It’s incredibly easy to point out the flaws of the New Jersey Nets this season. Anyone with common sense (or a link to the league standings page) can tell you that they’re a bad team. The question though, is what do they need the most?
Start with the coach. Kike Vandeweghe is a terrible one. Granted it takes time for a new coach to find the right balance between hard-ass and best buddy with his players, but his leniency with the team is nauseating. There is a reason Del Harris, a former coach of the year, was brought in to be Kike’s “top assistant”. It’s to make Vandeweghe look less dreadful in his trial run as head man. The last thing the Nets need right now is a complaisant head coach. It’s never a good sign when assistant coaches Barrise, Loyer and Harris are taking technical fouls instead of Kike to protect the players. So, I see it one of two ways; speak up or move out of the way. Right now, he is only hurting the development of the young guys; Brook and T-Will especially. This young team right now has no direction, and before you have a floor general, you need one on the sideline. Vandeweghe doesn’t seem to be that guy.
If that incredibly important need is filled anytime soon, the next thing to be addressed needs to be a team captain. That role right now belongs to Devin Harris, by default. Basically that means Harris is the best player on the team, so he assumes that role. They run their pick and roll offense through him, so the game tempo is managed by his ability to create off the dribble and get to the hoop. But since his lone All-Star appearance just a year ago, Harris has noticeably regressed. Nagging injuries have contributed to his lackluster season so far, but it seems like that one All-Star appearance only did harm to his game and ego. His previous untouchable status with the team no longer exists. The upside here is Harris still has a ton of talent and he’s only 26 years old. Still, a trade might be the best thing for him and the Nets. The prospect of drafting John Wall to replace Harris is still a long shot, but you have to start somewhere. Trading Harris along with one of the team’s valuable expiring contracts could land a player with equal value. If that opportunity arises, Rod Thorn shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
The next step is simple; cut the crap…literally. Tony Battie, Josh Boone, Keyon Dooling, Trenton Hassell, Bobby Simmons and Jarvis Hayes are all candidates to be traded at this year’s trade deadline. Even if they aren’t gone by Feb. 18, they surely won’t be on the roster for the start of next season. You already saw Rafer Alston and Eduardo Najera leave within the last two weeks. That could be the fate for Battie and Dooling as well. It’s simply a bad fit for these NBA veterans. They are attractive trade pieces because Battie has an expiring contract and they can both help a team lacking depth. Thorn can do these guys a favor by trading them to a championship contender in need of a strong bench player and getting young talent in return. Boone, Hassell, Simmons and Hayes all simply don’t fit into the long term plans of the Nets. Of the team’s $61,000,000 payroll this season, these four players account for almost 1/3 of it. That’s a ridiculous amount of money for four guys that play sparingly and contribute almost nothing.
This is a feasible plan for the fall at the latest. It would behoove the Nets greatly to bring in a veteran presence and an assertive head coach to help develop the Nets’ core of young players. A high profile free agent would be nice this summer, but right now the harsh truth is no one wants to play for the Nets. Morale and team chemistry are two things that need to be mended before they start handing out any max. contracts. Slowly but surely (did I mention hopefully?) the Nets will rise from this seemingly endless despair.
I think it was Gandhi who said, “To lose patience is to lose the battle.”
Although to be fair, Gandhi was never a Nets fan.