Eagle: The State Of The Nets

When will Richard Jefferson return? Will Bostjan Nachbar become a starter?
03/01/2007 11:53 AM ET
By Ian Eagle / Special to

Antoine Wright has contributed. (AP)
Hi Ian,
When is Richard Jefferson supposed to come back? I saw him practicing the other day on television and I was wondering if he was coming back soon.
— Bridget Helmer, Roxbury, N.J.

There is no official timetable for Richard's return from ankle surgery, but if he accompanies the team on their upcoming six game trip beginning Sunday in Philadelphia that's a good sign that he is almost ready for action. I would expect him to return to the court sometime during the Texas three-step, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio on March 6th-10th. The arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle was January 22nd, and he was told he'd have to sit out for 4-6 weeks; it appears that it will be closer to 7 weeks, but the key now for the Nets is that RJ is fully healed. He has played hurt in the past and the team doesn't want to put him through that again. While the Nets have missed his offense, what Jefferson brings to the floor defensively has been tougher to replace. I know he's looking forward to the release of Halo 3 in the fall, but right now he's more interested in helping this squad qualify for the playoffs for the sixth straight year.

Why is Lawrence Frank sticking with a starting lineup consisting of Jason Collins and Antoine Wright? Isn't it about time Frank rewarded Bostjan Nachbar by giving him the starting job?

— Harold Wasserman

Coach Frank's philosophy is why weaken two areas of your team (starting 5 and bench) by putting Nachbar in the starting lineup. If you start Boki instead of Antoine Wright or Hassan Adams at the small forward position, your bench scoring takes a major hit. Anyone watching the Nets these days knows that Nachbar has earned his way into the starting lineup, but once Jefferson returns, Boki would head back to the bench anyway. Coach Frank doesn't want to keep changing Nachbar's role on this team. He has been successful in reserve duty and the coaches can lean on him to provide 'instant offense' for that second unit. Nachbar is finally looking like the player the Rockets selected with the 15th overall pick in the 2002 draft and the trade deadline deal the Nets made last year with the Hornets is looking better every day.

Why isn't Mile Ilic playing at all? Shouldn't he be getting some playing time with Nenad Krstic's injury? Is he inactive?
Jimmy — Northvale, N.J.

Well you've gotten your wish; Mile Ilic is going to be playing, but not in New Jersey, but rather in COLORADO. He has been assigned to the14ers of the NBA Development League. He's the first player the Nets have sent to the D-League and I am curious to see how he handles the move. The team is coached by former NBA big man Joe Wolf (who owned a Dairy Queen in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin-have I mentioned how much I enjoy Dairy Queen-DQ dip may be the greatest creation known to man), and Mile will get an opportunity to see extended minutes. The young Serb was always looked at by the Nets as a 'project,' and even a good showing in Colorado isn't going to change that. The Nets would love to see some progress, he already has something you can't teach; he's 7'1'' 255 lbs. Because Nenad Krstic had so much success early, people assumed that Ilic was going to step in and contribute in his rookie season, which clearly did not happen. I think it's safe to say is going to receive some unusually high traffic from the NJ area over the next couple of weeks.

Being that the Nets could lose Vince Carter at the end of the season and Jason Kidd is getting older, do you think the Nets made a good move by not trading Vince and Kidd at the deadline?
— Ryan Remollino, Bloomfield, N.J.

When Nets President Rod Thorn and General Manager Ed Stefanski look at the landscape of the Eastern Conference, they see a window of opportunity. In 2007-2008 who in the East will have more talent than a healthy Nets team? With Kidd, Carter, Jefferson, and Krstic the Nets believe they can compete with anyone in the conference. They still want to see those four players perform together over a full season. That is why the club didn't make any trades before the deadline. They don't want to start over when they still have a competitive group in place now. A lot of NBA observers are assuming that Carter is gone at the end of the season, but I wouldn't jump to that conclusion just yet. Right now only two teams (Orlando and Charlotte) are scheduled to have the cap room necessary to make a legitimate play for Vince, and the Nets have yet to make their best offer. Trading their two biggest stars for pedestrian talent would have been a huge mistake and the rumors that were circulating prior to the deadline never made a lot of sense to me.

Do the Nets have a realistic shot to go far in the postseason, being that they have a 21-14 record against a weak Eastern Conference?
— Glenn, Forest Hills, N.Y.

You are my hometown guy!!! Forest Hills, a wonderful community-you and I might have to get together to talk about old times hanging out on Austin Street with a slice of AJ Pizza (or a Homestead sandwich). But back to business, it all depends on the seeding. The Nets will never say it publicly, but they know the key to their postseason fate is grabbing the #7 seed and avoiding Detroit in the first round. Excluding the Pistons the Nets believe they can play with anyone else in the East in a best of 7 series. Until you see the matchups, it's difficult to forecast how far the Nets can go. First things first, the team has to make the playoffs and this upcoming six game, 11 day trip is going to be an enormous test for Kidd and company.

Even with all of the injuries to the roster, do you think Lawrence Frank's job is in jeopardy if the Nets do not make the playoffs?
— Colby Rutherford, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

I don't think Lawrence Frank's job is in jeopardy, whether the Nets make the playoffs or not. He has the backing of his players, Rod Thorn, and ownership; what more does he need. Yes, some more wins wouldn't hurt and the postseason would certainly help his cause, but if you're asking me if Lawrence will be fired if the team somehow falls short of a playoff berth my answer is still no. Coach Frank is signed for next season, and his players are not tuning him out (which was not the case in previous Nets head coaching regimes). Injuries aren't used as an excuse in professional sports, but to fully evaluate a team's performance you must at least acknowledge it as part of the equation. How many NBA teams can withstand the loss of 2 of their top 3 scorers? While the Nets weren't exactly playing inspired ball before Krstic tore his ACL, I think it's safe to say they would have maneuvered their way to the top of the Atlantic Division at this point of the season if the squad had remained healthy. Lawrence will be judged not only by the job he's done motivating his players, but also the way he has adjusted since the injuries hit this team hard.

I have to tell you, the movie My Blue Heaven was on TV the other day. I couldn't help but notice you look like Rick Moranis. Do you get that a lot? Has anyone ever called you Lord Helmet?
— Frank Ricca, Whitehouse Station, N.J.

Are you by any chance a New Jersey State Trooper? Back in 1990, I was pulled over near the George Washington Bridge for speeding (I'm still not convinced I was going 85 like I was told, I do my best to abide by the speed limit). After waiting five minutes for the trooper to come to the passenger's side of the automobile he finally arrived and began staring at me. He then asked "Are you Rick Moranis???" I couldn't lie, my drivers license clearly has the name 'Ian Eagle' printed on it (by the way, let me end the internet speculation right now, that is not a made up name-my parents were a little different and I was born in the late 60's, so you can draw your own conclusions), but I did say "No, but he is my favorite comedic actor." He responded, "Me too, wow you look just like him". The movie 'Parenthood' was in theaters at the time and I mentioned how good Moranis was in the film, he said "He absolutely stole the movie!!!" We chatted about 'Space Balls' and SCTV and then I was told to slow down a bit and was on my way (without a speeding ticket-the actor Rick Moranis had somehow saved me from a moving violation). Years later Rick attended a Nets game with his son, and the Nets PR Director at the time, John Mertz urged me to tell him the story. I did, Moranis was speechless and didn't find it amusing in the least bit. Thanks for allowing me to relive the moment.

Ian Eagle is a play-by-play announcer for YES Network's coverage of Nets Basketball, and is the host of Nets Magazine. comments