Tagged: Ryan Anderson

Thorn, Nets ponder post-Carter moves

The Nets had a meet-and-greet today for some of the players they acquired in the Vince Carter trade. It probably won’t be their last such event this summer.
 
“I don’t think we’re done yet,” Nets president Rod Thorn said. “I think you’ll see us do some other things before next season rolls around.”
 
alston250_063009.jpgCourtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie came over from the Carter-Ryan Anderson trade. The Nets also added rookie Terrence Williams on the same day.
 
No, the Nets are not championship caliber. They’re not even playoff caliber, but they have time before the regular season starts to change that.
 
The free-agent negotiation period begins July 1. Players can be signed July 8. The Nets don’t have the money to make a big splash this summer. So, they’re more likely to wait and see what’s left after teams with money open their checkbooks.
 
The Nets probably will make more noise in the trade market. They have 15 guaranteed contracts so they’re going to have to trade or cut people to make any moves and with money the way it is, think trade.
 
Here’s a summer primer:
 
What The Nets Have
1. Money: They’re over the cap, but can use their mid-level exception, which should be between $5 million and $6 million when the new cap is announced. Thorn generally doesn’t use the full midlevel on one player, but he’s been known to split it like last season when some went to Eduardo Najera and some to Chris Douglas-Roberts.
 
2. Expiring contracts: Potentially valuable trade chips are the seven contracts that will expire after the upcoming season. It’s eight if you include Yi Jianlian’s 2010-11 team option that you have to believe the Nets will pick up if he’s here, still.
 
3. Trade exceptions: The Nets have three for $3.7 million, $1.26 million and $1.2 million. They can’t be combined. The first is almost like having another midlevel when you consider Thorn doesn’t use full midlevels. The $1.26 million exception, acquired for Marcus Williams, expires July 22. The Nets used one last year to sign Keyon Dooling.
 
What the Nets need
1. Power forward: Thorn said recently that Yi is the man at power forward, but if the Nets can get one they will. A healthy Najera will help the Nets, but they wouldn’t mind insurance there also.
 
2. Small forward: The Nets have nine players that can play on the wing, but could use a proven scoring swingman. Right now it’s Hayes, Williams, Bobby Simmons and Trenton Hassell.
 
3. Center: Not a starter. Brook Lopez is one of two or three untouchables on the team — we’re figuring the newly acquired Lee and Williams, too. But the Nets could use help back there. Josh Boone and Sean Williams aren’t a part of the future and neither is injury-prone newcomer Battie.
 
Who’s available?
1. Power forwards: Carlos Boozer, David Lee and Paul Millsap likely will cost too much. The Nets should make a push for free agent Brandon Bass — it will be hard to outbid his current team, the Mavericks. Other possibilities are Chris Wilcox, Mikki Moore and Channing Frye.
 
2. Small forwards: Figure Hedo Turkoglu, Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom are out of their price range. Trevor Ariza would be a nice addition, but many teams will pursue him and he’s expected to return to the Lakers. More realistic swingman names are Rodney Carney, Ime Udoka, Keith Bogans and Von Wafer.
 
3. Centers: The Clippers are trying to shed some big men and Marcus Camby, whose salary is up after the season and has history with Nets GM Kiki Vandeweghe, could be a good short-term option. Free agent Zaza Pachulia is more than serviceable.
 
Closing thought
You can’t rule out a big deal, especially if the Nets can get an All-Star quality big man for Devin Harris or some expiring pacts. They’re long shots, but they should try for Amare Stoudemire, if the deal with the Warriors falls through, or Al Jefferson.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

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.)

Thorn: Frank is still our guy

frank_250_042909.jpgNets president Rod Thorn said he had been formulating his opinion for about a week. Ultimately, the reason he decided to give Lawrence Frank a chance to finish out his contract as coach is because he believes in him.
 
“In my mind, he’s a good coach,” Thorn said this morning. “If you get rid of a good coach you’ve got to get a good coach. In my mind he’s a good coach. He’s done a good job here.
 
“This past year we weren’t expected to do very well. We ended up doing better than most people expected us to do. Our younger players got better for the most part. My feeling is we’re on the right road.”
 
And with that ended more than a week of speculation and conjecture of what Thorn would do, who would replace Frank and whether the players still are listening to him. Now it’s on to making sure the Nets improve on the basketball floor so Frank can keep his job.
 
Bringing back Frank for next season may not be a popular decision with the fans, but it makes sense on so many levels.
 
First of all, Nets’ ownership lost more than $25 million according to Sports Business Journal last year. The team has had a few rounds of layoffs and is sharing a summer league team with the Sixers to split the expenses.
 
All of that said, eating Frank’s $4.5 million salary wouldn’t be smart.
 
Secondly, the Nets didn’t underachieve like some teams. They may have overachieved – although it’s hard to say 34 wins is a good thing – when you consider what they were predicted to do this past season.
 
Additionally, Devin Harris improved. Brook Lopez was better than expected. The same can be said for Keyon Dooling, Jarvis Hayes and Ryan Anderson.
 
Frank certainly had more positives than negatives this past season. The biggest minus was the Nets’ record, but he basically had a pass for that when in preseason Thorn and GM Kiki Vandeweghe said the development of the players were what mattered.
 
Some in the organization were unhappy that the plan shifted when the Nets were in the playoff race and they played veterans because they were trying to win games. But the players – except for Yi Jianlian – got better or played better than anticipated. Besides, playing to win is the most important thing. You want to teach the players how to win and what it takes. That should always be the plan. It will be next year when Frank knows he has to win to keep his job.
 
Even if he does, there’s no guarantee the Nets will extend him or give him a new deal after the season. So much depends on what happens this summer, who comes in via the draft, free agency and trades, and how the young players continue to develop.

There are other factors, too, like whether the Nets are on track for Brooklyn, whether Bruce Ratner still owns the team and if there is a marquee coach available next summer that could make a big difference.
 
As for 2009-10, Thorn isn’t concerned about having a coach in the final year of his contract on the bench. He thinks the players will listen to Frank and continue to play hard for him. They did for most of this past season, but at times they could have and should have given a little more. Had they given more effort defensively and executed better down the stretch of games they might have been in the playoffs now, might have been playing the roles of the Bulls or Sixers, who are giving the Celtics and Magic fits, respectively.
 
You can blame some of those things on the coach, of course. But the players also share in that. They have to work a little harder defensively, have to be smarter with the ball late in games or take better shots.
 
These are the things the Nets will have to do better next season because they’re healthy and because they will hear the same voice and likely will play a similar style. Maybe the Nets will go to Lopez more – at least they should. But all of that will depend upon what personnel changes the Nets make.
 
That’s what Thorn has to turn his attention to now that he has decided his coach will be back and that his voice still is being heard.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

Wrapping up and moving forward

hayes250_041609.jpgEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Rod Thorn, Kiki Vandeweghe and Lawrence Frank sat together with each Nets’ player and performed the annual exit interviews where they discussed what they did well, what they need to work on and some type of summer plan.
 
If I was running the Nets, here’s what I would say to each player and the coach in that setting:
 
Vince Carter: Get some rest because you’re still a high-level player and we want you to be fresh next season and continue to be an exemplary leader. You helped our young players so much this season. Thank you. You will hear your name in trade rumors, but unless you get a call from us don’t worry about it.
 
Devin Harris: Great season, but we’re going to expect more next year. Defensively, you have to raise your game because since you’ve been here you have not lived up to your rep of being a good on-ball defender. You have to realize we need you to do more than score for us to win. You have to defend better, set up your teammates more and take care of the ball late in games.
 
Brook Lopez: You grew up more than any player, and we think you’re only going to get better. Get stronger up top, but lower body, also. Here’s some tape on Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, Dwight Howard and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Watch them and go watch some playoff games. Pick up things from them and we’ll start working on it in a month or so because eventually you’re going to be our go-to player.
 
Ryan Anderson: You showed great maturity and professionalism to go from out of the rotation to starting to out to starting, and were productive. We like the way you go to the boards. We’re going to try and work on your lateral quickness and defense. Here is some tape and some things for you to try, and we’ll see you in back in the gym in a month or so.
 
Keyon Dooling: After you clean up your hip get a little rest because you logged more minutes than ever before and depending on what we do next season you could have an increased role. But, we liked the energy, leadership and professionalism you brought to each game and welcome that next season.
 
Jarvis Hayes: I wouldn’t worry about your $2 million option. You’re safe. We’ve been waiting for a good shooter and capable perimeter defender for years and we have that now. Let your thumb heal, spend some time with your new son, and come back thinking Sixth Man Award candidate.
 
Chris Douglas-Roberts: We love your competitive nature. We need more players who hate losing like you do and will do whatever it takes to win. Keep working on your ball-handling, shooting and defense because you will have an expanded role next season.
 
Yi Jianlian: You weren’t the same player after returning from your broken right pinkie. You can’t hesitate when you shoot and you can’t lose confidence. When you’re not hitting shots you still can rebound and defend. You need to improve everywhere and the only way is by playing. So, when you’re not with your national team, get in a gym and play pick-up games, go to Vegas and play, come here and play. You just need to play.
 
Josh Boone: We thought Brook taking your starting job would have inspired you to work harder and improve. It didn’t. Same with Sean Williams taking your back-up role for a stretch. We need to figure out what’s going to light a fire under you, if anything, because you have potential. You should be instant energy the moment you get in the game.
 
Bobby Simmons: We appreciate your professionalism and willingness to play out of position at power forward. We’re going to continue to look to upgrade the small forward spot. Come into camp in better shape because we need you to be better defensively.
 
Trenton Hassell: We appreciate your professionalism and defense. If only you could consistently knock down shots because you were open so often. Next year, if you’re here, we’ll probably use you more in a specialist capacity, as in when we need to shut down people. But, work on your jump shot so we can give you the ball more often.
 
Eduardo Najera: Eddie, is it? Nice to see you. It’s been awhile. We could have used your defense, energy and toughness. Come back healthy, and we’ll see if you can help us next season.
 
Sean Williams: We’re running out of patience and you’re running out of time. You could help us if only you keep your head in the game and on your job. We’re not sure you will. Prove us wrong, if you’re still here.
 
Maurice Ager: Thanks for being a good practice player. Do you know any Spanish or Italian? How about the U.S. to Euro conversion rate? You may want to become familiar with those things.
 
Lawrence Frank: I never tell you who to play, but I wouldn’t have gone with Yi or Hassell as long as you did. And it’s not your fault for Yi. Anyway, you did a good job with this group. But you should sit down a little more and not scream all the time for guys to “Go,” and other things. Let them play, especially when you have mostly veterans on the floor. The veterans will appreciate that and probably respond better.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

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.).

Five things that cost the Nets a playoff spot

carter_250_040909.jpgThe Nets lasted in the playoff race until April 8, which is about four months longer than everyone expected.
 
Kidding aside, the amazing thing is after their start, sitting at 19-19 after 38 games, the Nets probably should have lasted a little longer, maybe even made the playoffs.
 
First of all, the Eastern Conference, outside of the top three teams, is weak. Secondly — and every team can do this — think about all the games the Nets should have won, all the games they gave away. They should have had a better record.
 
Of course, the flip side is you look at the games maybe they shouldn’t have won that they did. Sometimes they even out, but in this case, I don’t think that’s true.
 
All that said, here are five things that cost the Nets a playoff spot:
 
1. No Homecourt Advantage
The Nets are tied for the seventh-worst home record at 17-22. They were the last team standing with a losing home mark. Of those 22 losses, eight came against teams that will finish the season with sub .500 records, including two each against the Wizards and Raptors. They lost 13 games at the Meadowlands by double-digits.
 
2. Late-Game Collapses
The Nets’ record in close games is misleading. It’s not terrible. They’re 6-4 in games decided by two points or less, 6-8 by three or less and 8-10 by four or less, but many of those defeats have come recently — six since March 1. Also, some games were close late, but the opposing team pulled away to make it look more lopsided than it was: think Portland, Cleveland twice and the Lakers — all since March 1. If the Nets executed better down the stretch, they might have more than a few more wins.
 
3. Little Forward Production
The Nets got 22 points from their starting small forward last season. Their two starting small forwards this year, Bobby Simmons and Trenton Hassell, averaged 7.8 and 4.5 respectively with the first team. Their power forwards, Yi Jianlian and Ryan Anderson, have scored 9.1 and 8.2. Yi only averaged about 6.2 after returning from a broken right pinky in February. For the most part, the offense was designed to highlight them, but they got open looks. None currently are in the top 50 in scoring — among forwards.
 
4. Too Many Nights Off
The Nets didn’t show up twice against Washington, once against Toronto, Indiana and Milwaukee — all at home. They also didn’t come to play at Oklahoma City, at the Clippers, at Minnesota and in the second half at Golden State. Only Indiana has a better record. There probably are some games we’re missing, but you get the point. Considering how well the Nets played early and how bad other teams were, we’ve come up 10-12 games they should have won on paper that they lost. Now before the season it may not have been a third of that. Regardless, the too often Nets didn’t play with a sense of urgency. They are 18-17 against teams with below .500 records when they met and 20-19 against sub .500 teams currently.
 
5. Defense rests
This team used to rely heavily upon defense. Now the Nets can’t stop anyone. (If Celtics guard Rajon Rondo played the Nets every game he would be an All-Star.) They no longer have stalwart defenders or at least guys who accept the defensive challenge and their team defense hasn’t been good. The Nets are 8-36 when allowing at least 100 points and 24-10 when holding teams under 100. The math seems pretty simple: guard every night.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

Nets come through despite struggling stars

hayes_250.jpg
MILWAUKEE – The Nets showed what it’s going to take for them to be a playoff team. Even on a night when their two best players don’t have it, the Nets have to find a way to get a win.
 
Considering the importance of the game, where it was and what Vince Carter and Devin Harris were doing to their own and the team’s shooting percentage, this had to rank as one of the most impressive victories of the season.

 They left the Bradley Center with a 99-95 win that really counted double because they moved within one-half game of Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot and to a 2-1 edge in the season series.
 
The first tiebreaker if the two teams are deadlocked at season’s end is head-to-head battles. They play for the last time on March 30 at the IZOD Center.
 
Back to this game: the Nets normally can’t survive nights when Harris has more turnovers (five) than field goals (three) or when Carter misses 75 percent of his shots.
 
But the Nets were able to withstand Carter’s 5-for-20 performance and Harris’ 3-for-14 effort that was influenced by an apparent asthma attack and come back from 10 down in the third because they defended and got the proverbial contributions from everybody.
 
The Nets’ zone defense was effective if not stalwart. They held the Bucks to 38.5 percent shooting, and Richard Jefferson was just 4-of-18 from the field.
 
Rookie Brook Lopez was a stud with 24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. But the Nets don’t win this game without the bench.
 
Ryan Anderson, who hadn’t played the prior two games, was a perfect 3-for-3 and scored 13 points off the bench in 13 minutes over the third and fourth quarters. And Keyon Dooling, playing with an arthritic hip, and Jarvis Hayes, with partially torn ligaments in his left thumb, buried huge buckets in the fourth period.
 
Dooling hit two 3-pointers early, and Hayes sunk another trey off a Carter feed with 18.5 seconds left that gave the Nets the lead for good, 93-90.
 
“Ryan came in and gave us a huge lift after not playing the last couple of games,” Hayes said. “He came in with sense of urgency and he kind of picked up everybody else. We fed off his energy in the second half.”
 
Coach Lawrence Frank called each of the three bench guys a “game changer,” which they were.
 
If the Nets lost this game, they would have been in 10th place, 2 in back of Milwaukee and been behind in the season series with games upcoming against the Celtics Wednesday night and in Orlando on Friday. So this was as close to a must-win in March as there is.
 
“We’re all jockeying for that same position,” Dooling said. “That makes it more gratifying.”
 
“It’s big for a lot of reasons — just the time of the season when we need wins, when we could have easily folded,” Carter said. “I’m glad to see guys come together and play well.”
 
It’s not always going to be like this. As long as Harris is healthy, and this isn’t a recurring thing — he has exercise-induced asthma and said he never had it as bad as last night — the Nets’ stars aren’t going to shoot like this on most nights. But it’s important that their teammates picked them up.
 
The bench guys came in and were game changers. They may wind up being season changers.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)