EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -After the New Jersey Nets missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, club president Rod Thorn took a long, hard look at the team and decided it was time for wholesale changes.
The tinkering that started in February with the deal that sent perennial All-Star guard Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks became a full-scale overhaul Thursday when the Nets shipped Richard Jefferson to Milwaukee for 7-footer Yi Jianlian and forward Bobby Simmons just hours before the draft.
The 28-year-old Jefferson was the Nets' second leading career scorer and their last link to the teams that went to the NBA Finals in 2002 and '03.
All that is left of the recent Big Three is Vince Carter. His only real support is Devin Harris, the point guard of the future acquired in the Kidd deal.
The rest of the roster is not impressive. Center Nenad Krstic has experience, but he struggled last season returning from reconstructive knee surgery. No one else is going to help win a title.
``Where we were going to go with the group that we had? I think that is a more pertinent point. I don't think this was a group with a big upside,'' Thorn said Friday.
``That being the case, you have to look at how to get younger and try to get more assets. If you have assets, then you can make moves. If you don't have assets, then you are stuck.''
The biggest asset that the trade gave the Nets was salary cap room for the 2010 free agent bonanza that might include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Chris Paul.
Jefferson had three years and $42 million left on his contact. That's gone now. The $20 million that the New Jersey picked up in acquiring Simmons will be gone in two years. The Nets will have only about $30 million committed to salary in 2010, so that should give them plenty to spend on free agency.
The concern for the Nets is what's going to happen over the next two seasons. New Jersey won only 34 games last year, and the roster does not appear to be as strong heading into next season despite what seemingly was an excellent draft on Thursday night.
New Jersey got lucky with the 10th pick overall and grabbed Brook Lopez, the Stanford 7-footer who can finally give them a presence in the middle. Ryan Anderson, the California forward who led the Pacific 10 in scoring, was taken with the 21st pick overall and the Nets may have gotten a steal in the second round with Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts at No. 40.
``We addressed some needs we had on our team yesterday,'' Thorn said. ``We had a small team last year and we had gone from being a very good defensive team to being a very poor defensive team. So we needed to get bigger. We did that and we got some people who could shoot the ball. That was another of our needs. We are happy with what transpired.''
Thorn also thinks Yi is going to be good. He averaged 8.6 points and 5.2 rebounds last season, and Thorn expects more this year. Simmons is a reliable small forward who averaged 7.6 points last season.
While the Nets are over the current salary cap, Thorn said they will have a $1.8 midlevel exception for the free agency period that starts in July and some trade exceptions.
``There are some other things we would like to do,'' said Thorn, noting the team needs depth at guard and another small forward. ``We have not stopped here. We had had a group that had had a heck of a run. We had been a good team for a while and it sort of played itself out. So that's what you do - you retool, add assets and try to get better.''
Thorn said that the Nets would like to re-sign unrestricted free agents Bostjan Nachbar and DeSagana Diop, but he added that both are likely to test the free-agent market.
The Nets extended a qualifying offer to Krstic on Friday, allowing them to match any contract proposal from another team.
Yi, who is in China preparing for the Olympics, was aware of the trade and told Chinese officials about it.
``Our attitude is no matter which team he plays for, it's good as long as he can improve,'' Hu Jiashi, deputy director of the Chinese Basketball Association, was quoted by ChineThe Sina.com.
``Playing in the NBA is definitely beneficial for his improvement,'' Hu said. ``I'm optimistic about his future at the Nets.''

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