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July 13, 2008

Nets face lean years, Brooklyn or no Brooklyn

by Ian O'Connor

Let us get this straight. Bruce Ratner says it's "100% about basketball" at the same time that he's scuttling Nets' salaries faster than he's knocking down buildings in Prospect Heights. All so the team can position itself to sign Jay-Z protege LeBron James in 2010 (wink-wink, we're not tampering, David Stern). In the meantime, James's Cleveland Cavaliers, a legitimate NBA contender, are nearing the point where they will have enough salary cap room to sign another legit star to help LeBron bring a championship to Cleveland — while the Nets are riding an express elevator to the NBA's cellar.

The Bergen Record's Ian O'Connor lays out the hazards of wishing upon a star in the NBA.

The Nets have been busy clearing salary cap space, office space, locker room space, a parking space, all kinds of space for James. They weren't just getting rid of Richard Jefferson when they made the trade with Milwaukee for Yi and Bobby Simmons; they were getting rid of Richard Jefferson's wage.

But way back when, before he spent a summer acquiring Allan Houston, Chris Childs and Larry Johnson for the Knicks, Ernie Grunfeld told me the most frightening scenario for an NBA executive is clearing out money under the salary cap and then finding nobody worthwhile to take it.

"That happened to Chicago, after Michael Jordan,” Rod Thorn said. "They had significant cap room and they tried to give it to Tracy McGrady, and they tried to give it to (Kevin) Garnett at different times and it didn't work.

"That's the misnomer about having cap space … . If you have a team that's just not very good, to think that you are going to get a top quality free agent is kind of pie in the sky.”

Sure, the Nets have Jay-Z and their pending palace, which probably won't be ready until the start of the 2011-12 season. With Ratner losing an estimated $40 million a year in the Meadowlands, and with the purchase of the team setting him back $300 million, the Nets are expected to have cost their owner nearly $600 million by the time he lands in Brooklyn.

At those prices, Ratner will want to make a splash in the new digs. And nobody splashes quite like LeBron.

But will the Nets be good enough to even make James' Fave Five?


NoLandGrab: You'd think Bruce Ratner would have learned his lesson about coveting things that aren't his when he started eyeing Daniel Goldstein's apartment.

Posted by eric at July 13, 2008 1:43 PM