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New Jersey Nets Sign Larry Owens, But Release Dennis Horner

<em>Photo by Rich Crimi/NBAE via Getty Images</em>
Photo by Rich Crimi/NBAE via Getty Images

Larry Owens has never been one to put up impressive statistics during his three-year stint with the Tulsa 66ers in the NBA Development League, but that hasn't stopped him from getting noticed at things like last week's NBA D-League Showcase. Owens was averaging 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds through 10 games this season, but that was apparently plenty as the swingman was given good news on Tuesday.

Owens, a 6-foot-7 forward out of Oral Roberts, will be signed by the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday. Sources with knowledge of the situation say that the team released Dennis Horner on Tuesday afternoon to clear a spot for their new D-League player. ESPN's Marc Stein first reported the Owens call-up, but made no mention of the Horner release.

Horner is expected to re-join the Springfield Armor prior to their next game. It likely won't be too long before he's given another shot at a call-up, however, considering he impressed the Nets enough to make their team out of training camp after only becoming a D-League player by way of the Development League's national tryout.

Owens has been fawned over by me plenty of times in the past. I personally had him ranked as the third best wing prospect in the D-League following the Showcase, but his ability to do a bit of everything -- as I wrote about last season when he was called up to the Washington Wizards -- makes him a valuable commodity on the NBA market.

Owens isn't a high usage player, even in the D-League, but his ability to get to the free-throw line (42.9 free-throw rate) and see the court (team-leading 17.4 assist rate) are two assets that show his basketball IQ is one of the best in the Development League. He's certainly not a slouch on defense, either, which can be quantified by looking at his 66ers leading the way in the D-League's defensive ratings along with his averages of 1.9 steals and 1.6 blocks per game.

In an interesting turn of events, your's truly interviewed Owens last week for an upcoming feature planned to run on this very site. The quotes all seem a bit dated now, but there were a few pertinent things I transcribed that show his character and drive.

"The reason I returned to the D-League instead of the NBA is just for the exposure. I think it's the fastest way to get back to the NBA," Owens said, almost presciently. "Teams are always looking for role player-type guys to come in, go to work and that's what I can do. I think the D-League helps a lot of guys that have that dream. It's hard to stay overseas when you know the perfect opportunity could come any minute in the NBA."

The former call-up of the San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards also addressed what he's been working on in the D-League this season after nearly making the latter team during training camp.

"My main things I'm trying to do this season in the D-League are just being more of a leader and being consistent," Owens said. "I took the challenge of trying to be more of a leader, trying to be more vocal, and teaching our guys to do this and do that as far as helping our team improve."

It's going to be fun to see if he can help the Nets improve as he takes his newfound leadership to the east coast.