NBA@2: The New Jersey Nets’ Next Move?
Unless something changes between now and the March 15th NBA trade deadline, Dwight Howard will still be a member of the Orlando Magic for the remainder of the season.
There was already talk that Orlando’s best trade partner for any deal involving Howard – the New Jersey Nets – would wait out the season and try to sign Howard as a free agent rather than give up assets like Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks to acquire him mid-season. Sources have come out of the woodwork to tell anyone who will listen that Howard has all but committed the rest of his life to Deron Williams and the New Jersey rebuilding process.
Of course, there are sources available for every possible outcome involving Howard, from staying in Orlando long-term to demanding a trade before next week’s deadline and everything in between.
Rumors and sources aside, there is one simple truth to be faced today. Brook Lopez’s ankle injury, which could keep him out for the rest of the season, means he’s most likely not being traded to Orlando, which also means Dwight Howard most likely stays put at least through the end of 2011-12.
“I know the speculation is, ‘What do we do now?’” Nets GM Billy King said before the Nets’ loss to Miami on Tuesday night. “But we’ve got a good young center (in Lopez); we’ve got a great point guard (Deron Williams). There’s other things I’ll look to do. … We have flexibility cap-wise, but at the end of the day, I want a healthy Brook Lopez and (don’t want to) worry about making trades at this point in regards of moving Brook Lopez. It’s about trying to add to this team.”
At the end of the day, the Nets may be best served by letting Lopez sit out the rest of the season and thereby improving their lottery position. As things stand they are in a tie with the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors for the third-worst record in the NBA, and with Lopez out for an extended period of time it’s likely they will take sole ownership of that spot before the end of the season. The Kings look better by the day under new head coach Keith Smart and the Raptors are anticipating the return of Andrea Bargnani – the team is 6-7 on the season with Bargnani in the lineup. So it appears the Nets will have a great many pingpong balls in the NBA draft lottery, and Jared Sullinger, Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson are all interesting potential front court partners for Lopez.
Additionally, the Nets have expiring contracts in Mehmet Okur, DeShawn Stevenson, Kris Humphries, Sundiata Gaines, Shelden Williams and Damion James, meaning they will have a ton of cap space come July. Deron Williams is certain to opt out of his current deal, and before attempting to re-sign their prized point guard the Nets will have right around $17 million in committed salary.
If Williams stays, the Nets are set in the backcourt, as Anthony Morrow is still under contract and a relative bargain at $4 million and MarShon Brooks is on his rookie deal. It seems unlikely that Jordan Farmar would opt out of the last year of his deal, so the point guard slot is full, as well. The Nets could draft their next starting power forward, perhaps keeping Kris Humphries to ease that player’s transition to the NBA. He may have his issues with the reality TV rabble, but Humphries has been great for the Nets both on and off the court.
In the above scenario the Nets are set at three positions and have only spent any real money on Williams – again, assuming he stays.
So who are the big-money additions, assuming Dwight Howard doesn’t land in New Jersey? Chris Kaman is no D12, but statistically he’s the ninth-best center in the NBA when he starts. Philadelphia’s Spencer Hawes could also be available. Given Lopez’s injury history, the Nets need to add a center, and they will have the money to add one who can start if and when Lopez is hurt, and at a fraction of the cost of Howard.
Next up, how about Gerald Wallace at small forward? He may be a bit past his prime, but he’s still an explosive X-factor type of player who works as hard as any player in the NBA. Matt Barnes will also be available, and would be a valuable back-up with a great deal of playoff experience.
The next two months are going to be rough for Nets fans. There’s no question about that. They are going to lose . . .a lot. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s the kind of light that could put them right back in the playoffs next season.
Up Close: Amar’e Stoudemire
New York Knicks All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire talks about Jeremy Lin’s impact on the team, maximizing the Mike D’Antoni system, what the Knicks have to do to contend and more in this HOOPSWORLD exclusive!
McGrady Out In Atlanta?
You could have seen this one coming from a mile away. In fact, it was a little surprising when the Atlanta Hawks signed Tracy McGrady After all, he was right in the middle of a player revolt in Detroit last season and he is well beyond his prime. Now, with 38 games in the books, there are rumblings that McGrady has already worn out his welcome in Atlanta; in fact, HOOPSWORLD’s Lang Greene says he wouldn’t be surprised if the Hawks waived McGrady. Atlanta already has another similar player on the roster, one who is much more of a leader in the locker room and who is all about the Hawks.
“I’ve started to get a little time, and I think since it’s second half of the season may see me kind of get in the rotation and do some things,” Jerry Stackhouse tells HOOPSWORLD. “Right now it’s just a group bitten by the injury bug. Obviously, Al (Horford) going down is tough and Joe (Johnson) is a little banged up now, but we’ve got a pretty good group. We gave ourselves enough of a cushion in the beginning to be a part of the top eight in the East and with the guys who were saying if we put the veterans on the team this year that we feel that if you get us in a series, you never know what can happen.”
One player Stackhouse has made a point of reaching out to is Josh Smith, who seemed to be on his way out of Atlanta at the end of last season. Instead, Smith is flourishing and is even one of the team’s leaders this season.
“I think he’s still growing in areas,” says Stackhouse. “He has so much talent, and that’s what you can’t give up on with Josh. It’d be easy to say ‘alright, let’s just move him,’ and then he goes and it clicks in at the next stop and you’ve got to look at that every night when you had it in house. That’s kind of the dilemma with Josh. You know you’re going to get some uneasy moments from time to time, but for the most part he’s really about it man. He wants to win, he’s competitive and I really relate to him and sometimes it’s just handling it. How he handles his emotions and his frustrations sometimes, it can rub people the wrong way and bruise them. He’s happy-go-lucky. He thinks it’s just the heat of the moment and we can just move on from it, but you can bruise people and I think he’s learning that. He’s learned to kind of control his emotions a little better and it’s good for our team. The better Josh Smith is, the better the Atlanta Hawks are.”
Even as Stackhouse enjoys his role as a player with the Hawks, he understands that those days are numbered. He’s already starting to get a feel for what life after the NBA might be like.
“It’s almost like Larry (Drew) gives me a lot of room to be able to still almost be an assistant coach with this group; kind of show them and bring some things defensively that I learned from different coaches. I kind of have a voice not only as a player, but somewhat in a coach’s role. I think it’s a great transition for me. I’m getting a chance to see guys otherwise that I wouldn’t see, just being in the studio talking about them on NBATV or whatever outlet that is. I’m actually getting a chance to see this next generation of guys on the floor, see what they can do, so I think it’s just going to help that transition whether it’s broadcasting or possibly coaching, or GM something. There are some opportunities there, so we’ll see where it takes me.”
Jerry Stackhouse has long been one of the NBA’s class acts, and no matter where his road leads he is bound to find success. For now, he looks like the player most likely to replace Tracy McGrady should the team choose to go in a different direction.
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