Whether they can come together and play as a team, and buy into coach Lawrence Frank’s system, will be known over the long haul that begins on Tuesday. Remember, this is a big season for everyone affiliated with the Nets because with new ownership comes major change. The Big Russian will be watching, so the evaluation process is about to start.

On the Spot
1. Yi Jianlian: Nets’ pin-cushion returns after an offseason of working on his body, mind and game in California, Vegas, East Rutherford and China. His confidence and skills are said to be improved as Yi added strength and the ability to finish. We’ll see.

2. Devin Harris: Increased workload last year resulted in his first All-Star berth, but this year Harris will have the ultimate responsibility: The Nets are his team. He has to show he can lead them in good times and bad. Harris is excited about the challenge.

3. RFK (Rod; Frank; Kiki): The Nets’ brass has to make all the right moves with the roster and on the court. All three men are in the last year of their contracts so they need to impress Prokhorov, who could decide to bring in his own guys anyway.

Keep an eye on
1. Brook Lopez: Worked with Team USA over the summer and impressed at the mini-camp. Lopez will see the ball more this year as the Nets plan to run the offense through the second-year center more.

2. Courtney Lee: All eyes will be on Carter’s replacement, but Lee showed tremendous poise when the bright lights were on him last year. The rookie started in the Finals. Now he gets the chance to show what he can do with greater opportunity.

3. Chris Douglas-Roberts: Received pep-talk from Carter about taking advantage of his opportunity and then worked tirelessly to make sure he’s ready to contribute this season.

Don’t overlook
1. Terrence Williams: Rookie can play multiple positions, including some point forward, which will allow the Nets to use many different lineups. Williams’ defensive tenacity will allow the Nets to press and should improve their transition game.

2. Rafer Alston: Provides depth as Keyon Dooling rehabs from hip surgery. Alston can light it up but also set up his teammates and will allow Harris to play shooting guard.

3. Jarvis Hayes: Had a strong season as a backup last year and is expected to take on more of a leadership role this year. Hayes also could be the starting small forward.

Important campers
1. Sean Williams: Could increase his trade value if he focuses on basketball.

2. Josh Boone: Has some admirers and a good camp could raise his stock or show the Nets he wants to stick around and can be a productive backup center behind Lopez.

3. Eduardo Najera: His defensive toughness was missed last season, but if healthy he should have an impact on how the Nets practice and play.

Major questions
1. How do the Nets make up for Carter’s loss?
You don’t replace a future Hall of Fame player easily. It will take a group of guys to make up for the points, but that will happen. The hard part will be the scoring opportunities Carter created for everyone, his ability to take over games and be the fourth-quarter assassin. Harris showed he can do some of those things, but will need help.

2. Will the Nets commit and stay together?
That really is the biggest concern because this could be a turbulent season on so many levels. The players have to commit and follow Frank’s vision. One thing in the Nets’ favor are four regulars have fewer than two years experience in the league, so they should be hungry and looking to make names for themselves. Also, six players are in contract years – and three more have team options that may not be picked up – so they should be thinking a big year means more money.

3. Will the Nets defend?
They better. That’s the only chance they have at being successful since Harris is the only proven scorer, so they’ll need Harris, Lee and Terrence Williams to deny up top and stop the dribble. It starts there and it has to be contagious. If they defend, it should lead to a more run outs, too.

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

Nets end season with ugly loss to Knicks

knicksblogalb250.jpgNEW YORK — The Nets ended their season at Madison Square Garden last night with a 102-73 loss to the Knicks — without Vince Carter and Devin Harris — and now begin what should be another busy offseason.
 
Will coach Lawrence Frank be back? Will Carter? What’s Yi Jianlian’s future — a bust or a contributor? Who will they draft? Will they trade their pick? Will they make any big deals?
 
The quick answers to all of this are maybe, probably, we’ll see, the best available player, perhaps and they’ll try. The real answers will come soon enough. Before we look ahead, here’s a look back at 2008-09:
 
MVP

Carter beats out Harris because he was healthier, came to play every night and led this team to the last game. Carter embraced his role as captain. He led by example, played hurt and helped give the young guys a role model to follow.
 
5 Biggest Surprises
 
1. Brook Lopez: You don’t normally find a potential franchise center with the No. 10 pick
 
2. The Nets: With eight new faces they stayed in the playoff race longer than expected
 
3. Devin Harris: Went from essentially a complementary player in Dallas to an All-Star here
 
4. Ryan Anderson: Scored more points than eight players taken ahead of him
 
5. Keyon Dooling: We knew he was good, but had a career year and was instant energy
 
5 Biggest Disappointments
 
1. Yi Jianlian: Just when he looked like he got it, he broke his pinky and went backward
 
2. Home Play: Nets were 19-22 at Izod Center and lost 13 games by at least 10 points
 
3. Eduardo Najera: Nets may have been better defensively and overall if he wasn’t hurt all season
 
4. No Moves: Management tried, but never found a third point guard or upgraded the roster in-season
 
 
5. Josh Boone: Didn’t improve and Lopez’s emergence didn’t inspire him to raise his game
 
5 Games to Remember
 
1. Nets 129, Raptors 127 (OT), Nov. 21, Air Canada Centre
Harris was in the back sick, returned and had a great second half, but this game was about Carter’s game-tying three in regulation and his alley-oop dunk to win in OT.
 
2. Nets 98, Sixers 96, Feb. 23, Izod Center
Harris’ halfcourt heave with Andre Iguodala draped all over him was shot of the year; the kind that made you think the Nets were going to be a Cinderella playoff team – guess not.
 
3. Nets 121, Mavs 97, Dec. 19, IZOD Center
In Jason Kidd’s return, an inspired Harris had 41 points and 13 assists against his old team, leading the fans to chants of “Thank you, Cuban,” to Mavs’ owner Mark.
 
4. Nets 117, Suns 109, Nov. 30, U.S. Airways Center

Harris’ 47 points helped the Nets cap a 3-1 trip and end a 14-game drought in the desert. Harris became an All-Star on this trip.
 
5. Nets 114, Nuggets 70, Feb. 7, IZOD Center
Denver never saw this one coming. Who did? This was an all-out annihilation of one of the NBA’s best teams.
 
 
5 Games to Forget

 
1. Bucks 107, Nets 78, March 30, IZOD Center
They should have asked for some stamps because they mailed this one in one day after a no-show in Minnesota.
 
2. Celtics 105, Nets 86, Jan. 17, IZOD Center
Young fans had to watch this matinee massacre and their favorite players, Harris and Carter, benched for the second half.
 
3. Wizards 108, Nets 88, Dec. 2, IZOD Center
Coming off a 3-1 West trip, the Nets left their legs and us-against-everyone mentality in another time zone.
 
4. Clippers 107, Nets 105, March 15, Staples Center

Everyone remembers the foul up three and Steve Novak’s game-winner, but the Nets played with no urgency while still in the playoff race.
 
5. Golden State 116, Nets 112, March 11, Oracle Arena
Nets led this game by 14 and were outscored in the second half, 63-45. It was a bad omen to start the 0-4 trip that ultimately sealed their playoff fate.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

The countdown for Carter is on

carterblog031209.jpgThe Vince Carter watch is on.

Actually, it has been since right before the trade deadline. Then, it was a matter of where he was getting traded. Now, it’s a matter of how he finishes off what could be his final season as a Net.
 
It would be disappointing if Carter doesn’t finish the season strong. This has been one of his better all-around seasons, particularly as a leader, facilitator, spotlight sharer, encourager, father figure, baby-sitter and teacher.
 
Now Carter has a chance to get the Nets into the playoffs when no one expected they would. It’s what Carter wanted and what’s driven him all season. It would be a fitting cap to his season, if not his career as a Net.
 
It’s time for him to seize the moment like he did in his first season with New Jersey, when he and Jason Kidd carried them to a 15-4 finish and playoff berth on the last day of the regular season.
 
Only 18 games remain after the Nets wasted a chance to catapult themselves into the eighth and final playoff spot in the East last night, blowing a 14-point third-quarter lead at Golden State.
 
The Nets have to try and rebound against Portland, ironically. It was one of the teams that the Nets were talking to about Carter before the deadline. This could have been his first game against his old team.
 
The Blazers have won 12 of their last 13 home games so tomorrow is going to be a tough one for the Nets, probably the toughest one on the trip and it got even more difficult after they let a victory slip away last night.
 
The Nets needed Carter to do more. They need everyone, but at this time you always look to your leaders and best players.
 
Foul trouble hampered him and for the first time his body language wasn’t that positive.

Carter was surprised and frustrated by foul calls and that definitely had an impact. But he’s got to withstand that, show that nothing bothers him. He’s the captain, the true leader on the Nets, and they needed him to be better.
 
Carter hit three field goals in the first 9:23 and didn’t hit another until 47 seconds were left in the game. In that time, he missed some layups, but for the most part they were jumpers.
 
Carter, and the rest of the Nets, should have attacked the basket more.
 
The Warriors lead the NBA in blocks, but for the most part their porous defensively. They also allow the most points in the NBA. Talk about an oxymoron. Get in the lane, get fouled and get points from the line.
 
Carter only took two foul shots on the night and they didn’t come until about six minutes remained in the game.
 
When Carter struggled a couple of weeks back, it was revealed his right elbow injury was much worse than he was letting on. He injured his knee Sunday against the Knicks, but said before the Nets left for the trip that he was fine and after last night’s game that he’s fine.
 
Maybe it’s worse, too, but last night looked more like Carter was frustrated and ultimately out of it, which the Nets can’t afford.
 
They’re tied for 10th, one-half game out of the playoffs and one-game up on the Knicks and Pacers. So there is plenty of time as it seems this race will come down to the wire.
 
The Nets’ best chance of making the postseason is if Carter starts taking over games like few can. We haven’t seen that happen in a long time. Devin Harris has done it and it’s been effective. But when Carter does it, the Nets usually are tough to beat.
 
This is the time. Everyone is watching and waiting for Carter to stand up.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.) 

If Carter era is over, does Harris era begin?

netsblog0218009harris.jpgDALLAS — The Vince Carter era may have closed last night and if it did it ended badly.
 
Carter didn’t score after halftime and the Nets didn’t defend after the break in a 113-98 trouncing to the Dallas Mavericks.
 
But the result isn’t as important as Carter’s future whereabouts, which everyone will know by three p.m. this afternoon. That’s when the trade deadline hits and Carter either will breathe a sigh of relief — along with thousands of Nets’ fans — or he will have to pack the suitcase he just finished unpacking.
 
Carter could stay in New Jersey or could wind up back here in Dallas, or in the Pacific Northwest with Portland or in Cleveland. It all depends on what owner Bruce Ratner decides about the current state of the Nets’ economy.
 
It’s not good. We all know that. But the Nets are not alone. The NBA had to borrow $175 million to help teams losing money and you can bet the Nets are one of them. So it’s not as if it’s any surprise that this team is hurting financially.
 
It’s not as if Ratner is going to wake up and say, “We need to do something.” He’s probably thought it out already and decided and we all should know the answer today.
 
We have to know the answer today. There are no more days to trade player after this. It’s not like baseball where there are technically two trade deadlines. This is it.
 
Throughout the yesterday, sources said the Nets weren’t close to doing anything, certainly nothing with Carter, and they were trying to make other deals that might bring back young players or shed payroll. That could be what they end up doing anyway. But a trade of Carter remains a possibility and will until three p.m.
 
The Blazers and Nets have discussed a Carter for Raef LaFrentz, Travis Outlaw and Sergio Fernandez swap. More would be involved to make it work financially and to fit three players on the roster.
 
Portland and the Bucks have discussed something similar with those three Blazers going to Milwaukee for ex-Net Richard Jefferson.
 
As we wrote yesterday, you can throw any scenario out there. The Cavaliers have offered Wally Szczerbiak and his expiring contract for Carter. The Spurs would like to get involved, but likely would need a third team. The Rockets have interest, but they haven’t agreed upon parameters.
 
So what’s next? It’s up to the Nets’ owners.

Do they want a competitive team? (That was hard to type with a straight face since the Nets have lost the last four games by a total of 73 points.) Or do they deal Carter for salary relief and play in front of a mostly empty Izod Center? (It was hard to type the last part with a straight face since with Carter the building isn’t exactly full).
 
There won’t be many straight faces, though, if Carter is moved. You, the fans, would be upset.

This isn’t like last year when the Nets had to move Jason Kidd because he had become a distraction and disruptive. The buzz may have left, but there was a feeling of optimism when Devin Harris arrived.
 
If Carter is traded by three p.m. for financial reasons, there will be less buzz and little optimism about the Nets.

 
***

 
The ex-Nets, Jason Kidd and Antoine Wright, had two of their better game s of the season.
 
Kidd had just his fourth 20-point game of the season, as he finished with 23 points and 10 assists. And Wright had 20. The two shot 14-for-21 combined, including 9-of-10 on threes. In the third period, when the Mavericks blew open a close game, outscoring the Nets 40-15, Wright had 13 and Kidd had 11.
 
Knowing Kidd, he was thinking payback after what happened in East Rutherford in December. Harris scored 41 points and the home crowd chanted, “Thank you, Cuban!” near the end of the Nets’ 24-point victory.
 
Harris outplayed Kidd that night and Kidd outplayed Harris (5-for-18, 18 points, seven assists) last night.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

Should the Nets make moves to get Stoudemire?

netsblog_020909.jpgThe Nets’ plan was to build for 2010, but also be in position to do something if the unexpected happened. Something like would qualify:
 
Hello Rod or Hello Kiki, this is Steve Kerr.
 
Great weather we’re having down here in Phoenix. Make sure you take advantage of the golf courses when you come down during All-Star Weekend and check out the Camelback Mountains. By the way, we’re considering trading Amare Stoudemire and see some things on your roster that we may like. Let’s talk about it and then we’ll catch up when you come down here to see if we can make something work
 
Bye.

 
It’s doubtful those were the exact words, but you get the idea. Also know this, Kerr, the Suns’ GM, had similar conversations with Detroit’s Joe Dumars, Miami’s Pat Riley’s Chicago’s John Paxson, Portland’s Kevin Pritchard and Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti.
 
There might be a dark horse team we’re forgetting. When you potentially make a player of Stoudemire’s caliber available you talk to just about every team and try and decide which deal makes the most sense.
 
The Nets are in play because they have good, young players, good contracts and draft picks. The Suns are going with a youth movement. On the block are Shaquille O’Neal and Stoudemire, who likely will be a free agent in 2010 and Phoenix doesn’t want to pay him. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be entertaining offers.
 
The Nets have to throw their hat in the ring, much the way if you’re Thorn and Vandeweghe, you have to listen to what teams would give up for Vince Carter.
 
Do the Nets’ brass want to trade their best player? No, but if the right deal comes along, that makes sense to them before the Feb. 19 trade deadline, then they have to consider it.
 
This is where the multi-faceted plan comes in.
 
When the Nets traded Jason Kidd for Devin Harris, picks and other complementary players and Richard Jefferson for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons it was clear they were building for the future.
 
They were trying to get as many picks, good young players on good contracts and veterans on good/expiriing contracts as possible to have the assets and flexibility to be players in 2010 when the likes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are free.
 
But the Nets also did it in case a Stoudemire became available they have what it takes to get him. That’s a part of the plan that isn’t as well known.
 
Now, if they can get Stoudemire, my guess is Carter stays and they’re playing for now and next year with t hose two Harris and Brook Lopez making a strong nucleus. Getting Stoudemire means the Nets’ youth movement is over because they likely would have to include Yi Jianlian and Ryan Anderson in any package.
 
The Nets have some trepidation about moving Yi, someone they envisioned building around. They think Yi can be really good, never mind the marketing opportunities. But if you get a chance to get a superstar power forward you do everything you can.
 
If they can get Stoudemire, it means the Nets didn’t think they could sign James or Wade in 2010, which most know became the longest of long shots when it was clear they weren’t moving to Brooklyn by then if it all.
 
Those once-in-a-lifetime players are not coming to East Rutherford when they can go to New York or stay in Miami or team up in Miami. Imagine Stoudemire and Wade with the Heat, which could happen by next week, or James and Wade in South Beach.
 
There’s probably also some trepidation on the Nets’ part about Stoudemire’s long-range future. First, they have to determine how healthy he is and whether his surgical repaired knees can hold up. Second, would he want to stay in East Rutherford after 2010? If not, the Nets traded away some of their future and could lose Stoudemire for nothing.
 
The Nets aren’t close to doing anything. They’re in the exploratory stages of everything, but things could heat up this weekend in Phoenix and not just with Stoudemire. Other than Harris and Lopez, the Nets are all ears. That’s part of the plan, too.

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