When word reached his home in Atlanta at 2 p.m. yesterday, it came in stereo, so to speak. Shareef Abdur-Rahim absorbed the good news on the telephone from his new boss, Rod Thorn, just as his agent, Aaron Goodwin, popped up in his instant-message window.
The deal with Portland was done and Abdur-Rahim felt himself smile. When the free-agent forward signs a contract with the Nets in the next few weeks, it will be for six years, $38 million.
"I'm really happy about it, but what I really want people to know is that I'm very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the community," Abdur-Rahim said yesterday. "I don't take that lightly. And the other thing fans in New Jersey should know is that I'm coming to win. Other than that, they can judge for themselves. They'll see what I'm about."
After two weeks of discussion, Thorn sealed the deal by sending a provisional first-round pick to the Blazers along with a $4.9 million trade exception. The pick is lottery protected for at least 2006, but there are a number of additional stipulations -- depending on where it is situated -- before the Nets hand it over. It might be as late as 2010 before Portland actually gets it.
Regardless, the Nets still have the Clippers' unprotected pick for next season, so it's not as though they'll need another youngster, because they are on the verge of building the most talented roster in their franchise's history.
Of more immediate importance to the sign-and-trade deal is that the Nets were able to retain their midlevel exception -- the extra fund capped-out teams can use on free agents -- for targets such as Keyon Dooling, who told the Nets that New Jersey is his first choice during his visit yesterday.
Abdur-Rahim, for one, knows exactly why Dooling feels that way.
"I chose New Jersey because of the things I want to accomplish in the second half of my career," said Abdur-Rahim, 28, who has never been in a playoff game in his nine seasons. "I know what people say about (the hole in his résumé), but it is what it is. We all have challenges, and when I get to New Jersey, that will put a rest to it.
"I have a great opportunity to win there, and that's what it's about -- getting a chance to compete for the championship. I'm not taking anything away from the other teams pursuing me, but New Jersey presents the best opportunity."
The Nets now have a unique opportunity to have a slam-dunk summer if they get Dooling at their price.
A report that the Orlando Magic offered Dooling $9 million over three years was denied almost immediately by GM Otis Smith, who told the Orlando Sentinel the team had not made any offers to the 6-3 veteran swing guard.
Thorn wasn't sure. "We had a good meeting with Keyon, and we'll see what transpires from there," the Nets president said. "He allegedly had a huge offer from one team, so we'll have to see where it's going."
If the Nets cannot land Dooling, they will take their business elsewhere. At the top of their contingency list is Milt Palacio, the well-traveled point guard who has played for five teams in six seasons, but coming off his best year in Toronto (5.8 points and 3.5 assists in only 19.2 minutes per game). Their third choice? Juan Dixon has been discussed, but he'll be more pricey.
But even with a power rotation that will include Abdur-Rahim, Nenad Krstic, Jason Collins and Clifford Robinson, the Nets know they have to go shopping for more toughness. So if Dooling can be signed for part of their midlevel exception, the other part can be used on a big man such as Tractor Traylor. Other wide bodies (Reggie Evans, Vitaly Potapenko) have been discussed, but the Nets are only starting to learn what their contract demands will be.