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At one end of the bench last season sat the team's part owner Jay-Z; at the other sat players so anonymous that they might as well have been lost members of Wu-Tang Clan. Nor, for a supporting cast, did the Nets' reserves provide much in the way of support, averaging a combined 20.4 points last year, fourth worst in the league.
So, gone are journeymen Jacque Vaughn, Scott Padgett and Lamond Murray. In their stead are three rookies: point guard Marcus Williams and power forward Josh Boone from UConn, and Arizona swingman Hassan Adams--along with free-agent signee Eddie House, a 28-year-old former Suns gunner. "Our young guys can't come in here thinking this season will be about an apprenticeship," says coach Lawrence Frank. "They have to prepare like they're going to be starters and understand the major roles they are going to be playing."
Boone will be out until at least December after left-shoulder surgery, but then he'll be counted on for a boost on the boards. ( New Jersey's top two rebounders last season were a guard and a wing player.) Williams will be a key contributor from Day One, providing relief for Jason Kidd, who has been forced to play through injuries because the Nets haven't had anyone else competent to run their motion offense. A productive Williams would enable the 33-year-old Kidd to play fewer minutes and save his legs for the playoffs. "I've never played with a guy who made the game look so easy," says Williams. "I've got a long way to go, but I'm trying to watch him and learn everything that I can."