Despite playing only 57 games for New Jersey in 2004-05, Vince Carter set the Nets' single-season record by scoring 30 or more points 24 times.
Record: 42-40 (T8 in East) Points scored: 91.4 (29th in NBA) Points allowed: 92.9 (6th) Coach: Lawrence Frank (third season with the Nets)
To keep up on the boards, they need their center to grow up fast
What a difference a year makes. Last season the Nets' training camp operated under a black cloud. Injured point guard Jason Kidd was unhappy, and center Alonzo Mourning erected a soapbox for his tirades against owner Bruce Ratner.
This year the Nets are beaming. Mourning is in Miami, Kidd's left knee is sound, and coach Lawrence Frank has a full training camp to integrate swingmen Richard Jefferson, who missed 49 games with a ruptured ligament in his left wrist, and Vince Carter, who was acquired from the Raptors last December. Says Frank, "Guys have a much better feeling about the direction the franchise is going in."
A key to that direction is 7-foot center Nenad Krstic, who averaged 11.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in 57 starts as a rookie. Krstic's steady play spurred New Jersey's postseason push; the Nets were 29-12 when he scored in double figures. "I thought if he could give us three or four minutes a night, it would be a plus," Frank says. "He exceeded every one of our expectations."
Krstic must improve his defense and board work if the Nets hope to return to the form that made them Eastern champs in 2001-02 and '02-03. After failing to acquire forwards Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Robert Traylor during the off-season, New Jersey is paper-thin up front in a conference loaded with talented big men. "I don't want to say any one player is more important than another," says Frank. "But Nenad's play is going to be a very big part of this team's success."
And how did Krstic view the Nets' attempts to shore up their frontcourt? "I was in Serbia all summer," he says. "I don't really watch anything that goes on over here."-- Chris Mannix