Amidst swirling Jason Kidd-related trade rumors, Rod Thorn says the Nets aren't planning any major roster moves any time soon. And that's the way it should be.
With the Nets sitting at 9-13, trade winds have been raging around the boys in the Swamp for a solid couple of weeks now. One day, Kidd is on his way to help Kobe back to Laker glory. The next, he is to be teaming up with Josh Howard and Dirk Nowitzki to unseat the Spurs. Or maybe Vince Carter is suddenly on his way out. All because it is supposedly time the Nets tore down their existing team structure and started over.
This seems particularly odd, given the Nets' history as a slow-starting team and the fact that when push comes to shove, they are still one of the more talented teams in a wide-open Eastern Conference.
Built around the still-holding-up knees of Jason Kidd and the often-loafing Vince Carter, the Nets are the type of team that is bound to start slow. They started 9-13 last season as well and went to 11-18 from there long before they finished the season on a 13-6 run to clinch a playoff spot and upset the Raptors in the first round. The season prior, the Nets started 9-12 before sprinting off to a 49-win season. This is a team that has established a legacy throughout Lawrence Frank's tenure of starting slow and kicking it into gear as the season rolls along. Panicking with this team less than 30 games into the season probably isn't the way to go in the first place.
Further, the Nets certainly seem to have made it clear that they are invested in their two big scorers going forward. Vince Carter will be making close to $80 million over the next five seasons, and Richard Jefferson is due to receive nearly $55 million over the next four years. Both have considerable physical talents, but as those who follow this team are all too happy to observe, Jason Kidd is undoubtedly the glue that holds this team together. He makes every player on the court look more valuable by making every one of them better. Kidd regulates the ball distribution between VC and RJ. Kidd runs the fast break to perfection. Kidd usually starts the fast breaks in the first place, since he leads the team in rebounding. He is the heart, soul and face of this basketball team in New Jersey. This team is built around Kidd, and with two years left on his contract, the Nets might as well take at least one more shot with their three stars, if not a another next year.
Whether one likes Carter or not (yours truly has long been in the latter camp in general), with those fellows in tow, the Nets certainly have three legitimate stars in their lineup. Prior to Carter's arrival, they managed trips to the Finals in 2002 and 2003 with the still-unproductive Jason Collins at center, and Kidd's visionary passing skills have managed to make unheralded players better in virtually every season during his tenure in Jersey. Last year, Mikki Moore and Bostjan Nachbar were the two biggest beneficiaries of that asset. This time around, Nachbar, Antoine Wright and Josh Boone could all qualify. Nenad Krstic is still getting back to full strength, and the enigmatic Sean Williams only continues to get better -- and become more of a beast defensively -- every time he takes the floor.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference remains in a state of flux. While improvements were made top to bottom this summer, the increased competitiveness of the conference, as well as a variety of injuries and some struggles for other supposedly premier teams, has placed a chilling effect on the records of many of the teams in the conference. Only five teams are playing above .500, and only three of those teams -- Boston, Orlando and Detroit -- have really separated themselves from the pack. The Nets have already seen Carter miss five games and only sit four games under .500, meaning that one quick run (a staple of theirs under Frank) will have them right back in the thick of the playoff picture. Playing with three playoff veterans who are familiar with each other as well as with several youngsters desperate to prove themselves, these Nets have the firepower to make anything happen in the spring.
Certainly, they aren't to be a favorite or even a frontrunner in the East. But the New Jersey Nets have what it takes to hang with anyone over any given few days in the Eastern Conference, and they might as well take their best shot while they have it. Props to Rod Thorn for appearing to already seeing this light.