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  • 05/23/2007, 01:45PM ET

Should the Nets Dump Vince Carter?

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Picture this 2008-09 rotation for East Rutherford's finest: Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Nenad Krstic; with youngsters Marcus Williams and Josh Boone entering their third seasons. Sounds pretty solid, no? Now, let the rest of the picture reveal itself: Kidd will be 36 years old before season's end, Carter will be 32, and it's more than likely that this six-man rotation's payroll will exceed the salary cap by itself. And that projection, assuming Carter makes in the $18-20-million range (Dirk Nowitzki, drafted the same season as VC, is making more than $18 million in 2008-09), doesn't even allow for Krstic's upcoming contract extension, which he'll be asking for during the summer of 2008. This means that the Nets will have to top the luxury tax just to round out a roster, Kidd will be on the wrong side of the hill and Carter will be two seasons into a contract that he really doesn't seem that intent on earning (if this year's postseason is any example). Is this roster worth the dough? I say start over, starting with letting Vince go -- at any price.


Welcome to the WDNBA, that's the Watered Down National Basketball Association, where one superstar gets you in the playoffs, two makes you a contender and three qualifies you for dynasty status. It's a sad, but true indictment of today's NBA that a team captained by Jason Kidd and ruddered by Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter can still be considered among the elite. Is Carter the long-term answer in New Jersey? No. But he is the price the Nets pay to keep Kidd on their payroll. A team like New Jersey (read: incomplete) is stuck rolling the dice. Keeping Carter, praying for a strong recovery from Nenad Krstic and hoping for gold in the draft, a la 2001 when they landed Jefferson and Jason Collins, isn't just the sensible solution; when you're trying to keep an often mercurial player like Kidd happy, it's the only one.


It's true, even with Carter working at half-speed, Kidd at 35 and Jefferson alternating ankle sprains on a monthly basis (November? Left; December? Right), the Nets have enough in the tank to pound out another 45 wins and maybe take advantage of a bracket quirk to make the second or third round of the playoffs. But if you're a Nets fan, even after dealing with all those last place finishes following the team's inception into the NBA, wouldn't you prefer a team with cap flexibility and a chance at 65 wins -- and a ring -- after a few years of rebuilding? And believe me, I'm not adverse to trading Kidd, either. I'm not saying he'll be any happier with Darko Milicic or whatever Carter could fetch in a sign-and-trade. Somewhere, a GM or 15 thinks that Kidd is the last piece to a championship puzzle. Give those guys a call.


Since when does rebuilding guarantee anything? Boston has been rebuilding since Danny Ainge was in uniform and has 21 years of futility to show for it. 65 wins? Dallas became the first team in seven years to surpass the 65-win plateau; I wouldn't count on a Carter-less Nets team coming close to the 40 win mark next season, and with Kidd winding down, that rebuilding process you speak of just picked up another five years.

Trade Kidd? Might as well trade Thomas Edison, Walt Whitman and Tony Soprano with him. If Kidd forces his way out, fine. But as the de facto face of the franchise, J-Kidd has earned the right to play in New Jersey until his knees fall off, much the same way Larry Bird held on in Boston until his creaky back kept him from standing up. Smart drafting.

Shrewd decision making. Hope is not lost in New Jersey.


Rebuilding guarantees next to nothing, a 25-win season doesn't even give you a 25 percent chance at the top pick in the draft and a scorched Earth policy is just the beginning of a crap shoot. But I'm more tempted to dive into the Great Rebuilding Unknown than line up for another year of 40-to-45 wins with a top-heavy roster that will far exceed the luxury tax.

Smart decisions with a draft pick in the middle of the first round will only carry you so far, especially with every foreign prospect scouted to the point of overexposure, and it's been increasingly hard to make smart roster decisions when a lack of cap flexibility or tradeable parts (nobody wants Jefferson at $13 million a year) forces you into signing journeymen to the minimum (Mikki Moore, take a bow) and hoping they contribute.

I'd start over, and the starting over starts with taking a pass on handing $19 million a year to a "superstar" who shot 35.4 percent in the conference semifinals while being guarded by something called a "Sasha Pavlovic" -- in a contract year.


Yes, re-signing Carter is a risk. But it's an even bigger risk to roll the dice and try to win a championship without Kidd, which is exactly what is going to happen if Carter skips town.

Let's all face facts: Carter = Kidd. In what is undoubtedly the deepest draft in more than a decade, the Nets have a chance to draft an impact player at 17 (Duke's Josh McRoberts is a worthy gambit) to push the team to the conference finals. Just getting there is the battle. Once there, I'll trust Kidd to take care of the rest.

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