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John Schuhmann

With construction of the Barclays Center underway, the Nets are looking to make a splash.
Nets Basketball

With blockbuster deal, Nets aim to become relevant again

Posted Jan 11 2011 6:55PM

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- The multi-player trade that is being discussed between the Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons -- possibly the largest transaction in NBA history -- would shake up the NBA. And in no place would it have a bigger impact than in Brooklyn, N.Y.

That's where the Nets are heading in less than two years, with a star to put on the Barclays Center marquee if the deal goes through. It certainly wouldn't hurt that the star has Brooklyn roots, too.

As they stand, the Nets lack more than a star. They're 10-27. They rank 28th in the league offensively and 18th defensively. And they just lost to the Wizards and Bucks by a combined 43 points.

Adding Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton would give the Nets upgrades at three positions. With only six clear playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, the Nets can make a serious run at the No. 7 or 8 seed, just like they did when they acquired Vince Carter in December of 2004.

That would be a big step in the right direction for a team that lost 70 games last season. But this trade isn't about making the playoffs this season -- it's about building something bigger over the next four seasons.

Anthony gives the Nets a go-to scorer to carry the offense, just like Amar'e Stoudemire has been doing across the river. But more than competing with the Knicks on the court, acquiring Anthony is about competing with the Knicks in the newspapers, on television sets, and in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers.

The trade would immediately help the Nets at the box office (they currently rank last in attendance), but it isn't about selling tickets at the Prudential Center in Newark either. It's about selling luxury suites at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, currently under construction and set to open in 2012.

When he was first hired in July, Nets general manager Billy King made note of the assets he had in his pocket and described the work it would take to acquire a star using them. Although King and his assistant Bobby Marks have been working tirelessly to get this deal done, these negotiations have Mikhail Prokhorov's fingerprints all over them.

Prokhorov came to the NBA this summer with a lot of fanfare, brandishing rifles on 60 Minutes and promising championships to Nets fans. He would look a little foolish and naive if his team's best acquisition in his first year as owner was Anthony Morrow, or if the Nets barely exceeded last season's 12 wins. But with this trade, Prokhorov could say he put the Nets back on the map.

Simply, the Nets are trying to make this trade to become relevant again. As important as adding Anthony to their own roster is, it's just as important to keep him off the Knicks' roster. Devin Harris and Brook Lopez can't come close to competing with Anthony and Stoudemire on the floor or in the headlines.

Derrick Favors, off to Denver if the deal goes through, has a lot of promise and may eventually be the frontline anchor that every great defense needs. But production trumps potential and with both the steel in Brooklyn and the Knicks' stock rising, the Nets can't afford to wait.

Are they desperate? Yes. But that doesn't mean this isn't the right move to make. When you're 22-97 over the last year and a half, you have to make major changes.

Would they be a real contender after the trade? No. But there's no ceiling on how good they can be. Billups is an upgrade over Harris (especially when it comes to complementing Anthony's skills), but this trade is also about Chris Paul, who could become a free agent in 2012, when Billups' contract expires (but before Harris' does).

Until we see the details of the next collective bargaining agreement, we won't know how well positioned the Nets will be to add a major free agent in 2012. But acquiring Anthony clearly opens the door for Paul in the post-Decision NBA.

The Nets are paying a hefty price to bring Anthony to New Jersey, but they have no choice but to shoot for the stars.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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