Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for the record, and his writing about the Nets can be found all over the internet (In the ‘Zzone & The Nets Insider). Al Iannazzone has been writing about the NBA since 1996 for the North Jersey Herald News and The Record. He covered the New Jersey Nets for the Herald News from 1996-2000. From 2001-04, Al was The Record’s New York Knicks’ beat writer, but also covered the Nets in their playoff runs those years, which included two trips to the NBA Finals. In 2004, Al returned to the Nets’ beat for The Record and has been covering them since. He also has been YESNetwork.com’s Nets’ Insider since the start of the 2004-05 season and has contributed to the YES Network’s pregame show the past two years. Al resides in New Jersey with his wife, Donna, and their son, Anthony.. Mr. Iannazzone has allowed me to ask him a few Nets’ related questions, and here is the interview.
NAS: Looking back on it, was the Richard Jefferson trade a complete failure?
The trade doesn’t look good today, but it’s too early to fully judge it. We have to see if Yi Jianlian becomes a player or whether he and Bobby Simmons can get the Nets something via trade or because Simmons’ contract expires earlier then Jefferson’s. There were many reasons the trade was made. It was about getting salary-cap flexibility, but more than that. The Nets wanted to change their locker room up, and it’s no secret anymore that Jefferson and Lawrence Frank had more than their share of philosophical differences. Jefferson also was close – and still is – to Devin Harris. Jefferson could have influenced Harris negatively. So the Nets wanted to try to prevent that possibility.
NAS: How impressed were you with the rookies this year?
Mr. Iannazzone: I was very impressed. I didn’t think any of them would turn out to be as good and productive as they were, starting with Lopez. I figured we’d see signs of him becoming a serviceable big man and then with work a good player. Well, he showed he can be a franchise center, which are few are far between in this league. He cares about getting better, so he will. He’s also very mature for being 21, even if he acts like a kid a lot. I like Anderson’s work ethic and nose for the ball. Like everyone else, I thought he would just knock down shots. But he was a better rebounder and hustle player than shot-maker this season. He mixes it up inside, which is a great trait. And Douglas-Roberts, the most heralded of the three, was just waiting for his opportunity to show what he can do. He’s one of the Nets’ most competitive players, which they love about him because you can’t teach that. Overall, it was a great draft by the Nets.
NAS: I think we got a diamond in the rough with CDR. Do you think CDR can be a starter for the Nets someday?
Mr. Iannazzone: I think he can be, but not while Vince and Devin are here. You have to let the kid develop. He needs to improve in all areas, including his shot making. But he’s a tough kid and comes from a winning program. He also has a chip on his shoulder to prove not only he belongs in the NBA but can be a very good player in the league. It’s going to make him work harder.
NAS: Would you conisder the Nets season a failure?
Mr. Iannazzone: No, it wasn’t a failure, but it’s hard to call 34 wins a success. Part of the plan was developing the young guys and other than Yi, the Nets did that. The Nets were young, but still had some veterans in Carter, Harris, Keyon Dooling, Jarvis Hayes and Eduardo Najera who had been on winning teams. So they expected a lot of themselves. Overall, though, it was a better-than-expected season. But when you start the way the Nets did, the players became a possibility and they just couldn’t close it out. Better than expected season, not a successful season, but not a failure.
NAS: What is your opinion on Vince Carter? Is he staying or going?
Mr. Iannazzone: I think he’s staying, in part because his contract is tough to move, and I think he should stay. I think Vince was great as a leader and a player. I would have liked to see him do more offensively from a scoring standpoint. But remember, it was about developing the young guys so he had to take a little of a backseat. Vince handled it well, better than expected. And I say this with complete confidence: if he’s not back, you’re not going to get equal value for him, and players like Harris, Lopez, Hayes, Simmons, Anderson will not get the open looks they got or score as easily. Carter makes players better, plain and simple.
NAS: Does Lawrence Frank need to go? If so, who would you like to see replace him?
Mr. Iannazzone: I think Frank deserves to come back. He did a great job this year considering the mission statement. You can’t point to some of the things he did wrong – too much Yi, too much Hassell, the small lineup too often – but overall he got a lot out of these players. We’ll find out in a few days if he’ll be back. If not, you look at what’s out there, starting with Eddie Jordan. Other big coaches are available, too. So we’ll see what happens
NAS: What do you think the Nets are going to do draft wise?
Mr. Iannazzone: I think you have to wait and see what happens in the Lottery. If they move up to No. 1 they’ll take Blake Griffin. If not, they probably will try and trade up to get a Blake Griffin. If they stay in the 11, 12 range, they could go for a DeJuan Blair of Pitt, Tyreke Evans of Memphis, or Earl Clark or Terrence Williams of Louisville. But it’s way premature,
NAS: Yi. Do you think he will be on the team next year? If so, is he just going to be riding the pine?
Mr. Iannazzone: I think he’ll be on the team. I think the Nets will see if there’s interest but if a second team in two years tries to move Yi then it could raise red flags about him and and a team could try and fleece the Nets. It’s too early to say what he will be next year for the Nets if he’s back.
The only thing that I disagree with him about is his opinions of the Yi-Richard Jefferson trade. In my opinion it isn’t too early to say that the trade is a failure. This is because Yi was expected to help out this year in replacing Jefferson’s production (I wasn’t expecting him to do it himself, I was hoping a combination of Yi/Brook/Harris increase in production). Would replace Richard Jefferson’s numbers. Now I know we do have an expiring contract that is easier to move with Simmons, but that wasn’t the main part of the deal it was Yi AND the contract. Just my opinion though and Mr. Iannazzone brings up some valid points.
I wanted to thank Mr. Iannazzone for taking the time to answer some questions for me. I really enjoyed reading his answers, and I agree with him (for the most part) on his opinions.