Friday , Oct , 21 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

New Jersey Nets 2005-06 Season Preview

=== New Jersey Nets 2005-06 Season Preview ===

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

2004-05 FINISH: 42-40

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Marc Jackson (C) – Trade with New Jersey; Linton Johnson
(F) – Free Agent; Jeff McInnis (G) – Free Agent; Lamond Murray (F) – Free
Agent; Scott Padgett (F) – Free Agent.

OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Ron Mercer (G) – Waived; Brian Scalabrine (F) – Signed
with Boston.

2005 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (15) Antoine Wright (G, Texas A&M); 2. (43) Mile Ilic
(C, Serbia-Montenegro).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Jason Kidd, SG Vince Carter, SF Richard
Jefferson, PF Cliff Robinson, C Nenad Krstic

COACH: Lawrence Frank

(Sports Network) – New Jersey Nets head coach Lawrence Frank has to be excited
about starting a new season with a Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Jason
Kidd all on his club’s roster.

The Nets won 42 games during the 2004-05 regular season and were eliminated by
Miami in four straight games in the first round of the playoffs. They missed
having Kenyon Martin, who was dealt to Denver during the 2004 offseason in a
sign-and-trade deal, at the big forward spot. New Jersey still had a solid duo
in Jefferson and Kidd, but something was missing.

Carter was acquired from Toronto last December and he fit in very well with
Kidd and the rest of his new teammates. The 28-year-old Carter averaged 27.5
points in 57 games with the Nets, while Kidd registered 14.4 points, 7.4
rebounds and 8.3 assists in 66 games. The acquisition of Carter saved the
Nets’ season and propelled them into the playoffs

Jefferson was having an All-Star type year last season until he suffered a
wrist injury that cause him to miss the team’s final 49 games of the regular
season. Jefferson averaged 22.2 points and 7.3 boards in the 33 contests that
he did play in.

Center Nenad Krstic had a strong finish to the 2004-05 campaign, and should be
a solid contributor in the 2005-06 campaign. He posted 10.0 points and 5.3
boards in 75 contests. Krstic was a pleasant surprise and proved that he has a
future in the league.

With their first round pick in the draft, the Nets selected shooting guard
Antoine Wright at No. 15. Wright was an interesting choice by New Jersey,
which still lacks a low-post threat.

New Jersey’s offseason had some strange twists, which could explain why it
selected the athletic Wright with its first pick in the draft. The Nets called
off a trade to acquire forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim from the Portland Trail
Blazers. Team president Rod Thorn cited concerns about Abdur-Rahim’s physical
exam as the reason for canceling the trade, which would have sent the nine-
year veteran to New Jersey in a sign-and-trade deal.

Abdur-Rahim, who ended up signing a multi-year contract with Sacramento, had
reportedly reached an agreement with the Nets on a six-year contract worth
close to $38 million. The Nets were said to be concerned about scar tissue in
Abdur-Rahim’s right knee.

“We were anticipating adding Shareef to our roster,” said Thorn. “However,
during the course of his normal physical examination, some questions arose
that gave us cause for concern. After consulting with several noted
specialists, we feel that rescinding the trade is our best course of action.
We will now look in other directions for ways to improve our team for the
upcoming season.”

The Nets were interested in free agent forward Robert Traylor, who averaged
5.5 points and a career-best 4.5 rebounds in 74 games last year with the
Cleveland Cavaliers. However, Traylor failed his physical and was not signed
to a contract.

Center Marc Jackson was acquired in a trade from Philadelphia, while guard
Jeff McInnis and forwards Lamond Murray and Scott Padgett were added through
free agency. The Nets also re-signed veteran Cliff Robinson.

BACKCOURT

Kidd is not getting any younger and various injuries are starting to hamper
him, but he is still one of the top point guards in the league and is the
catalyst for the Nets. The 32-year-old Kidd will have McInnis as his primary
backup.

McInnis, who will be playing for his sixth NBA team, spent the last one-plus
seasons with Cleveland. He averaged 12.8 points and 5.1 assists in 76 contests
for the Cavaliers in 2004-05. The 31-year-old McInnis will also play alongside
Kidd and should be a positive asset for the Nets’ backcourt.

If Carter can continue his impressive performance in the 2005-06 campaign the
Nets backcourt will be in great shape. A change of scenery was just what the
doctor ordered for Carter, who had worn out his welcome in Toronto. Carter is
rejuvenated and is ready for another spectacular season.

Jacque Vaughn and Wright will also compete for time in the backcourt, but
Carter, Kidd and McInnis will be the main focus of a three-guard rotation.

FRONTCOURT

Jefferson and Krstic will make up two-third of the starting frontcourt. Jason
Collins, Jackson and Robinson will compete for the other spot. Jefferson
should have a stellar season. Carter and Kidd will draw the majority of the
double-teams, which will free up the athletic Jefferson and allow him to use
his quickness and speed to help him get to the hoop. Only an injury will keep
the 25-year-old Jefferson off this season’s Eastern Conference All-Star
squad.

Krstic developed a lot quicker than the Nets had expected. He has decent range
from the outside and is not afraid to get physical down low. The second-year
pro will be used at center and power forward.

Jackson and Collins, who averaged 6.4 points and 6.1 boards for the Nets last
season, can both play center or power forward. Neither is an offensive
machine, but they can score near the basket and can bang with the NBA’s other
big bodies in the post.

The 38-year-old Robinson can still knock down the outside jumper. He will get
his minutes at the two forward spots. Robinson, who has career-averages of
15.1 points and 4.7 rebounds, will be playing in his 17th season in the
league.

OUTLOOK

A healthy season with Carter, Kidd and Jefferson on the roster makes the Nets
the favorite to win the Atlantic Division. It would not be a surprise to see
all three in this year’s All-Star Game.

Frank is the right coach for this team, and with the roster that he has been
handed to work with he will guide New Jersey to 50 wins and a division title.
If the Nets are able to add a dominant inside force, they would be ready to go
head-to-head with the monsters of the East. But for now, they are still a big
notch below Detroit and Miami.

NJN