End of the line (cont.)
Posted: Monday May 21, 2007 11:55AM; Updated: Monday May 21, 2007 6:07PM
He was nothing but a frustration down the stretch of close games all season, and this was in a contract year, when you'd assume he'd try to pass on the fadeaway jumper routine for at least a few months. It should be noted that even with Carter's big contract, letting him go for nothing wouldn't do much for New Jersey's overall salary structure. The team would only be a few million under the salary cap, assuming they don't re-sign any other free agents, and general manager Rod Thorn would still have to deal with the stigma of letting a big name get away with no return.
But Carter has to go. Work a sign-and-trade deal. Let some other near-contender think that Carter could be the difference to its championship hopes. He might be, because the best basketball of his career came in the final four months of the 2004-05 season, when he was ticked off about the supposed mistreatment at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, who dealt him two months into that campaign.
But the renaissance won't happen in New Jersey. Let him go or trade him. Let him have a career year for another team and watch as he falls back to earth in 2008-09, making $20 million a year at age 32.
From there, decisions get even tougher. Kidd's been brilliant and shows no signs of letting up, but he has to hit the other side of that hill at some point. Ideally, you'd like to trade him now, while he's near his peak, and not so much because he is owed $41 million over the next two years. But can the Nets justify a trade involving a talent like this? The cold talent hound says you can. Thorn, the guy who wants to leave his house every morning without having garbage thrown at him by Nets fans, likely says no.
Jefferson might be an even tougher deal, mainly because it's hard to see another team wanting to take on a player making All-Star money ($12.2 million next season) who doesn't exactly boast All-Star upside. Jefferson is a diligent worker, a heady player who is a nice fit alongside Kidd, so you'd have to figure that holding onto Kidd would keep the Nets from a complete blowup, and instead would mean retaining Jefferson and working around the fringes from there.
Again, the idea of blowing up (or, at least, taking a chunk out of) a team with conference finals aspirations seems abhorrent on the surface. But Nets fans, ask yourselves this: Are you really cool with 40-some wins every year? Or is it time to start swinging for the fences instead of the second round of the playoffs? The team's fortunes begin and end with Kidd, but the future begins and ends with Carter. He can either be a cap-clogging millstone for years or his absence could lead to the sort of flexibility (or parts acquired in a sign-and-trade) that could put this franchise back in the Finals.