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Rogers getting back into form

Posted: Saturday May 31, 2003 5:58 PM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- When the New Jersey Nets signed Rodney Rogers as a free agent in the offseason, it seemed like another great move by general manager Rod Thorn.

A year after getting Jason Kidd and seeing the Nets go to the NBA Finals for the first time, Thorn added one of the best sixth men in the game to help New Jersey get back to the championship.

The Nets have gotten back to the finals against the San Antonio Spurs, but Rogers wasn't a big help for most of the season. The power forward with a nice touch from 3-point range didn't pick up the offense until late in the season.

All the motion, the sets and options the Nets have in their playbook took Rogers out of his game. And the more he struggled, the more his shots clanged off the rim.

"I'm usually a fast learner," Rogers said Saturday before the Nets practiced for the series opener on Wednesday night in San Antonio. "It should have not taken that long. But we have so much stuff off where the ball goes, a lot of times you don't even have to call a play."

Nets point guard Jason Kidd wasn't surprised, saying even someone who has been in the NBA since 1993, like Rogers, can be confused by the complexity of a Princeton offense.

Sets are called on offense and what the players do is react to the defenders. If a defender overplays, the option might be a back door cut.

"There are a lot of times you go to a new team and the offense is the traditional NBA offense, pick and rolls and that stuff," Kidd said. "Ours is you have a 100 different things off one set.

"It keeps you always thinking," Kidd added. "Maybe he wasn't as aggressive with what we wanted him to do, but I think he is fitting it. I always knew it was a matter of time."

The winner of the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 1999-2000, Rogers average 11.9 points for the Boston Celtics last season. His average slipped to 7.0 points in 68 games with the Nets this season. He missed almost a month and January and February with a calf strain, which also hurt his conditioning.

When he returned and continued to struggled, Rogers heard a lot of boos.

"I knew the plays, but I would get it twisted up and not do the right things," said the former Wake Forest product, the school that also produced the Spurs' Tim Duncan. "You have to learn it to be a piece for the puzzle. Now is the time for no mistakes."

Rogers has averaged 7.6 points in the postseason, but the impressive statistic in the last two rounds has been his 3-point shooting. He shot only 33 percent during the regular season, but he was a combined 10-for-20 in the sweeps against Boston and Detroit in the Eastern Conference semifinals and finals, respectively.

"The playoffs, that's what they brought me here for," Rogers said. "This is the closest I have ever been so, you have to take advantage of it."

Nets coach Byron Scott hopes Rogers can be an "X-factor" against the Spurs, someone who plays better than anyone expected.

"We also said it about Kerry (Kittles), when he has good games, we're tough to beat," Scott said. "It's the same thing with Rodney. If he plays well for us, he gives us that other scorer that we need."

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