NEW YORK -- Last summer, the Nets were politely rebuffing inquiries about Vince Carter, not ready yet to part with their highest-paid and most impactful player as part of their plan to attract major free agents in 2010.
That plan intersected with the opportunity to move Carter and the $35 million left on his contract Thursday, when New Jersey sent Carter to the defending Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic.
It was the final blow to the core of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Carter, who led the Nets through some of the best seasons in franchise history. It also made New Jersey a major factor in the 2010 free-agent sweepstakes and signaled to their fans in New Jersey that they're packing it in for the move to Brooklyn. The Nets also had talks with the Spurs and Cavs about Carter.
The Nets cleared more hurdles this week in making their dream of moving to Brooklyn by 2012 a reality. And by moving Carter, they put themselves $17 million in 2010 cap space closer to putting a marquee star -- or two -- in that new playpen.
The Magic? To me, the trade signals that Orlando GM Otis Smith doesn't believe he can keep Hedo Turkoglu, who will be an unrestricted free agent in a couple of weeks. Carter will join a healthy Jameer Nelson in the backcourt, but he's similar to Turkoglu from the standpoint of ball-dominance and big shot-making -- two ingredients that the Magic would've sorely missed had they not hedged their bets by replacing them.
Orlando sent Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, and Tony Battie to the Nets for Carter and Ryan Anderson. Battie and Alston have contracts that expire after next season, while Lee and Anderson are a wash. So the Nets save $17.3 million from Carter's contract in 2010 and have only three players guaranteed money that season -- Josh Boone, Eduardo Najera, and Keyon Dooling. (They hold team options on Lee, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez, and Sean Williams.)
The Cavs, Spurs, and Magic have struck so far with a win-next-season-at-all-costs strategy. Who's next?