Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Once again back is the incredible ... Ball Don't Lie's NBA previews, outlining offseason moves, projecting win totals, spinning tracks and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. Today, the New Jersey Nets.

2008-09 Record: 34-38 48, third place in Atlantic Division
Head Coach/Facial Hair: Lawrence Frank/None
Key Additions: Courtney Lee(notes), Rafer Alston(notes), Terrence Williams(notes), a Russian billionaire
Key Losses: Vince Carter(notes), Ryan Anderson(notes)

After staving it off and putting it off for years, the New Jersey Nets are finally rebuilding.

And, yes, we wrote that last year.

Still, with Vince Carter gone, this is finally a complete and total rebuilding project. And even though we did write about that 12 months ago, the Nets nearly doubled my win projection, they took in a Rookie of the Year-level season from center (center!) Brook Lopez(notes), Devin Harris(notes) turned into an All-Star and Carter was turned into a mess of expiring deals (trade bait) and solid backcourt man Courtney Lee.

So why all the sour faces?

Not sure. Maybe it had to do with the C-Lee-for-VC deal, one that saw Lee moping a bit as he went from a championship contender in Orlando to a rebuilding project without a proper home in New Jersey. Maybe it has to do with Bruce Ratner's failed attempt to get the team to play in David Wain's backyard. Maybe it has to do with rebuilding, in general; nobody likes it, and after years of actually being at or near the NBA's elite, it kind of stinks for the Nets to head back to the place they know so well.

For whatever reason, I'm not as dour. Mikhail Prokhorov is about to take over, and is always the case with meddling young billionaires, there's a chance he screws everything up. There's also a chance all that money works. The lows can be really low in this situation, but the payoff could also be huge. Let's go half-full with this one.

Lopez is a center, and I can't stress enough how fantastic that is for Nets fans. You won't have to hear, "now, if they can only pair him with a solid big man down low ..." with Lopez. He is that big man, and those are few and far between. Sure, New Jersey's forward corps just might be the worst in the NBA, but you can find forwards. Especially with all that cap space (likely over $30 million, once a few players' options are passed on) coming in next summer.

Harris can play, when he stays healthy, and there's little reason to think he won't stay healthy. Lee, I'm not so ga-ga over. Lee's already 24, so there isn't huge upside offensively (he can catch and shoot, and finish, little else), but he is a fine defender. Terrence Williams is a four-year guy, which worries me, but there is potential there despite his age. Yi Jianlian(notes)? I'll go another month without completely writing him off. We'll see where he's at come January.

I can't stress enough, though, that this doesn't matter. This present era, this roster as currently constructed, is already ancient history. It's something to look back on, with noses plugged, a few years from now when the team has spent its cash and built itself back up. It should be, at least.

It's something to warm yourself on. Until then ...

Prediction: 24-58

Kelly Dwyer

Will the Nets improve enough to attract a quality free agent?

There is so much news swirling around the Nets, but, basically, the team needs to make a splash in the summer of 2010 or, who knows, become the Kansas City Nets before too long. In that respect, they resemble the fate of their metro neighbors, the Knicks. But New York has steady management in place and isn't in any danger of having to relocate. But how are the Nets going to make anyone want to come there unless they can show dramatic improvement on and off the court?

— Peter May, Yahoo! Sports 2009-10 NBA Preview magazine

Maxell's "Blown Away Guy"

Slippery When Nets: "The Nets need to use this season to clearly see what their assets are truly worth. Clearly, Bobby Simmons(notes), Rafer Alston, Tony Battie(notes), Eduardo Najera(notes) and Trenton Hassell(notes) will not be back next year. What can Terrence Williams achieve in the league? Is Courtney Lee the starting shooting guard for the team's future? Is Yi Jianlian or Chris Douglas-Roberts(notes) worthy of a roster spot? Are Josh Boone(notes) and Sean Williams(notes) just busts, or major busts? Is there room enough to keep valuable veterans like Keyon Dooling(notes) and Jarvis Hayes(notes) around?" [more]

Barkley's Mouth: "Lawrence Frank will keep the team as competitve as possible, but despite his desire and will, that may not translate to a team filled with the extremes of young and old players in regards to chemistry. Plus, it doesn't help that the Nets are in such transition this season with the purge to clear cap space and a potential sale of the team and move out of state to Brooklyn, N.Y. It might be a season where everyone is looking to get his. The likeable Frank could be gone during or after the season because of the chaos." [more]

NBA Noise: "The young Nets players will have a great opportunity to get their shine on. Lee will be coming off his NBA Finals high and can hopefully translate some of his big-game experience into productivity for the Nets. After a solid rookie season, Brook Lopez is looking like a center that a team can build around and will be a key player for this Nets team. [...] And the progression of Yi Jianlian will be an interesting storyline for the Nets, as he has shown great flashes of potential ..." [more]

Velvet Underground, "I'm Waiting For The Man"

The Nets are heading to New York, and they've got their money. But they have to wait. For at least a year, they'll be waiting. Maybe he'll come, maybe he won't, but that's just another time.

(Note: Brook Lopez thinks this song is about pizza.)

— Trey Kerby, The Blowtorch

Vince Carter's departure signals the dawn of a new era for Nets' basketball, with Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian, Terrence Williams and Chris Douglas-Roberts forming the young nucleus. This is a team high on fantasy potential but clearly does not lack question marks.

Can Harris shed the inconsistency and injuries that plagued him in his first year as a full-time starter? He'll have to if he's to warrant a second-round pick. Lopez was superb as a rookie and is now due for a healthy spike in usage - the gamble in the early third is that there isn't a drop-off from the high level of efficiency he maintained as a rookie. Is Yi Jianlian (finally) ready to become a player that can be counted on night-in and night-out? At least it only takes a (very) late pick to speculate.

— Matt Buser, Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Basketball / BuserSports.com

Sign up now for Fantasy Basketball '09.

MCA: 35 wins or not, I'll be rockin' this party eight days a week. #Nets #Brooklyn
8:22 PM October 4, 2009 from web

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