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Observation Deck

How to fix the Nets, All-Star roster thoughts and more

Posted: Tuesday January 30, 2007 2:49PM; Updated: Wednesday January 31, 2007 12:52AM
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The Nets would be wise to explore dealing Vince Carter (front) for Andrei Kirilenko.
The Nets would be wise to explore dealing Vince Carter (front) for Andrei Kirilenko.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Nets won a thriller on Monday night, a fitfully* entertaining matchup against the Jazz in Utah, on Vince Carter's 35-foot three-pointer at the buzzer. The win tied New Jersey with Toronto for the Atlantic lead* and should go a long way toward giving this veteran crew a sense of purpose as it tries to pull out a playoff appearance.

*Fitfully?

(Yeah, it was an odd watch. A strange night out. A typical Nets game. More on that later.)

*Tied for the Atlantic lead?

(Rod Thorn -- this can NOT be what you're after, mate.)

First asterisk first: The Nets are a frustrating bunch, and that's without even delving into the domestic side of things. This team has long seemed to boast a sense of entitlement that its collective accomplishments (one conference semifinal showing in the Carter era) couldn't possibly justify. New Jersey sleepwalks through parts of the season as if Shaquille O'Neal were sitting on its bench in a cream-colored suit, and though we aren't questioning the Nets' work habits, the team's focus over the last three seasons has seemed a bit off.

Which is why, with three weeks left until the Feb. 22 trade deadline, GM Thorn should be inclined to blow things up.

(I know, I know -- not more of this NBA trade-suggestions twaddle that dominates the Internet. We rarely venture down this path, so please allow us one notes column's worth of trade suggestions.)

The Nets are well over the salary cap. The team is due to pay Jason Kidd an average of $20 million per year until he's 36 (2008-09), and is left to play a guessing game regarding Carter's future. The best guess with Vince? He'll opt out of his contract this summer, find the open market (or any sign-and-trade possibilities) a little lacking, and decide to re-up with the Nets for around what Kidd is making. Throw in Richard Jefferson (making eight figures for at least the next three seasons beyond this one) and a potential extension for Nenad Krstic, and you have all the makings for a cap disaster.

That is, of course, assuming you don't already consider this 22-23 crew a cap disaster. Really, what's the best-case scenario for this year? Circle the wagons until Jefferson returns from ankle surgery, and roar into the playoffs with 42 wins? In the East? Take a summer off, and try it all over again? There's no reason for this sort of malaise -- so let's break it up right now.

Start by sending Carter to Utah for Andrei Kirilenko and Rafael Araujo's expiring deal. Carter has taken this team as far as it is going to go, and if this is VC in a contract year, then we what he comes through next summer. Utah has denied any interest in Carter, but the Jazz are just about out of options with Kirilenko, who clearly (and strangely) can't find a role in a frontcourt featuring Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. Renting Carter for a spring could net them a conference finals appearance, and even Vince would have a hard time turning down serious cash to stay with a team that's this good and this young.

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