Nets prep for grind without RJ

Team must hang tough without explosive forward
01/21/2007 2:58 PM ET
By Al Iannazzone / Special to

Minus Jefferson, the Nets are missing two starters.(AP)
SACRAMENTO — This was going to be a tough trip no matter what, but then add that Richard Jefferson won't be making it and it becomes doubly difficult.

The Nets will need Jason Kidd to continue his stellar play, Eddie House his hot-shooting and Mikki Moore his strong play inside. But most importantly, to overcome the loss of Jefferson to ankle surgery, they will need Vince Carter to play like the Carter that helped the Nets go 15-4 at the end of the 2004-05 season

Obviously, Carter has got it in him, and has shown signs of letting it loose in the last couple of weeks. It's no secret that when Kidd plays the way he's playing, making everyone better, it makes Carter's game so much easier.

Maybe this is what Carter needs to jump-start his game. He's still putting up 25 per night, but he just hasn't been as clutch or as dominant as in the past.

Jefferson's undergoing right surgery was inevitable. The Nets knew it was coming and were preparing for it.

Every time president Rod Thorn and coach Lawrence Frank spoke about Jefferson, they always left open the possibility that surgery would be coming, and in the very near future.

Now it's here. He will have his ankle scoped tomorrow to remove bone spurs and probably be out until after the All-Star break.

It's a huge loss, no doubt. But if he comes back right after All-Star Weekend or at the end of the month — he'll miss between 14 and 18 games — the Nets still have about 25 games left, plenty of time to make a last-ditch run.

They just have to hang tough and stay in the race, not only for the Atlantic but also the Eastern Conference, without Jefferson and Nenad Krstic.

First they have to survive this five-game trip then another five weeks without Jefferson. If continues his pace and Carter can come through like he has so many times for the Nets it will make it a little easier.

KINGS: The Nets have lost seven straight at Arco Arena, but most of the defeats came against teams featuring Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac, so they have a good chance to win its first game in Sacramento since 1997. These Kings have allowed 116.3 points in their last four home games, all defeats.

WARRIORS: Don Nelson's group has more firepower since it acquired Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington. The Warriors can score with anyone, but they also can't guard a soul. In their last eight games — six losses — Golden State has yielded 112.4 points. Keep this in mind: Kidd, a Bay-area native, loves playing at home.

CLIPPERS: This is game four of a five-game homestand for the Clippers, who won the first two. Elton Brand, another power forward the Nets would love to get their hands on, always is a tough cover. Jason Collins and Cliff Robinson did a great job of containing Eddy Curry and Dwight Howard on back-to-back nights, and will be tested by Brand.

NUGGETS: Kenyon Martin is out, but this will be Game 4 of the Carmelo Anthony-Allen Iverson "experiment" as coach George Karl called it. Anthony will play his first game Monday after serving his 15-game ban for the ugly fight against the Knicks. The Nets have to be ready to defend on this night.

JAZZ: Utah's defense has been shoddy lately, but the Jazz showed something last week by winning three straight road games after dropping four in a row overall. The end of a long trip is always the toughest to get.

Kidd going home is always something to watch. Carter turns the big three-oh on this trip, and is starting to show signs of being more aggressive and consistent. The Nets will need him to play big in these five games.

The Golden State game should be an up-and-down, high-scoring game. The Nets have the edge because they've figured out to play defense again. The Nuggets' game is a must-see just for the AI-Melo pairing alone.

It said here the Nets would go 2-2 in November and they came back 0-4. Without Jefferson, 2-3 would be a good trip.

"We're going back to the Bay area, so for me it's going back home. You always want to try to play your best. But as a team we've had success on the road, and we have to use that, stay together, and understand this is a good point for us to try to move forward. Sacramento, Golden State, Clippers, Denver, Utah — all those games are going to be extremely hard, so we want to just have an opportunity to win late in the game." — Kidd on the trip

"We're counting on coming back with more wins than losses. I can't promise anything, but I know we're going to play hard the entire time." — Mikki Moore on the trip


Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.). E-mail Nets Insider at

Saturday, January 20: Posted at 12:14 a.m. ET

Robinson's old legs lift Nets

By Al Iannazzone/Special to

NEW YORK — Ageless Cliff Robinson proved once again it doesn't matter if you have the youngest, freshest legs in the building. It's all about timing, experience and opportunity.

There's Robinson, 40 years old, the oldest man on the Garden floor, and he's left all alone because everyone who wasn't guarding Jason Kidd or Richard Jefferson were watching Vince Carter as he drove to the basket.

Robinson watched the ball, and was the first one there when Carter missed. Robinson, on 40-year old legs, one of which was operated on less than two months ago, leapt faster than 24-year-old Eddy Curry.

Robinson got up and put back Carter's miss with 2.8 seconds left to give the Nets a 101-100 win over the Knicks Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

"With Cliff you never say age, he may hit you. Cliff still thinks he's 30," coach Lawrence Frank said after the win that moved the Nets three games ahead of their cross-Hudson River rivals and all alone in first place in the Atlantic thanks to Toronto's loss against Utah.

"I had a good run at the basket," Robinson said. "They were all sitting there watching Vince.

"They didn't get a chance to jump. As soon as they went to jump I was already up in the air. I was able to tip it in off the glass."

This would have been a devastating loss for the Nets, who overcame a 7-for-23 shooting night by Carter and some poor late-game execution again.

Now that the Nets are playing better and one-game within .500 — which they could reach with a win tonight against the Magic — the next thing they need to do is figure out how to close out games.

This was the third straight game the Nets led by double digits in the second half — they were up 10 with 2:21 to go — and they had another fight late.

In the end, though, the Nets won for the eight time in 10 games and finally are playing a little more like most expected.

Kidd, who had another great game with 23 points, nine assists and seven boards, has been the biggest reason. But the return of Robinson can't be overlooked. They're 6-2 since the steady, calming veteran returned to action.

"I would like to think I'm part of that," Robinson said. "But at the same time I think guys have really done a good job of just focusing in on what type of team we want to be."

The Nets are usually that team against the Knicks, who have now lost 11 of 12 to New Jersey at the Garden. It would have been 10 of 12 if not for the ageless Robinson.

Kidd won the overall battle of the point guards again. But give Stephon Marbury his due. He was clutch late, scoring 12 in the fourth to Kidd's six.

After Marbury makes it 99-98 with 40.9 seconds left, Carter, who missed two foul shots two trips earlier, rushes a shot with 14 seconds still left on the 24-second clock and misses. On the other end, Jamal Crawford drives and misses, but David Lee taps it in with 9.7 seconds left to give the Knicks a one-point lead that lasted less than six seconds.

The Nets were out-rebounded by 10, but got the offensive board that mattered.

"We don't look at it as against the Knicks and Marbury. People say [Kidd's] numbers are great in the Garden. I would challenge you that his numbers are great in every arena. We were fortunate to get the win. It's not about Jason vs. Steph, It's the nets versus the opponent and the opponent was the Knicks. — Frank on the Knicks-Nets rivalry and Kidd-Marbury rivalry

"I know these Nets are pretty good right now, and that's all that matters." — Carter when asked if he sees a big difference in the Knicks right now


Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.). E-mail Nets Insider at

Thursday, January 18: Posted at 12:03 a.m. ET

Nets, Collins find a way to laugh

By Al Iannazzone/Special to

CHARLOTTE — Richard Jefferson laughed very loudly three times as Jason Collins fielded questions about his eventful night.

Give Collins credit. After he missed 9-of-12 foul shots, after the Bobcats decided the best way to stop the clock and come back against the Nets was to foul Collins, the Nets' big man was a good sport about it, laughing himself.

Had the Nets not built a big enough cushion — 23 points — and not withstood Collins' miserable free-throw shooting and come away with an 92-85 win Wednesday, no one would have been laughing — at least with the media around.

Collins would have taken some ribbing in the shower, on the way to the plane, on the plane and probably at practice Thursday. They were busting him about everything, especially the nifty bank shot he made.

"However it takes to get in the basket," Collins said. "Maybe next time I'll take a couple steps back, maybe go into a crossover, a little VC action.

"I was thinking of doing the Harold Miner go around the back a couple of times, doing the RJ where you close your eyes. It's not like I don't practice. I shoot 200 free throws a day. It's just a matter of making them."

Then Kidd said Collins used to shoot in the high 80s — I don't believe that high - as a rookie and that he would shoot technical foul shots. Kidd then regaled us with a story that may have led to Collins' downfall from the line.

"True story," Kidd said, "We were playing Orlando my first year, and [Collins] was in the 80s. He got fouled, , and RJ started joking with him. And from that joke he's been going downhill. That's a true story. Not RJ's fault."

Well, the good thing is Collins didn't shoot an air ball like he did in the Minnesota loss Saturday and Monday against Indiana.

"He'll be all right," Kidd said.

The Nets have been all right lately, winning seven of nine games.

They're just two wins off of .500, which some Nets, Kidd included, say would be a nice accomplishment if they reached that mark by this weekend.

All they need to do is beat the Knicks and Magic and they'll be there before heading West for five games. It's possible.

Vince Carter had 26 points, including 20 after halftime. He was the only Net to make a basket in the last 4:27 after the Bobcats got within seven.

After Emeka Okafor made it 85-78, Carter hits a fadeaway baseline jumper then comes up with a big steal that led to one of Collins' three fourth-quarter free throws and a 10-point Nets' lead.

Mikki Moore had four field goals - all dunks. Nearly half of the Nets' 35 field goals were either threes (10) or dunks (seven). They were 35-for-78.

The Nets scored three points from the foul line in the fourth — all from Collins.

"We're just trying to compile as many wins as possible to get ourselves back into the mix. We feel every game is important. I don't care what their record looks like - or how good or bad they are perceived in this league - for us, it's just the fact that we're getting wins and getting ourselves back to .500, getting back into this playoff race."
— Carter on beating a team the Nets should beat

"I'm glad to be in Charlotte. That's it. What you want me to say? I love it. I'm from here. I played with Bernie [Bickerstaff], a coach I can trust and respect. I'm just happy to be here."
— Charlotte native Jeff McInnis before facing the Nets QUOTEBOOK III

" Yeah, especially when Krstic went down. There were a lot of words, a lot of speculation that I was going. I was getting excited because that means some playing time but this is a business and anything happens. At the last minute they chose Bernard, I guess."
— Melvin Ely on if he was surprised Bernard Robinson became a Net and not him.


Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.). E-mail Nets Insider at

Tuesday, January 16: Posted at 3:11 p.m. ET

Moore fitting in with Nets

By Al Iannazzone/Special to

CHARLOTTE — Right here, and for right now, let's talk about basketball, because there will be time to discuss the Nets' off-court stuff. It's won't go away anytime soon.

Speaking of basketball, Mikki Moore has to be one of the NBA's best and most underrated pickups of last summer. Moore has proven many people wrong, yours truly among them.

With Nenad Krstic, Jason Collins and Cliff Robinson, I never figured Moore would play that much. But injuries to Krstic and Robinson have given Moore an opportunity to show he can play — and he fits this team very well.

For that, GM Ed Stefanski deserves all the credit because even Rod Thorn had to be convinced.

"We needed another big to fill out our team," Thorn said, particularly after the Nets lost Josh Boone for up to six months following July shoulder surgery.

"Ed kept prodding me about Mikki, (saying) Mikki can help us, that we don't have a player like Mikki, who has that kind of athleticism and the ability to block a shot. So we ended up making the deal."

It really cost the Nets nothing, a 2009 second-round pick. Who cares? The long, lean Moore has been worth far more than that and is enjoying a career year, providing a much-needed lift in Krstic's absence.

Five times in the last seven games, Moore has had at least 12 points. Three times in that span, he's scored 18 or more. He had only 18 points twice in his prior 330 games. Moore also has as many double-doubles since the calendar turned to 2007 (two) as he had in the prior two seasons

"He's been a big reason for our success," Jason Kidd said. "He's been a great asset to us."

Indeed. Moore is a big reason the Nets are going for their seventh win in nine games Wednesday in Charlotte, when they face Jeff McInnis for the first time since that mess was settled.

Moore is playing his role perfectly, bringing energy, getting the crowd into games, and taking advantage of what the Nets' star players are facing.

He has no plays called for him, but when Kidd or Vince Carter have the ball, they're getting all the attention and that's leaving Moore open. They find him and he knows what to do when he gets the ball.

Moore usually dunks it. His four makes in Monday's win over Indiana were dunks. He started that game 6-for-6, made his first four shots against Minnesota Saturday and also went a perfect 9-for-9 against the Timberwolves 17 days ago, en route to a career-high 20 points.

"The team is real unselfish, man," Moore said. "If the play is there for me get the ball on the screen and pop, they make sure I get the ball and if they're going to put that much trust in me I gotta finish."

The timing couldn't be better. Moore is in a contract year, and making a case that he should be back. Moore — along with Kidd's play on the court — is making a case to keep the talk, at least right now, about basketball.


Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.). E-mail Nets Insider at

Monday, January 15: Posted at 9:39 p.m. ET

Kidd, Carter lead Nets to victory

By Al Iannazzone/Special to

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jason Kidd can't keep up this pace all season. Can he?

It's amazing what the Nets' leader is doing, not only in the face of his personal strife, but at age 33 and rapidly approaching 34.

Kidd's play, to use his own favorite expression, is off the charts. He led the Nets to a 105-95 win Monday over the Pacers by finishing one rebound short of yet another triple double.

"He's playing as well as he ever has," coach Lawrence Frank gushed.

"Look what this dude has done for his career," Richard Jefferson said. "I wouldn't say he's doing anything amazing or different. I know there are a lot of things going on with him. He just plays consistent. That's one thing, regardless of if he's feeling good, bad, hurt, tired, sick whatever. He just plays consistent."

Yes, he's been the Nets' most consistent player, averaging 14 points, 9.4 assists and 8.4 rebounds. He's absolutely headed to the All-Star Game, no doubt about it.

But Kidd, who announced Monday that he wants to play for Team USA in this summer's Olympic qualifying tournament, has been even better since filing for divorce. He's averaging 19 points, 12 assists and 9.3 rebounds in leading the Nets to a 3-1 record.

That's the biggest thing for the Nets. They're playing better overall, have been for a while, save a few hiccups such as Saturday night in Minnesota.

Since the Nets lost the Dec. 26 game at Detroit by one point — the night Kidd ripped the refs, earning a $20K fine — the team is playing better.

They've only allowed 100 points once in their last 10 games — at Minnesota. They gave at least 100 in nine times eight times in their first 25 games.

"I think our guys understand what we need to do in order to win," Frank said. "Anytime you get knocked down you like to get up as quickly as possible. We've been playing pretty good basketball, but the key is we have to continue to challenge ourselves to play better."

Kidd can't play any better. Can he?

Vince Carter and Kidd did it all. Carter scored 31 points, had six rebounds and six assists. Kidd finished just one rebound shy of a triple-double. He was in position for No. 10, but Maceo Baston took and made his first three of his career on Indy's last trip.

The Nets went the first 15:56 without a turnover. When they finally committed their first - a bad pass by Marcus Williams - the rookie got it back and fed Carter for a slam that resulted in a three-point play that gave the Nets a 49-33 lead.

The Nets had three players with at least six assists - Kidd had 10, Richard Jefferson seven and Carter six.

Take about shooting a high percentage, Mikki Moore made four first-quarter field goals - all were slams.

"I think we've been competing at a high level as a team. It's not just one person playing. Everybody has been pitching in. There's no secret that if we play defense that gives us a chance to win a game. — Kidd on how the team is playing lately

"These things are disgusting." — Carter said after seeing the Carter weeble-wobbles that were given to fans Monday.


Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.). E-mail Nets Insider at
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.). E-mail Nets Insider at comments