<
>

News of Nets coaching change slow to travel across Hudson River

By Chris Sheridan

New Jersey Nets coach Kiki Vandeweghe entered Madison Square Garden through the employees' entrance this morning, the same entry used by scouts and the media, and got the usual bag and wand check from the security guard manning the doorway.

After Vandeweghe passed inspection, the guard told him he could pick up his credential from the PR staffers at a nearby table. Vandeweghe, who has been using that entrance for the past decade, did not hear him and went on his way to prepare for the noon tipoff against the New York Knicks.

"That was the coach of the Nets," the guard was told.

"Really? He's the coach? The coach isn't supposed to come in here. He's supposed to use the entrance where the team bus comes in," the guard said, pausing briefly to consider the prospect of chasing after Vandeweghe and re-directing him back outside into the morning cold for the half-block walk to the proper entrance.

But with announcer Marv Albert among the folks waiting patiently in queue for their turn at the checkpoint, the guard thought better of it.

Consider it one mini-crisis averted on a morning when the Nets already had a serious troublesome issue with which to deal -- the 50 stitches needed to close a gash on Yi Jianlian's upper lip after he was injured at practice Saturday.

The perpetrator was identified Sunday as Sean Williams, who elbowed Yi in the mouth while trying to dunk over him during a post-practice 2-on-2 drill. (Of small consolation to Yi: He got a piece of the ball, and Williams blew the dunk). Witnesses, including Williams, said Yi wanted to continue playing but was told to go seek medical attention instead.

The injury will cause Yi to miss at least an additional week. He was set to return Sunday against the Knicks, or Tuesday at Chicago, after being sidelined for five weeks since spraining his right knee at Charlotte on Nov. 2.