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Rough Road Continues For One Swamp Man

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A Daily Babble Production

As late as the end of the 2006 calendar year, it looked as though the New Jersey Nets were finding themselves a power forward who would be a key building block for the future.

It also looked as though a young Serbian import was going to be set to earn himself a sizable chunk of change in the summer of 2008.

Less than a year and a half later, Nenad Krstic looks just as likely to be on the verge of serving as another cautionary tale of the horrors of long-term injuries and losses of confidence.  And that's too bad.

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These days, Krstic has garnered a reputation for being injury-prone and a soft player.  The former, of course, virtually all stems from the torn left ACL Krstic suffered in December of 2006.  It cost him the final 56 games of the 2006-07 campaign and several more to rehab this year.  The soft label may partially be from the fact that Krstic wasn't the world's toughest player prior to the injury, but it's hard to imagine that it hasn't had anything to do with his ineffectiveness since his return and his comments made last November about feeling lost and confused on the court.

What's too bad about all this is the rapid progress Krstic had made over two seasons and change prior to the injury.  No, he was never the world's staunchest defender, and he wasn't as big a deal bruiser and rebounder as he should have been at 7 feet tall and 240 pounds.  But he came over in 2004 as a relatively unknown commodity, a project for Lawrence Frank et al. to work with over time.

Krstic rapidly became more and more involved as a part of the Nets' plans going forward.  His minutes went from 26.2 to 30.9 to 32.6 per game in his first three seasons.  Over that time, his per-minute rebounding production stayed constant, as he averaged a shade over 7.5 boards (again, a bit low) per 40 minutes.

But the truly impressive part of the youngster's game was the improvement in his ability to score the basketball.  Over his first three seasons, Krstic's confidence and arsenal seemed to grow parallel to each other on the low block.  He began to put together some sweet moves and a soft touch around the rim, and he also showed the ability to can the mid-range jumper from time to time as well.  Krstic grew more efficacious every year, putting up field-goal percentages of 49.3, 50.7 and 52.6 (good for true shooting percnetages of 54.7, 54.1 and 56.6) over his first three seasons.  In that time, Krstic's scoring average rose from 10.0 to 13.5 to 16.4 points per game, and his per-minute production grew similarly.  On a team that then had two big scorers and one of the league's premier play-makers, Krstic began to provide the long sought-after fourth offensive option.

Yet in one fell swoop, it was all effectively taken away.  His 2006-07 season was wiped out despite such a promising start.  Meanwhile, upon his return this season, he shot just 41 percent from the field, committed a lot of fouls, didn't get accused of guarding anybody and then told the media that he felt lost on the floor and that maybe he needed to be shut down.

All of that recent history makes it fairly evident as to why folks aren't jumping head over heels for this guy.  What's too bad is that he is only 24 years old and is barely 18 months removed from showing big-time scoring potential at the four spot, yet he has lost so much appeal.

What's also quite good is that  Nenad Krstic is only 24 years old.  Which means that he has plenty of time to get his game back from the injury that took it away from him.

Net or otherwise, here's hoping he finds what he's looking for.  It would be a shame to see the talent go to waste.