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9 NEW JERSEY NETS
Chris Ballard
October 30, 2000
Nets fans have seen a lot of misery, but at least they can watch the No. 1 pick do his shot blocking thing
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October 30, 2000

9 New Jersey Nets

Nets fans have seen a lot of misery, but at least they can watch the No. 1 pick do his shot blocking thing

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Projected Lineup

STARTERS

PVR*

1999-2000 KEY STATS

SF

Keith Van Horn

41

19.2 ppg

8.5 rpg

2.0 apg

44.5 FG%

36.8 3FG%

PF

Kenyon Martin (R)

34

18.9 ppg

9.7 rpg

1.4 apg

3.39 bpg

56.8 FG%

C

Jim McIlvaine

241

2.4 ppg

3.5 rpg

1.80 bpg

41.6 FG%

51.8 FT%

SG

Kendall Gill

57

13.1 ppg

2.8 apg

1.83 spg

41.4 FG%

25.6 3FG%

PG

Stephon Marbury

13

22.2 ppg

8.4 apg

3.2 rpg

1.51 spg

43.2 FG%

BENCH

PVR*

1999-2000 KEY STATS

F

Johnny Newman

183

10.0 ppg

1.9 rpg

0.65 spg

44.6 FG%

37.9 3FG%

G

Sherman Douglas

233

6.0 ppg

1.7 apg

1.5 rpg

0.85 spg

50.0 FG%

G

Lucious Harris

260

6.7 ppg

1.3 apg

2.4 rpg

42.8 FG%

33.0 3FG%

F-C

Jamie Feick

266

5.7 ppg

9.3 rpg

0.53 spg

42.8 FG%

70.7 FT%

F-C

Aaron Williams

283

7.6 ppg

5.0 rpg

1.14 bpg

52.2 FG%

72.6 FT%

Now acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

They made an odd pair this summer: Nets rookie Kenyon Martin, the explosive and intimidating power forward who was the first pick in the draft out of Cincinnati, and 42-year-old Kiki Vandeweghe, a retired small forward whose game was about as in-your-face as National Public Radio. Yet there was Vandeweghe schooling Martin for hours at a Los Angeles gym on the intricacies of offense, from shooting to footwork. Not that Martin wasn't working on his D in the off-season, too. It's just that in that department, he needs very little help.

The 6'9", 230-pound Martin takes defense as seriously as Al Gore takes every topic, enough so that he has adopted Bill Russell's jersey number (6) and set as his primary goal being named to the NBA All-Defensive first team this year. To achieve what no Net, and no rookie, has ever done, Martin knows he will have to make some hard decisions—like, say, just how hard to swat a weak finger roll. "Yeah, that can be tough," Martin says with a sigh. "If it's early in the game, I might toss it out of bounds to get the crowd up. But if it's late in the game and it's close, well, then I'll just go up and grab it out of the air. That way we can go down to the other end."

All this—the talk of defensive honors, the summer workouts, the promise of opponents' shots getting sent anywhere but in the basket—is sweet music for New Jersey, a team that finished 31-51 last season and saw its best rebounder and interior defender, Jayson Williams, retire because of a leg injury. Now orchestrating the team is Rod Thorn, a former player, coach, G.M. and league executive who is as connected as anyone in the league. Thorn took over as president in June and wasted no time in replacing likable but laid-back coach Don Casey, who had been fired in April. His first thought was of Byron Scott, a Kings assistant who had won three titles as a shooting guard with the Lakers. Familiar with Scott's professionalism, Thorn had questions only about his coaching acumen. He took a magnetic clipboard to their mid-June meeting at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, where they X'd and O'd for hours. When they were done, Thorn knew he had his man.

If Scott is going to succeed, his first challenge will be to overcome injuries that will sideline forward Keith Van Horn (four to six weeks), forward-center Jamie Feick (two months) and shooting guards Lucious Harris (three to five weeks) and Kerry Kittles (perhaps the whole season). In Kittles's absence, Scott will start Kendall Gill and use point guard Stephon Marbury as a backup. Feick's minutes up front will be divided among Jim McIlvaine, Evan Eschmeyer and free-agent pickup Aaron Williams. Fully aware that the information in that last sentence won't be striking fear in any opponents, Scott plans to occasionally go with Martin or Van Horn in the pivot.

No matter where Martin and Van Horn play, and Scott plans to use them together and interchangeably, their effectiveness is crucial to the Nets' success. "Kenyon can guard threes and fours, and Keith's got a rep of not being a great defender, so Kenyon can take some of the pressure off him," says Scott. On offense, the Nets are hoping that Van Horn will draw bigger defenders away from the basket so that Martin will be able to post up and use some of those Vandeweghe moves. "Kenyon's better than I thought he was," says Gill. "He's got a better shot, he's more active and he hasn't walked in with that Number-1-pick aura."

The soft-spoken Martin may be grounded, but it's his towering defensive presence that the Nets are counting on to lead them back to the playoffs.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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