, Vince Carter
and Richard Jefferson
never got to play together at full strength last year, so they are eager to prove that they are the class of the Atlantic Division and more than just a fringe playoff team in the East. Carter and Kidd carried a shallow roster on a 15-4 run to end the season to make the playoffs last year. With Jefferson coming back, and a much deeper bench, the Nets likely wonít have to be playing any lose-or-go-home games in the regular season.
This has been the first offseason in quite a while in which Jason Kidd has been healthy and able to rest all summer. This will also be his first season in New Jersey with a legitimate back-up. Jeff McInnis was brought in to keep the Nets productive when Kidd is on the bench and to keep their star fresh for the playoffs. The addition of Lamond Murray gives them a long-range threat off the bench and Marc Jackson, Clifford Robinson and Scott Padgett give them much more frontline depth than theyíve had in the past. Antoine Wright, selected with the 15th pick in the draft, could come in and contribute right away backing up Carter and Jefferson.
One of the questions for this season will be if the Nets can get their running game going again. Jason Kidd wants to run and Richard Jefferson will be right there with him, but they need Vince Carter to learn the "get it and go" philosophy that the Nets have had since Kidd arrived. Lawrence Frank will certainly keep the team focused on defense, especially on the perimeter. New Jersey hadnít given up as many three-pointers (485) as they did last season since '96-97.
Kidd will lead, Carter will score and Jefferson will be counted on to be the guy that fills in the holes on both ends of the floor. "I've always been a defensive player that could come out and score 20 plus a game," Jefferson said. "Thatís something that Iím looking forward to doing again this year. Every year, my numbers have increased, my consistency has increased, so this year I not only want to be a defensive player, but put up 18-22 a game."
The development of Nenad Krstic will be important as well. Krstic has great hands and puts himself in great position to score, which is so important with three guys who can draw and dish like Kidd, Carter and Jefferson. Foul trouble can be a problem with him though and he needs to be more disciplined on the defensive end. Donít overlook Jason Collins, who knows his role and who has become a very tough interior defender.