New Jersey Nets

Krstic started 57 games for the Nets in 2004-05.
Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images
2005 DRAFT SELECTIONS
No. 15, No. 43
CURRENT FREE AGENTS
Travis Best (unrestricted)
Rodney Buford (unrestricted)
Clifford Robinson (team option)
Brian Scalabrine (unrestricted)
Jabari Smith (unrestricted)
Billy Thomas (restricted)
Jacque Vaughn (team option)
RECENT DRAFT SELECTIONS
2004: 22. Viktor Khryapa, Russia
51. Christian Drejer, Spain
2003: 22. Zoran Planinic, Croatia
51. Kyle Korver, Creighton
2002: 24. Nenad Krstic, Yugoslavia
54. Tamar Slay, Marshall
2001: 7. Eddie Griffin, Seton Hall
35. Brian Scalabrine, USC
2000: 1. Kenyon Martin, Cincinnati
36. Soumaila Samake, Mali
By Bill Evans

When the 2004-05 season began: Key cogs in the teamís back-to-back Finals appearances moved on when Kerry Kittles and Kenyon Martin found new teams in the off-season. Jason Kidd entered the season injured and disgruntled about the loss of his mates, which looked like it might lead to a long winter in the Meadowlands.

What happened? The Nets started the season with a starting backcourt of Ron Mercer and Jacque Vaughn, with predictable results. They ended the season with a starting backcourt of Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, with equally predictable results.

Kidd missed the first month of the season and spent December rounding into shape. Thorn provided renewed impetus for Kiddís rehabilitation when he acquired Carter from Toronto on December 17.

The Nets were only 3-8 during Carterís first 11 games as a Net, as the team dealt with not only the integration of the six-time All-Star, but also with the loss of Richard Jefferson, who ruptured a ligament in his wrist in early January. They dropped to 12-24 on January 15.

Then things started to click, and the Nets began to roll. After finishing January 6-2, they had a winning February (7-6), began creeping up the standings in March (9-6) and wrestled the final playoff spot from Cleveland with an 8-2 April during which Kidd nearly averaged a triple-double (19.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 9.7 apg) and Carter averaged 32.3 points per game on 50.2 percent shooting.

Their surge also corresponded with the development of 7-foot center Nenad Krstic, who began the season playing garbage time and ended it averaging better than 14 points and 7 rebounds over the final 10 games.

The Nets reward for clawing all the way back to 42-40 was a first-round date with Miami. But a 4-0 sweep by the Heat didnít remove the luster of a 16-5 finish that suggests good times ahead.

What now? The Nets have locked up their apparent starting five (Kidd, Carter, Jefferson, Jason Collins, Krstic) for the next two seasons.

Thatís not to say they donít have needs. Kidd was playing better than 40 minutes a night down the stretch, so some relief at the point would be welcome. New Jersey could also use another perimeter shooting and, most notably, another big body inside, where Collins is only adequate. The closest thing they have, Brian Scalabrine, is a free agent.

With mega bucks tied up in their top three players, any veteran depth would have to come at a bargain basement price. The Nets will have the opportunity to add a piece with the 15th overall pick in the draft.