Tagged: Miami Heat

What will the Nets do this offseason?

anderson250_041009.jpgAUBURN 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.).

Nets fight for their playoff lives

nets320_032009.jpgEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.– The sight of Dwyane Wade in his uniform and Devin Harris in a suit could have made for a long night for the Nets. But it wasn’t, not with the Nets grasping the importance of the game and the subs rising to the occasion.
 
Wade has destroyed the Nets this season, averaging 35 points in three Miami wins. He was a game-time decision because of a hip flexor that kept him out of the previous game and when it was decided he would play, the Nets needed to lift their games.
 
It didn’t matter that Wade wasn’t himself. The Nets had to play the game as if he was the MVP candidate he is because even on an off night he scored 27 points. The Nets have to approach every game the way they did their 96-88 win over the Heat on Friday night.
 
The Nets are still in 11th place in the East, now two games out of the playoffs, but the only way they will have a chance is to play with the effort they played with against the Heat.
 
The Nets showed resilience, beating the Heat on a night when Vince Carter missed 13 of his 18 tries, and withstanding a second-half run by Miami, which fought back from 14 down and tied the game in the fourth.
 
In March, against good teams, close games usually end up in gut-wrenching losses for the Nets. Throughout the season, against Wade and the Heat, close games usually ended up in disappointing losses for the Nets.
 
Maybe Wade’s health had something to do with it or maybe the Nets grew after all they’ve been through lately between the 0-4 West Coast trip and narrow defeats to the Hornets, Celtics and Magic. Whatever the case, the Nets made the plays late on a night when Carter made one fourth-quarter field goal.
 
The Nets were carried by Jarvis Hayes and Chris Douglas-Roberts. The first isn’t too surprising. Hayes has hit big shots this season. But, Douglas-Roberts wasn’t really in the rotation before Harris was hurt. Now he’s a go-to guy?
 
That’s pushing it a little. OK, a lot. But it’s hard to have a better fourth quarter, off the bench, as a rookie, than Douglas-Roberts had. He was 2-for-2 from the field, including his first NBA three, 4-of-4 from the line, had four rebounds, two assists and one steal.
 
Four of his points came when the Nets turned a tie game into a nine-point lead. His last five points came in the final 1:10 with the Nets up five.
 
In all, Douglas-Roberts had a career-high 18 points, matching the total of Hayes, who also had nine in the fourth.
 
“The bench was tremendous,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “Those guys hitting huge shots, Jarvis and Chris. But just the trust we showed late in the game — I loved it.”
 
This isn’t going to be an every night thing for the bench, although it will help the Nets’ chances at a playoff spot. But the biggest thing was the way the Nets played. It’s the only chance they have of winning games, especially with the schedule they’re facing.
 
Their next three games are against LeBron James — they play a home-and-home with Cleveland — and Kobe Bryant. The Nets can only hope they’re not themselves the way Wade wasn’t entirely himself.
 
But, the Nets would help themselves if they play with this same type of effort and intensity, same focus on defense, and if they stay calm and mentally tough. That’s the only shot they have of staying in the race.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

A step in the right direction for Nets

nets400.jpgNEW YORK — The Nets looked like the old Nets last night, doing what they used to do to the Knicks before Jason Kidd decided he didn’t want to play here anymore.
 
When things were bad, those Nets always could count on a big win over the Knicks to lift their spirits and demoralize New York and their fans in their building. Actually, those Nets did it during good times, too.
 
But the Nets came into this game probably at their lowest, after four straight losses out West, after losing their point guard and leading scorer to a shoulder injury and after their energetic athletic backup big man was arrested and subsequently suspended two games by the team.
 
The timing for the Nets’ retro performance couldn’t have been better and fittingly it was Vince Carter who had another turn-back-the-clock night in a rousing 115-89 win over the Knicks that at least showed New Jersey has life.
 
The win meant the Nets are ahead of the Knicks again, by half a game. But, it’s a long road ahead with 14 to play because the Nets still have to leapfrog three teams to make the postseason.
 
The Nets are 2 games behind Chicago, the current holders of the East’s eighth and final playoff spot and their schedule turns brutal again with the next four games against the Heat, a home-and-home with the Cavaliers and Kobe Bryant’s lone Meadowlands appearance.
 
But the Nets needed this win, after that trip, after showing little heart or desire in Denver to close the winless journey. They played with pride. They played with passion. They made the Knicks look foolish, just like the old days.
 
“For us to come out and act like this and play together and compete on the glass because we took a beating on the glass on the road — it was just a great win for us,” Carter said.
 
As you would expect Carter was the leader, and he had to be with Devin Harris not even in the building because of his sprained left shoulder and strained deltoid. Carter picked the perfect time to put the Nets on his shoulders and take over the game and perhaps their season.
 
The Nets were down three to open the second and with seven Carter shot attempts and one foul shot, they suddenly led by three. It took 3:50 for Carter to score 17 points. That was more than every Knick but two had for the entire game.
 
When Carter was done the Nets were up 10 and they just kept building the lead as everyone followed their captain, who breathed energy into his team when it appeared their legs were a little wobbly.
 
“Looking at our guys I thought we looked a little but tired,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “Vince hits the transition three then he gets another three. Now he’s rolling.”
 
And so were the Nets.
 
Then it was rookies Brook Lopez and Chris Douglas-Roberts and then it was Keyon Dooling, who was subbing for Harris as a starter. Those three combined for 54 points and 23 assists.
 
The Nets are going to need big games from Carter and big production from others, especially while Harris is out. He’s expected to miss the next two games at least and when he comes back who knows if he’ll be as effective right away as he was before Marcus Camby took him out.

But, if the Nets play with this passion and urgency they’ll at least give themselves a chance. Still, they need help, lots of it, but they have to help themselves first and this was a step in that direction.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).